Debbie Gibbs: It’s time to get growing
The coronavirus continues to spread and we could have some disruption in our access to fresh produce and meat as the workers who grow, preserve, transport, and sell food may fall ill. Additionally, those with reduced incomes may find that food is less affordable.
But Nevada County has the soil, water and climate right here to grow much of our food ourselves. Right now, we are our best resource — with our own home or community gardens or purchases from our local farms. We can put unused land into production to increase our supply of fresh food.
This is a perfect time to start your own garden for all those nutrient-packed herbs and veggies so important for our health. Plus digging in the garden is a stress buster that reduces the cortisol that compromises our immune system. Remember that World War II Victory Gardens provided 40% of American produce consumed during the war. We can do that again!
Get your seeds now online or at local stores. You may find some seed sellers are behind on orders, so be patient. If you need some information on how to garden, a helpful local resource is our local Master Gardener website (ncmg.ucanr.org). And the Peaceful Valley Farm Supply has many great videos on growing specific types of plants as well as you can order seeds which they will mail (groworganic.com).
If you are not able to plant crops, consider a community garden with some of your neighbors. In many cases, the infrastructure to get this going may be present with homeowner associations or our numerous Firewise groups. Within our neighborhoods, there are probably unused parcels of land that could serve as gardens.
Many gardeners know the chances of a successful crop are often greatly increased with garden starts versus seeds. Fortunately, many farms sell plant starts. Giving farms a deposit with the promise of a flat of plant starts is an excellent way to assure you are ready to go when your soil is prepared and the weather is optimal.
Starbright Acres Family Farm, Grizzly Hill Farm and Fresh Starts are just a few that will sell their starts. Traditionally, on Mother’s Day weekend, a terrific opportunity for starts are at the Master Gardener Plant sale (Saturday) and the organic plant sale at the Miners Foundry (Sunday). And some farms at the Growers markets sell starts.
On the educational front, gardening can provide a project-based learning experience for students that need meaningful education, activity and a chance to contribute to the family meals. Gardening and cooking can hone science and math skills, and think of the Zoom meetings that kids could do to compare their growing and cooking projects.
Finally, if growing your own produce is just not possible, don’t forget our local farms. Currently, probably less than 5% of our produce consumption is locally sourced. A way to help our farms in this current economic situation is to provide cash support up front so they can expand their production.
One method is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) where you purchase in advance a basket of food for weekly delivery to a pick up location. Farm credits are another approach where you use your credit to acquire produce throughout the season. Mountain Bounty Farm, Starbright Acres, Early Bird Farm and Riverhill Farms all do a CSA or credits. Sierra Harvest just added a Food, Farm and Garden Resource guide with up to date information on local farms and the 2019 Nevada County Grown Farm Guide on their website (sierraharvest.org).
Up to this point I have focused on produce. But many farms also offer fresh eggs and meat. However, if you are contemplating raising your own animals, a word of caution. Livestock requires special care and attention. Chickens for eggs are easiest, with larger animals more difficult. Plus, animals are expensive to raise and failure is a real possibility. It may be wiser to depend on your local ranchers to raise animals and to reserve your meat in advance or buy at a grower’s market.
Growing food is intrinsically compatible with our new social distancing lifestyle, and maybe we could all grow enough for others in case there is a true food shortage. A worthy objective is to have a surplus to give to neighbors, food pantries, and the essential employees such as health professionals, first responders, postal delivery workers and grocery and pharmacy clerks that are working so hard to be sure we all have what we need.
Debbie Gibbs lives in Nevada City.
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