Farming for votes |

Farming for votes

Dan Burkhart4th District Supervisor Elizabeth Martin sells produce to Deborah Cohen during the farmer's market at the Nevada County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

During a recent farmers’ market at the fairgrounds, most of the talk at the Indian Springs Organic Farm booth centered on broom corn and tomatoes, not politics.

Elizabeth “Izzy” Martin and her husband, Mike Pasner, a retired plumber turned farmer, and their two kids, Jake and Yarra, were at the fairgrounds selling organic vegetables from their Penn Valley farm off a flatbed truck.

One of the few hints of Martin’s campaign for 4th District Nevada County supervisor came when someone asked her when she will be putting up political signs.

She noted that on Saturday, there was little evidence of the animosity and divisiveness opponents say Martin has caused with her advocacy of Natural Heritage 2020, the embattled land-use program – just talk of tomatoes.

Martin, 45, has been talking about tomatoes for a long time. She has accumulated a long list of positions with family farm organizations since she graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in environmental policy science.

Martin worked as a family and organic farming advocate for more than 20 years, then served for five years as a Nevada County planning commissioner before being elected a supervisor.

During her agriculture advocacy days, she fought pesticide poisoning, lobbied for family farms, and helped with state agriculture programs, including a nutrition program that allows people to buy farmer’s market produce under the Woman, Infants and Children program.

Martin said she has used her organizational experience to help Nevada County run better than it did under the previous Board of Supervisors, when the county was “drowning in litigation.”

She said there are now reserves in the budget; financial obligations were refinanced, saving $20 million over 20 years; the county improved its credit rating; and the cash was found to build the juvenile hall.

Martin said her involvement in agricultural programs shows she can listen to people and solve problems.

“There’s a lot of evidence in my 22 years since I graduated from college that demonstrates my commitment to community empowerment, to listening to people, to solving problems, to being qualified to handle a huge budget, to being qualified to manage highly paid people who have major credentials,” she said.

But critics say Martin could have done a better job communicating the purpose of NH 2020. The program was stopped by supervisors earlier this year, but not before the program divided the community, her opponents say.

Martin disagrees. She said the program was started to try to involve the community in a dialogue about how growth should occur, and to talk about how to plan. That was something developers weren’t used to, she said.

There were opportunities to communicate directly with working groups on forestry, recreation and agriculture, Martin said. The county appointed two more scientists to review the work, she pointed out, and established a Web site to gather more questions.

“NH 2020 is a story of listening,” said Martin. “We had a Community Advisory Committee that people felt wasn’t broad enough, so we added three people to it. They felt that the meetings were too hard to participate in, so we changed the format so that everyone could be involved. They said that the county habitat management plan is intrusive and shouldn’t be done, we said we won’t do it. They said the science isn’t adequate, we said OK, you get a scientist in here with a Ph.D. to look at this and tell if it’s adequate.”

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