Know Your Nonprofit: Sierra Harvest
What is your mission statement?
Sierra Harvest’s mission is to educate, inspire and connect Nevada County families to fresh, local, seasonal foods.
What is your yearly budget (optional), and how many paid employees do you have?
12 part-time employees
What is your nonprofit’s history?
Sierra Harvest was formed in 2013 as the merger of Live Healthy Nevada County and Living Lands Agrarian Network. In 2007, the Nevada County Public Health Department put on a community wellness summit and formed a coalition bringing together over 100 stakeholders countywide to address the growing obesity epidemic. Live Healthy was formed out of one of this coalition’s working committees focused on Food and Nutrition.
In 2009, the Food and Nutrition Action Committee, chaired by Aimee Retzler, identified Hennessey Elementary as an ideal pilot program for Farm to School; they transformed the school garden and began offering hands on nutrition education with Hennessey students in partnership with the University of California Cooperative Extension. Summer school students visited Riverhill Farm on a field trip.
In 2010, the Farm to School program grew from one to three schools and added produce stands to support fresh food at schools and foster relationships with local farmers. Live Healthy also began conversations with Grass Valley Child Nutrition Services to research a school meal model for all Western Nevada County K-8 schools that harkened back to the cooking practices of the past where meals were made from scratch every day.
By 2012, the Farm to School program, co-chaired by Malaika Bishop and Amanda Thibodeau, grew from four to seven schools. The program also added a full array of offerings reaching 3,600 students including, produce stands, farm field trips, classroom visits by cooks, nutritionists and farmers, and Harvest of the Month tastings in 150 classrooms and at eight partner agencies. The inaugural Tasting Week hosted 10 guest chefs in three schools to conduct educational cooking classes.
Also in 2012, all Nevada County Superintendents signed on to support scratch cooking in Nevada County schools, and a school food committee formed. Another milestone was when Greg’s Organics supplied local tomatoes that were served in Nevada County school meals.
In 2013, quinoa and couscous were added to the school food menu and Gatorade was removed from school vending machines, thanks to the efforts of Suzanne Grass, Director of Child Nutrition Services, and her staff. Local produce was added to school meals in conjunction with Harvest of the Month tastings. Sierra Harvest now contracts with Mountain Bounty farm to grow 1Ž4 acre (thousands of pounds) of vegetables for Harvest of the Month Tastings in schools. Ground work and funding plans were also established for the Sierra Gardens program and New Generation Educational Farm.
Living Lands Agrarian Network was founded in 2007 with a mission to provide effective practical training and mentorship to aspiring small-scale farmers, while building a community through education and outreach that values the local men and women who grow our food. Living Lands offered training and mentorship in sustainable agriculture through a diverse network of farmers and farms. When trainees were ready to begin their own independent farming business, Living Lands offered access to land, infrastructure, and continued mentorship, as well as venues for farm sales to help them get a successful start. Living Lands farms are located on private property owned by local landowners who value the opportunity to host a sustainable farm.
In addition to training new farmers, Living Lands’ dedication to providing community education for youth and adults birthed The Food Love Project, a farm site dedicated exclusively to nutrition and farming education for our local youth. It continues to be a central community resource for our public, private, charter, and home-schools to engage in the joys and benefits of fresh grown food.
In 2013, Live Healthy Nevada County joined with Living Lands Agrarian Network to form Sierra Harvest.
During the spring of 2014, farmer Leo Chapman helped launched the Sierra Gardens program to provide support for people who wanted to learn how to grow food at home. Eighteen families, many of who are low income, now have thriving gardens and are learning how to provide for themselves and their neighbors. These families grew 2000 pounds of food this season and are planning meals around what is growing in their garden and improving their health by eating with the seasons.
In the fall 2014, an opportunity developed to work with the high school food services director to research a new food procurement model that would support local and regional fresh food purchases for school meals. Sierra Harvest funded a food services consultant to work with the high school district to design new menus, work with local producers and promote farm fresh school meals.
Who is your primary audience?
People who care about the health and wellness of our future generations.
We serve 6,000 students and their families in Nevada County and bring together the local food and farming community. We have trained 27 young farmers, many of whom are farming and providing food for our community. We have built gardens for 15 low-income families so they can have direct access to fresh food right in their own backyard.
Government grants, foundations, businesses and individuals.
List the biggest challenges you face:
Keeping up with the growing demand for our programs. Diversifying our funding.
What is your No. 1 short-term goal?
To improve access to nutrient-dense foods for those that need it most.
What is your No. 1 long-term goal for the next three years?
Change the way that food is supplied to our children in ways that support knowing the people who grow the food they eat. We believe that current agriculture policy subsidies are cheating our children from their future good health. A change to supporting local farm fresh food and its availability is essential to protecting our future.
What is the best way a person interested in your organization could help?
There are many to get involved with Sierra Harvest. Donations are needed to support the vital programming that improves the health and well-being of our children and farming community. You can also volunteer for our many projects and events. Would you like to have a Sierra Garden? Sierra Harvest can mentor and teach you to grow fresh and organic food on your property.
CNL Member since: 2013
How have you benefited from being a member of CNL?
CNL gives us the opportunity to be connected to other successful nonprofits working with similar issues and goals in our own community. We love the chance to network, collaborate and learn from each other.
How your organization has benefited the community?
We live in a healthier community because of the work of Sierra Harvest. Developing farmers to grow food in sustainable ways allows our community to feel better and spend our dollars locally. Educating over 6,000 children on where their food comes from and how to eat locally and seasonally will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Teaching people how to grow a portion of their own food creates a community that is more vibrant and self-sufficient. Sierra Harvest gives our community a place, time and reason to connect around local food that improves the health and well-being of everyone.
Sierra Harvest is a member of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership, which provides the weekly Know Your Nonprofit feature. You can learn more about The Center for Nonprofit Leadership online at http://CNLSierra.org or by calling 530-265-5600. The Center is on Facebook at http://facebook.com/NevadaCountyNonProfitLeadership and Twitter @NevCoNonprofits.
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