Buying Nevada County starts for the backyard garden supports local farms |

Buying Nevada County starts for the backyard garden supports local farms

Laura Petersen
Special to The Union
Farm Manager Maggie McProud at Sierra Harvest's Food Love Project gets ready for the last plant sale of the season from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday at the farm. The plant sale is one of many in the county taking place this May.
Submitted photo |

Farm Manager Maggie McProud and Farm Educator Sara Lieber were busy gearing up for the last plant sale of the season at Sierra Harvest’s Food Love Project.

Backyard gardeners looking to support farmers and buy the best varieties for local microclimates can stop by the education farm from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Burton Homestead on Lake Vera Purdon Road.

“The plants are definitely adapted to our climate it’s a great way for the farm to earn income early in the season,” said Maggie McProud. Chard, tulsi basil and onion seeds were saved from last year’s season to grow starts this year.

This year farmers grew over 1,500 starts and donated the young vegetable plants to 22 area schools for their garden cart programs. The money generated from the plant sales will help schools fund their own gardens.

This year, Food Love Project won’t be selling starts at Nevada City Farmers Markets like in past years. Instead, the farm held three spring plant sales at the farm compared to the usual one.

At Saturday’s plant sale, many different hot and sweet peppers, Italian and Asian eggplants, cucumbers, purple and green tomatillos, lettuce and salad mixes, squash and melons, herbs, strawberries, flowers and heirloom tomatoes are there for the choosing, and with Mother’s Day come and gone, it’s safe to plant tomatoes in the ground.

“I would say after Mother’s Day is very safe, but freak storms are always possible,” said McProud.

Six packs and four-inch pots sell for $3 and two-inch pots sell for $2. If any starts are left over, they can be purchased during the farm’s weekly Volunteer Day next Tuesday.

“Food Love has been doing plant sales since the beginning. The plant sales are one of many forms of earned income generated from our programs (others include camp tuition, veggie sales at U Picks and paid Sierra Gardens). Our prices for these items are market rate so that we are not undercutting other farmers. While sales are a small percentage of our income, they are important elements of the sustainability and viability of our community programs,” said Malaika Bishop of Sierra Harvest.

Starbright Acres Family Farm will be selling at Nevada County Certified Growers’ Market at the North Star House on Saturday and at their farm stand during the week: 10 varieties of eggplant, 13 hot pepper varieties, 13 sweet peppers, 16 different tomatoes and nine varieties of cherry tomatoes as well as: summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, ground cherries, basil, cilantro and tomatillos.

Organizers from the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center will hold their annual plant sale and flea market from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the community hub located at 17894 Tyler Foote Road on the San Juan Ridge.

Soil Sisters Farm has a variety of cut flower starts for sale — $4 a six pack or $3 a six pack when purchasing a flat or more. Pre-arranged pick up can be done at the farm. Soil Sisters Farm will also be selling plant starts at Nevada City Farmers Market in June.

“We have tons of cut flower starts for sale, all of them varieties chosen by us for their tall stem-length, long vase-life, and of course, beautiful blooms. If you’ve ever wanted a cut-flower garden, this would be a great way to get started — transplants from the experts,” said Flower Farmer Willow Hein.

Tristyn Armstrong from Nevada County Master Gardeners says local gardeners are buying more plant starts than ever. Last weekend, Nevada County Master Gardeners doubled their plant sales over previous years.

“Despite the rain on Saturday morning we had a great plant sale. It was fabulous to see people lining up in the rain to come get their veggies. I am encouraged to see how many people are actively growing their own food,” he said.

The group leads a number of educational classes throughout the year. On May 21, check out the class, “Pollinators: Natives vs. Honeybees” presented by Bonnie Bradt from 10 a.m. to noon at the Grass Valley Elks Lodge.

Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at or 530-913-3067.

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