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Top conservationists are organic farmers

Marney Blair and Lisa Bjorn reached back in time to become Nevada County’s Conservation-ists of the Year.

The south county farmers received the award for 2005 at a dinner and ceremony Thursday night, largely because of their Community Supported Agriculture program. The program is a throwback to the 1930s and ’40s, when farmers would sell directly to customers.

“They called it subscription farming,” Blair said. “You pay in advance and we promise to deliver to you for a whole year, legumes, and grains, beans, corn, amaranth, quinoa. … They get bushelfuls of dried beans, corn flower, a hot breakfast mix and edible seeds like peanut or sesame.”



The women mill the heirloom and drought-resistant grains grown on four of their 20 acres. The rest of the acreage is green space and pasture, where they keep range turkeys, chickens, one dairy cow and two Scottish Highland beef cattle.

The pasture for the cows was primed with the district’s no-till drill, a farm implement hooked to a tractor that punches holes in the ground and plants seeds simultaneously while fighting invasive weeds.




“We try not to till too much,” Blair said, to conserve the soil. They also use drip irrigation to cut evaporation and put moisture directly into the ground.

“I like this kind of farming because of the diversity,” Bjorn said. “I like all the processing and I love seeds, we have 13 different varieties including pumpkin and flax seed.”

Bjorn, 45, has been on the land for 12 years and Blair, 42, joined her four years ago, when they started the business called Fulcrum Farm. The pair also sells compost.

“I wish it was a full-time job,” Blair said, but like many farmers, both have other jobs to help pay the bills.

Bjorn is a carpenter and Blair works for the county, consulting people on how to make mulch out of animal manure. Blair has also started a composting program for the Food Bank of Nevada County.

“We also have a summer camp out here,” Blair said, where area students from the Imaginarium’s summer science program learn about agriculture. They also host classes once a month and are hoping to get a grant to bring more.

Conservation District Manager Lesa Osterholm said the women were honored, “Due to the kind of practices they’re doing, organic farming, sustainable farming and their CSA program, which is a direction communities are starting to lean toward.”

Also honored at the ceremony were:

• Paul Boch, Nevada County Agricultural Commissioner, who received a Special Recognition Award for protecting the county from invasive weeds and pests.

• Lynn Campbell, who also won a Special Recognition Award for her volunteer work with the Yuba-Bear Watershed Council.

• Carol Hollingsworth, conservation district board Director of the Year for her volunteer hours monitoring water quality, support of forest fuel load reduction and helping local farmers deal with new irrigation regulations.

• Alex Ezzell, a teacher from Grass Valley Charter School was named Educator of the Year for instructing his students on how to take care of the environment through projects like drain marking, removing berry bushes from Wolf Creek and monitoring the quality of the south fork of Wolf Creek.

• Tim Smith, Gaylene and Kevin Collins of Smith & Smith Ranch, who received the Rangeland Award for environmental and wildlife projects on the Spenceville area ranch.

• Marcus and Cathy Mena, who won the Forest Improvement Award for removing brush, thinning trees and maintaining ground cover on 75 acres.

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To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com, or call 477-4237.


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