Young farmer becomes new manager of Nevada County Food Hub
Special to The Union
A deluge outside didn’t dampen the energy of Nevada County Food Hub’s new operational manager Rachel Klein who was all smiles at her table last weekend greeting folks and answering questions during Sierra Harvest’s Sustainable Food and Farm Conference.
About two weeks into her new post, Klein is passionate about healthy local food and farming, and has already taken the organization up a notch with a new logo, brochure and Social Media presence.
“I’m looking forward to working with producers, buyers and others in the community to grow and improve the system so that we can continue to support farmers and expand the local market in Nevada County,” said Klein.
With her creative marketing ideas, Klein is already envisioning a revamped website and seeking ways to brainstorm with the community to find a much-needed centralized cold-storage facility.
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“Rachel has a rare combination of analytical thoughtfulness and imagination, plus she is a high energy, self-starter,” said Debbie Gibbs of Nevada County Grown, the umbrella organization that helped land the initial funding to get the Food Hub off the ground.
Launched quietly last year, Nevada County Food Hub is an online aggregate center where local producers provide one-stop shopping for wholesale buyers: restaurants, grocery stores and caterers. Weekly, farmers list their seasonal products, buyers place their orders then producers make deliveries. Someday, organizers plan to grow into a physical location where farmers deliver to a cold storage facility, hub staff assemble and deliver orders much like Truckee’s Tahoe Food Hub.
Klein enlisted herself to the Food Hub last year, making connections with local grocers as part of a contract funded by a USDA planning grant to research the need for a food hub in the area.
With a limited budget and no salaried staff, Nevada County Grown needed an energetic person to work a few hours a week for basic hub operation and boost sales. With her farming background, Klein was the perfect fit.
Joy, good food and community
Klein grew up in Ohio. Her father liked to garden and cook and her mother had a knack for landscaping. After studying fine art photography at New York University and spending a few years in video production, Klein’s health journey began. She started buying from farmer’s markets. She ran the New York marathon. She started taking notice of the toxicity in her environment – everything from personal care products to clothes.
“I really started focusing on simple,” she said.
At 25, she signed up for a six-month stint in the program for young farmers, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms – traveling to farms in Colorado, Oregon, Utah and California.
While working at a local food restaurant in Utah, she met John Tecklin and Angie Tomey, husband and wife owners of Mountain Bounty Farm, located on the San Juan Ridge, in Nevada County.
A seed was planted and soon Klein was a full-time intern farmer and later manager at Mountain Bounty. She supervised the harvest, managed the farm’s Instagram and worked with a 12-member team to supply food for 725 people.
Living a rustic lifestyle, with limited Wi-Fi, no car and poor phone service, was a transformational time for Klein.
“Producing fresh food for others has brought so much joy to my life. It’s got me moving, eating well, connected with nature and bonded to a great community,” Klein said.
This year, in addition to managing the Food Hub, Klein and her partner Chris Dudine are starting their own one-acre farm at the established Woolman Farm, providing wholesale fresh food for the campus and for local restaurant, Summer Thyme’s.
An idea catching on
Already, the food hub model is working. Suzie Dyer, owner of South Pine Café ordered weekly from the hub last growing season, featuring local food specials on Social Media with links.
“We think that the community really appreciates the commitment to local farms and supports our efforts to utilize them whenever possible… We would love to be able to use even more local produce,” said Dyer.
South Pine joined Three Forks Bakery and Brewery, Natural Selection Grocery Store and Feast and Gather Catering to put their ‘toe in the water’ and purchase from the Food Hub last year.
Consumers can play a big role in the success of the hub, says Klein, by asking to see more local food on the menu and grocer’s shelves.
“As soon as buyers start hearing from customers that they care about having local goods, those buyers will start prioritizing purchasing local first. As consumers, our greatest influence comes with how we spend our dollars,” she said.
In their pilot year, Bitney Springs Farm, Starbright Acres Family Farm, Indian Springs Organic Farm, Calmil Teoyotica, Early Bird Farm, Super Tuber Farm and Grass Valley Grains supplied food to the Food Hub.
In 2017, Food Hub supporters say the number one goal is to cautiously increase the number of buyers and suppliers and research ways to add ranch-raised meat and poultry to the lineup. Currently, Nevada County farmers cultivate around 500 acres of 3,349 acres of local cropland.
“Food is at the heart of our health as individuals and as a society. Our food system desperately needs attention and I feel privileged to have landed in such a vibrant place that’s pushing forward and making change,” Klein said.
Learn more at: http://nevadacountygrown.org/home/hub.
Contact freelance writer Laura Petersen at email@example.com or 530-913-3067.
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