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Patti Bess: Forever Farms

Patti Bess
Columnist
Over the years Mountain Bounty has become the largest farm in the county providing a well-established CSA program. They are the second largest provider of produce to Briarpatch Co-op as well as servicing farmers markets and several restaurants.
Submitted photo

Recently I listened to a radio interview with a scientist from Duke University. He studies the possible effects of climate change on agriculture. Droughts, higher temperatures and increased salinity of soils all will be new challenges to farmers/gardeners. It’s a good time to start thinking and planning how it might influence that pleasure/necessity we all enjoy every day. Food!

We are lucky to live in the Sierra foothills and Nevada County, where many small farms have blossomed in the last two decades, increasing our opportunities for fresh grown fruits, vegetables and locally raised, grass fed meats. This new generation of farms and farmers are well versed in the importance of less reliance on pesticides and utilizing farming practices that build soil, not deplete it. But the majority of new farmers operate by leasing land as the cost of purchasing has long been prohibitive. For an organic farm to succeed, it is essential to have a long term lease with the landowner as the costs of infrastructure like fencing, irrigation, soil preparation are extensive. Several farmers in recent years have been forced to leave Nevada County when they were unable to acquire a long term lease of appropriate land.

The Nevada County Food System Assessment, published in 2020 by the Nevada County Food Policy Council, said that protecting and expanding agricultural land is not only a key strategy for creating more community health but also will be essential for adapting to climate changes and our growing population.



California loses approximately 40,000 acres of farmland each year, and this trend is affecting us right here in the Yuba and Bear River watersheds. Landowners feel the pressure to subdivide or convert their land from agriculture to commercial or residential development as the region grows.

In 2020 Yuba Bear River Land Trust partnered with Briarpatch Co-op, Sierra Harvest, and the Tahoe Food Hub to develop a program called Forever Farms. One aspect of this program is to develop/acquire agricultural conservation easements which are voluntary legal agreements between a landowner and Bear Yuba Land Trust. It permanently protects a property’s conservation values, while limiting certain uses of the land such as non-agricultural development or subdivision. In conjunction with their partners, the Land Trust was also able to purchase the 37-acre property, then called Birchville Preserve, and protect a valued local farm forever.



For 23 years Mountain Bounty and founder, John Tecklin, operated on various pieces of leased land, the largest being the Birchville Road property in the North San Juan area. In December 2020, the lease on this land was up for renewal with no option for a long-term renewal.

Over the years Mountain Bounty has become the largest farm in the county providing a well-established CSA program. They are the second largest provider of produce to Briarpatch Co-op as well as servicing farmers markets and several restaurants. They also provide much needed jobs to our rural economy as well as a training program for young people interested in learning organic farming skills. The purchase of the land and their lease agreement with the Bear Yuba Land Trust gives the farm the stability to continue operation and to pass the land on to future farmers.

The Birchville preserve was recently renamed c’oom pe (pronounced Ch-oom pe). The site holds historical and cultural meaning for the Nisenan Tribe of the Nevada City Rancheria. Bear Yuba Land Trust contributes a portion of Mountain Bounty’s rent for the land to the Tribe’s Ancestral Homelands Reciprocity Program, a community generated initiative to support the Nisenan, the original peoples of this land.

This is only one story of success of the organic farm movement and their cooperation with BYLT in our area. Many other farms face the same leasing problems and the land trust continues to find ways to partner with landowners to develop this important resource in our county.

For more information about the land trust and their work with landowners go to their website http://www.bylt.org

Enjoy this peach salsa as a side dish with fish tacos, grilled chicken or vegetables.
Photo by Patti Bess

Peach Salsa

Ahhhh summer! Let the world be damned (and let the air conditioner keep working)! With all the continual pandemic news and weather fluctuations, looking forward to a quiet dinner of fresh picked or purchased produce and/or meats is the highlight of the day. I love coming home from the Farmers Market with a new palette of tastes and textures to experiment with in the kitchen. Green beans that snap with the slightest bend! Peaches that drip juice down your chin and tomatoes that taste like, well, how they’re supposed to taste.

Enjoy this peach salsa as a side dish with fish tacos, grilled chicken or vegetables. There is a lot of flexibility in the recipe. Add an avocado, less heat with half a pepper, or use green onions instead of a red one. If peaches are small, add more.

Two ripe peaches, at least partially peeled

One half a small red onion, diced

One jalapeno chile, diced fine with seeds removed

Juice of one lime

Salt

One or two tablespoons chopped cilantro

Dip the peaches in boiling water for ten to fifteen seconds to easily remove the skins. Chop into bite-size pieces when cooled.

Stir ingredients together. Adjust according to your own tastes for salt, chili, and lime juice. Flavor develops better if set aside for ten minutes.

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


 

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