Mountain Bounty Farm ramps up supply of organic produce for BriarPatch Food Co-op
It was the first morning of summer. Bees buzzed in the pollinator garden at the edge of the brassicas as the crew made their way among long green rows of broccoli, harvesting 200 pounds for the afternoon delivery to BriarPatch Food Co-op.
The farm became certified organic in 2016, and as a result, the relationship with BriarPatch has bloomed.
“Mountain Bounty farmers are just killing it with us since they ramped up supply a few years ago. Sales to retail at BriarPatch just keeps growing. They’ve got a ton of acreage in cultivation and a huge well organized crew,” said the Co-op’s Produce Manager David Benson.
“I think we need to be harvesting harder,” said Maia Lipkin, directing the group. This is Lipkin’s eighth year farming at Mountain Bounty where she leads the crew and manages everything leading up to harvest.
“I feel like I manage time more than anything else,” she said.
The 50-acre organic family farm located high on the forested contours of the San Juan Ridge is run by John Tecklin, Angie Tomey and the crew: Lipkin, Missy Neville, Jake Benedict, Ceci Schroeder, Kritters Blevins, Kale Riley and Grace Debbler supported by six interns.
The crew represents a melting pot from all over the country: 11 full-time farmers, six of them interns and three part timers who put in hours up to three times a week. It’s not uncommon for those who start out as interns to become managers, year after year. Mountain Bounty Farm has served as an incubator, where folks hone their skills then venture off to start their own operations.
Tecklin started Mountain Bounty Farm in 1997. He said he remains committed to the Community Supported Agriculture ideal — “a community of eaters who pledge their support for a local farm, and in return the farmers put all their heart and skill into producing the best possible food.”
Working outdoors and eating well is the common ground that unites them. On Saturday, the crew organized a gourmet solstice farm dinner in the field for 35 guests. The dinner was led by Schroeder, a farmer/chef who went to cooking school in Chicago and spent eight years in the kitchen before burning out and finding her way on a different food path at the farm.
The camaraderie of the young hard-working crew is essential to the farm’s success. Besides BriarPatch Co-op and the Nevada City Farmers Market, the farm grows food for 550 CSA members on 18 acres in cultivation — that’s 300 boxes of food delivered in Tahoe/Reno/Truckee and 200 more in Nevada City and Grass Valley. The crew takes pride in their responsibility of feeding people.
“Everyone is very invested,” said Debbler, now in her second year as a farm manager.
Debbler came to the farm from Ohio where she where she was an environmental engineer spending a lot of time as a scientist behind a desk. She says she never dreads waking up early or making financial sacrifices to farm. She is fascinated by the water usage of agriculture and sees herself applying her knowledge with big agriculture in the future. For now, she is content.
The crew works hard and plays hard, equally comfortable communicating complex farm tasks like irrigation and tractor work as they do finding time for laughing together in the wash station. They are up and into the fields by 7 a.m., eating together at lunch pondering when the first cherry tomato will ripen and making time to go out for dinner and beers after work or heading into the high country for bike rides and kayak trips.
“We are always traveling in a unit. We hang out outside of work, we’re friends,” said Debbler.
Mike Berlin left his job as a photography technician at New York University before moving West with his partner. Berlin started as a delivery driver for Mountain Bounty last summer and fell in love with farm work.
“It’s the people, being outdoors,” he said as he harvested beets. “Physical movement is good. So many jobs these days are in a chair. That’s worse than anything.”
Blevins grew up on TV dinners, PBJs and cereal in the food deserts of Joshua Tree. After an evolutionary relationship with food that included becoming vegetarian at age 12, later vegan, and living on and managing a farm while an anthropology student in Santa Cruz, Blevins was looking for a safe place to grow farm skills and be true to self. That was found at Mountain Bounty three years ago with fiance, Kale.
“Everyone is really inclusive and stoked about farming. I feel like we’re encouraged whatever step we’re at,” Blevins said.
Look for a full assortment of fresh, local, organic produce from Mountain Bounty at BriarPatch Food Co-op this summer.
Source: BriarPatch Food Co-op
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