Patti Bess: It’s more than a farm … it’s family | TheUnion.com

Patti Bess: It’s more than a farm … it’s family

Patti Bess
Columnist

The farm stand for Jardin del Rio (Garden of the River) buzzes more intensely on Saturday mornings than the bee hives down the road.

They sell produce at Sierra Knolls winery on Linnet Lane in South County, just two miles south of Lake of the Pines. It's a good crossover of businesses. People stop by for produce and can walk next door for a glass of wine before heading home to cook their treasures.

"Sierra Knolls has been gracious enough to allow us to use their land for the past several years;" farmer, Aubree Young said. "And we provide much of the produce for their Friday night pizza dinners. It's a symbiotic relationship that benefits both businesses."

This is a family farm, but Young has a little different definition of family. It isn't limited by blood. It includes her employees and most of the vegetable loving residents of South County.

Full of passion

Promoting a sense of community is her first passion, more important than growing vegetables or making big profits. Her voice exudes enthusiasm and you can see it in the sparkle of her eyes.

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She pretty much knows most customers by name as well as their cousins, in-laws, neighbors, and grandparents. Even her high school prom date stops by for fresh peaches.

Each Saturday at the farm stand one chair in the shade is reserved for the "resident loiterer," a retired CHP officer who helps out in various ways. If it was possible to clone Young, we'd be far ahead of the game in creating a happier, healthier world.

"I'd be nothing without my team," Young said. "They do all the heavy work."

William Vargas has been the farm manager for many years. Josh Green, an English teacher from Bear River High School, spends summers as the market manager. Blakely Mitchell is a longtime farm hand handling many different tasks. And every summer there are a number of high school kids from Bear River.

Working at Jardin del Rio is popular with the football team as well as other students. The schedule is flexible too, for other activities. They make more than minimum wage but are expected to excel. Though there is no 401K plan, Young prepares and makes sure her staff sits down together to a balanced meal every day at noontime.

"I am especially grateful to and proud of Rose Lemmon who has been my right hand helper for several years," Young said. "She's currently a student at Sierra College and drives down here from Cedar Ridge."

If you want to see where the produce is grown, the farm is a minute and a half off of Highway 49. Interspersed with sky-high oaks, the gentle hills look out over the Bear River. The land is owned by Young's parents who have also been involved in various business projects over their lifetime.

Full of produce

Jardin del Rio grows everything from seed and specializes in Heirloom varieties. They grow two acres of corn including five types of ornamentals for fall decorations.

Eighty five different varieties of tomatoes specializing in yellow and white tomatoes that are lower in acid for those who have difficulty digesting them. They grow three Italian Heirloom eggplants and at least four kinds of lemon cucumbers and potatoes, not to mention the melons. Their orchard is finally maturing and peaches are in abundance.

The farm also focuses on growing more red and purple vegetables like: purple potatoes, beets, red peppers and purple Jalapeños. And why would we want to eat more purple and red vegetables? Because they contain a particular type of antioxidant called anthocyanins that research has consistently shown reduce inflammation and improves many cardiovascular risk factors. Anthocyanins are also associated with cancer inhibiting qualities.

Young and her "growing" family hope to be farming for many more years, but county regulations and fees are a huge challenge.

"For as much as we tout Nevada County as an agricultural region, they make it very hard for farmers to do business," she said. "Between the health department and the Planning Commission, it is one issue after another. If it weren't for Supervisor Ed Scofield I don't know if I could maneuver through all the paper(work) requirements and fees."

You can find Jardin del Rio's produce from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday next to Sierra Knolls Winery at 10024 Linnet Lane just off Highway 49. And from 3-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10556 Combie Plaza next to the liquor store (in the shade).

For more information on Jardin del Rio, visit http://www.jardindelrio.org or call 530-906-5414.

Patti Bess is a freelance writer and cookbook author from Grass Valley. She can be reached at bess.pattia@gmail.com.

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