Honoring farmers | TheUnion.com

Honoring farmers

Next week, farmers will be honored at an event led by a growing movement of folks concerned about the future of locally grown food.

The Local Food Coalition will hold a banquet and ball called Come Home to Eat to honor local farmers at 6 p.m., March 31, at the Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Hall.

This is the second year for the networking event, which drew 350 people last year and gave rise to the Local Food Coalition, a grass roots movement gathering momentum among local consumers, farmers, restaurants and grocery stores.

“Agriculture is not just an issue for farmers. That’s a community issue because we all have to eat,” said Rita de Quercus, one of the group’s coordinators.

“Part of the purpose of the event is to raise the profile of what farmers are. It hasn’t been sexy. It hasn’t been jazzy to say I want to be a farmer,” de Quercus said.

Once a month, the food coalition meets to discuss ways to bolster the economy of Nevada County’s farms and ranches. There are about 100 people on the Local Food Coalition’s e-mail list.

“It’s just people who have the light bulb on. It’s people who get it,” de Quercus said.

Since the coalition formed, members have distributed 5,000 county agriculture maps listing eight fruit and vegetable growers; one grain and legume farm; one honey bee farm; 11 meat, poultry and egg farmers; nine wineries; and six nurseries and cut flower providers.

The map gives links to Web sites, phone numbers, days of farm-stand operations and pinpoints the locations of the producers for quick reference.

The coalition has also developed a Web site and alerts members of county government meetings. De Quercus spoke at a Planning Commission meeting last week in support of a farm-stand ordinance, which commissioners passed.

“Our job is to make the wheels squeak,” de Quercus said.

Growing interest

in local food

Alan Haight, owner of Riverhill Farm, is active in the coalition and said it has come along at the right time. Since he opened his farm three years ago, he said he has noticed “phenomenal” growth in interest for locally produced food.

The coalition has caused people to talk about the future of farming in the county and the role the environment, economics and politics will play in coming years, Haight said.

“It’s really seen as being a bridge between a number of organizations,” Haight said of the coalition.

Haight has learned to diversify his marketing by offering more than 20 varieties of tomatoes and other veggies grown and sold at his farm. He also sells at farmer’s markets and area grocery stores. Buyers also can subscribe to a weekly in-season food box or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).

Nevada County needs to nurture the farms it has while fostering new ones. Development, escalating land prices and an aging farmer population makes for a challenging road ahead for agriculture, de Quercus said.

In 2002, the average age of farmers in Nevada County was 57, according to a study by farm advisor Roger Ingram. The coalition is researching lease arrangements to help young people establish farms in a region with steep real estate prices.

“Young people who want to be farmers can’t afford it,” de Quercus said.

Visit http://www.localfoodcoalition.org to learn more about the Local Food Coalition.


To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail laurab@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

What: Come Home to Eat Banquet and Ball to honor local farmers

When: 6 p.m. Saturday, March 31

Where: Grass Valley Veterans Memorial Hall

Cost: $10 for farmers; $15 to $25 for the general public; ages 12-18 cost $5 to $10; children under 12 are free.

Tickets: Available at Briar Patch Co-op Community Market or call Nevada County Land Trust at 272-5994.

Honor program begins at 7:30 p.m. followed by the ball. Contra dancing will be led by caller Paul Moore with music by Ragged But Right.

Volunteers are needed. Contact Rita at ritadequercus@yahoo.com or 288-3238.

– Laura Brown

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