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Sierra Harvest: It’s easier to buy local with the new Food and Farm Directory

Deb Gibbs
Special to The Union


A spring tradition in Nevada County has been the print publication of the annual Food and Farm Guide. The last issue came out in 2019, and when the pandemic struck in 2020, the Guide’s absence was strongly felt as our community hunkered down at home, experienced food supply shortages and searched for local produce or plant starts to grow their own gardens. It was a somewhat scary lesson in the importance of local food resilience.

Since then, Sierra Harvest has been hard at work to fill the gap and now has a beautiful digital Food and Farm Directory at www.sierraharvest.org/food-and-farm-directory/

The Directory has a cool map to show where farms are located and how to reach them. You can search by product type — our community has farms that raise a wide variety of products including wine, flowers, honey, fiber, compost, lumber and worms in addition to the more typical fruits, vegetables, eggs, meat and poultry. The site also offers information on where to buy the farm’s products, such as at farmer’s market or through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement. Many farms also have websites you can visit to gain more information on their growing methods, arranging farm visit and to just get know the farmer.

A major advantage of the new digital version is that the farmer can update information at any time, and new farms can be added as they open. Plus, the photos are lovely — what is nicer than a bucolic farm or candid shot of wonderful livestock?

Supporting local farms is more urgent today than ever before. Sustainability is important, as we learned. Obtaining a food product that is free of chemicals, ethically grown or raised, and fully packed with good nutrition is crucial for our personal and environmental health. California produces 25% of the nation’s food, and is currently in a mega-drought. No doubt this will put pressure on the state’s ability to produce food at the prices we have experienced in the past.

For many reasons, major changes are needed in agriculture as the corporate model — dominated by a small number of huge companies — is squeezing out smaller farms. The Agri-business industry exploits the land, animals and soil to produce foods our ancestors might not recognize while causing long term damage with its high carbon emissions. The five biggest meat and dairy producers in the world together produce more emissions than Exxon, Shell or BP, according to a recent study from Grain and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The Nevada County Food Policy Council has been working for years to develop a plan to decrease our reliance on corporate agriculture and create more access to local, fresh food grown here in our region. The council published a comprehensive Food System Assessment Report in 2021 which describes the current food system and envisions the changes needed to support a more vibrant food system for our community. We’ve found that a lot of people who aren’t on the ground in food systems work don’t even always fully understand what a “food system” is. The UN FAO definition is: ” A food system encompasses all the stages of keeping us fed: growing, harvesting, packing, processing, transforming, marketing, consuming and disposing of food.” This covers a lot of territory and the Food System Assessment Report considers all dimensions. The full report is found on the Sierra Harvest website: http://www.sierraharvest.org/connect/food-policy-council.

The Nevada County Food and Farm Directory accomplishes one of the first steps in increasing local farm purchases – identifying our farms and what they offer. Next, expanding local food production is critical, as we currently produce only around 2-5% of what we eat. In addition, the local infrastructure is inadequate for meat processing, storage and preservation of excess local produce into shelf-stable products available year-round. These infrastructure resources would be great as small business start-ups. Instead of investing in mutual funds, maybe one day, some local investors could financially back local businesses or cooperatives that support the growth of our food system.

So today, we can celebrate the new Directory and use it to make more local food choices as this new growing season begins. Nevada County has farmer’s markets, grocers that strive to carry local products, and many residents that are resolved to grow their own produce. Together we can continue to build our local food resiliency!

Deb Gibbs is a Nevada County Food Policy Council Steering Committee Member

Fresh, local produce at the Starbright Acres Family Farm Farmer’s Market stand.
Provided photo

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