The Bountiful Cuisine from OUR
Eating locally grown food has never been easier.
BY PATTI BESS
Local agriculture is going a long way toward proving that organic farming has only begun its potential for changing our world and economy.
In her 2007 book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver chronicled her family’s commitment to eat only locally grown foods for a year. If a Nevada County family did that today, they would eat quite abundantly—from Asian greens to Italian varietals, and from heirloom grains to fermented garlic.
Nevada County farmers grow much more than fruits and vegetables!
In the last three decades the accelerating pace of the transition to small farming operations has surprised university researchers and officials at the Department of Agriculture all across our country. Farming without chemicals, once considered a fringe movement, impractical and idealistic, has gained ground, moving closer to the mainstream.
Nevada County is no exception.
Small farmers in our county excel with their creative marketing techniques; some with the number of unique varieties they grow, and some with the add-on products they create to augment income. These are just a few examples of the talented folks among us.
At Broadfork Farm Nancy and George Crews work harder in retirement than in their working careers, but the passion they have for organic farming infuses a subtle flavor element into their produce. They farm on Meadow Drive, a half block off Highway 174— an easy stop for last minute, fresh picked dinner items. Most produce is pre-weighed and packaged and their organized, do-it-yourself payment system makes it a five-minute stop.
Their son, Ian, who is also a partner in the farm, recently built a post-harvest washing station in the garage to process greens more easily. This past season Nancy and George experimented with growing leeks, arugula, several varieties of Japanese mustard, pea shoots, and micro greens which was enough to encourage them to keep the farm stand operating all winter.
EARLY BIRD FARM
Drew Speroni of Early Bird Farm owns and operates his own state-certified mill for processing heirloom grains. Heirloom grains are the original varieties that hold true to their characteristics. They have more flavor and nutritional value than modern grains developed in the last half century. Flour Garden and several local restaurants are using his wheat, rye and kamut in their recipes.
Drew also grows a one acre market farm and has worked out a system where the Interfaith Food Ministry can purchase vegetables directly from the farm, thus providing more nutrient dense produce to their clients.
After too many years sitting at a desk, Shannon Frieberg retired from her Nevada County job and hasn’t stopped working since. She and her husband, Steve Nightingale, spend their days surrounded by their extended family. Seven kids born in early spring with eleven more in April, ten mother goats, and six handsome and eager bucks. Nightingale Farm is located along Butterfly Creek in the beautiful Highway 174 valley.
Nightingale Farm raises Oberhasli goats, a Swiss breed known for its mellow nature and a reputation for producing large quantities of milk. The milk’s delicate sweet flavor doesn’t taste as “goaty” as some goats’ milk.
From the beginning of their business, Shannon and Steve understood the need to develop several streams of income if their farm was going to be profitable.
NIGHTINGALE FARM CONT’D
The most successful product thus far has been goat milk lotions and soaps which they currently produce and bottle on their own farm. They sell these on their web site, at shows and conventions, and through two dozen retailers. The future may also include teaching soap and cheese making classes.
Sara Raskie and Tony Cervantes live and grow on Lewis Road in Nevada City. The farm is called Calmil Teoyotica. The words come from the Native American tradition meaning, “Sacred house surrounded by flowers”. On this verdant piece of property, Sara and Tony actually grow so many varieties that the land expresses a more extensive definition of its name that means “entire universe unfolding with flowers.”
Some of their primary crops are medicinal herbs such as horehound, calendula, sweet grass, white sage, mugwort, comfrey and several others. They market these to HAALo in Nevada City and other herbal retailers. Their abundant variety of kitchen herbs, including epazote for Mexican cooking and Lemon Grass for Asian foods, are popular products with several restaurants in town. In addition to an extensive orchard, their market garden may include heritage melons from Africa, amaranth, native corn, cardoons, goji berries, as well as the traditional summer produce. Their farm stand on Lewis Road is open two days a week in the summer.
JARDIN DEL RIO
Aubree Young farms at Jardin del Rio. Her meticulously maintained farm/ gardens overlook the Bear River in South County not far from Lake of the Pines. Aubree specializes in sixty varieties of tomatoes and uses Italian Artisan seeds for varieties of vegetables you wouldn’t find anywhere else. She sells a lot of Italian Eight Ball Squash, a zucchini variety grown for stuffing.
BAKWRD CP MTN. RAISED POULTRY
Located next to Sierra Knolls Winery, a visit for wine tasting and vegetable shopping makes for a lovely afternoon. Carissa Bell is passionate about chickens. She has been the poultry leader in 4H for several years. Bakwrd CP Mtn. Raised Poultry is a family endeavor in South County near Alta Sierra. Carissa and her family raise rare breeds of chickens to sell and show at fairs. Fresh eggs and egg yolk products are available with a phone order and pick up at the farm.
Carissa developed a recipe she learned from a chef/farmer on the East Coast. It involves curing egg yolks and then de-hydrating them. They can be grated onto a Caesar Salad or a pasta dish adding nutritional value, a texture dynamic, or a dramatic decorative touch. Chef Zach Sterner from Twelve 28 Kitchen in Penn Valley utilizes them in several creative dishes.
BITNEY SPRINGS FARM
Hard working farmers Chris Riccio and Mark Sheffer spend countless hours tending to the livestock, orchards, and fields of their farm. Bitney Springs Farm is located near the bottom of that road and makes a convenient stop for dinner staples on your way home from a summer trip to Bridgeport swimming hole on the Yuba.
One of the unique products off this farm is Black Garlic. Garlic bulbs from their fields are put into a device called a garlic fermenter for 12 days. Although not a true fermentation process, since it does not involve microbial action, the garlic fermenter ages the garlic under specialized conditions of heat and humidity. The end result is a flavorful black colored bulb that is high in antioxidants and can be used to flavor many different dishes.
Black Garlic has been incorporated into popular menu items at Grass Valley’s new downtown pub, the Thirsty Barrel. The recipe for a simple Black Garlic Sauce follows.
And there are many more examples of the industrious people who farm here. Whether it’s young farmers starting out in a career or retired folks re-creating their lives, Nevada County farmers bring to their businesses/ farms incredible energy, innovation and passion. They are committed to a more sustainable world and deserve our support.