Sharing the bounty at Mountain Bounty Farm
For loyal fans of farmers’ markets committed to eating seasonally, winter is no time to despair.
Mountain Bounty Farm, Nevada County’s largest vegetable producer, offers a fresh, tasty option to the tired, lifeless foods found on grocers’ shelves this time of year.
Instead, imagine eating a diverse spectrum of cold-hardy greens and roots and paying less than the average weekly grocery bill.
Boxes of farm fresh vegetable and fruit shares are still available through Mountain Bounty’s winter Community Supported Agriculture program.
Founded in 1997 by farmer John Tecklin, Mountain Bounty was the first CSA program in the county — and remains the longest running.
CSA is a direct-to-customer business model for farmers that helps to provide an operating budget to maintain their farms.
In return, CSA members receive weekly boxes of fruits and vegetables throughout the harvest season.
First introduced in the U.S. during the 1980s, CSAs have grown to 12,000 farms nationwide, according to the USDA 2012 Agriculture Census.
“I think CSA is a great fit for the consumer because it is an opportunity to make a direct connection with a farm,” Tecklin said. “In this era of so much marketing and hype, CSA offers people a chance to connect to something real. It also means, of course, a lot of good fresh food.”
The farm started on about three-quarters of an acre serving 48 CSA members. Today, it has grown to upwards of 18 cultivated acres run by a team of eight farmers and five seasonal interns with a CSA membership of 700 families in Western Nevada County, Truckee, Tahoe and Reno.
Those who invest in the program, come back for more, year after year.
“Mountain Bounty has supplied our family with incredibly fresh and great food. We enjoy being members of the CSA and supporting local agriculture,” said Jessica and Bruce Mairs of Grass Valley, members for the three past seasons.
The winter CSA program started in 2002 after Tecklin heard his customers lament when the summer season came to a close.
So he teamed up with friends who farm in the fertile and winter practical Capay Valley to offer farm produce to his CSA members year-round.
“It’s been great to offer year-round produce through that partnership. Now we deliver CSA boxes for 50 weeks of the year, with Mountain Bounty producing 24 to 26 of those weeks, depending on the season,” said Tecklin.
The winter share of organic veggies from Mountain Bounty’s partner, Riverdog Farm, runs through May.
Right now, members will find beets, carrots, rutabagas, leeks, parsnips, radishes, arugula, collards, broccoli and kale.
“For many people, there is the personal desire to eat seasonal,” said Mountain Bounty’s CSA Manager Mielle Chenier-Cowan Rose. “As this season starts turning over to spring, we’ll see spring onions, peas, herbs and asparagus. They grow these little gem lettuces that are really lovely.”
Sometimes extras like walnuts, almonds or dried tomatoes are thrown in.
A fruit share consists of Meyer lemons, mandarins, kiwis, apples and more, and runs through March.
Fruit comes from Sunset Ridge Farm, an organic mandarin farm in Auburn and surrounding lower elevation orchards.
Winter veggie boxes sell for $24.75 per week and boxes of winter fruits sell for $12.50 per week.
Angie Tomey, Teklin’s life and farming partner and owner of Little Boy Flowers, will offer a flower share beginning in February featuring early bulbs.
On Feb. 26, Mountain Bounty will kick off its spring season by holding a Community Supported Agriculture Sign Up Day, an internationally branded day meant to encourage early sign up and provide a financial jump start to the growing season.
CSAs are delivered to five pick-up sites in Nevada County.
As an extra incentive, those who sign up early will receive a Mountain Bounty tote bag.
From the early days when Tecklin first started farming full time in 1995, he has been drawn to the CSA model.
It’s a formula that continues to inspire him.
“By creating a partnership between producers and consumers, the CSA sidesteps the market and breaks down some of the ways in which our labor and produce are commodified,” he said.
“With the CSA, when we grow carrots, instead of having to compete with giant organic farms from the Central Valley or Mexico — which is what happens when we enter the marketplace — we can instead create a different kind of relationship, where the carrots (and all the love we put into them) are not broken down into a few pennies.
“With the CSA, we trust that the members will support us,” he added. “And they trust that we will do our best possible job to give them the best possible food.”
To learn more, visit http://mountainbountyfarm.com/ or call 530-292-3776.
Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-913-3067.
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