BriarPatch Co-op celebrates local foods and farmers

NATURAL FOOD COOPERATIVES ARE PIONEERS of the organic food industry—and on the cutting edge of providing shoppers with the freshest local food. They also specialize in food-related education and events.

Nowadays, the member-governed co-ops are thriving, thanks to the “buy fresh, buy local” movement. Food co-ops belonging to the National Cooperative Grocers Association operate more than 170 stores in 36 states, with combined annual sales of $1.5 billion.

In our region, natural food co-ops include BriarPatch Co-op Market in Grass Valley, Chico Natural Foods Cooperative, Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op and Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno.

Nowhere is the boom in food co-ops more visible than at BriarPatch. Now in its 37th year, “The Patch” is recording double-digit growth annually. Last year, it generated more than $21 million in annual sales.

When it comes to food, BriarPatch works closely with local farms to provide fresh, local fruits and veggies. The Patch sold $484,000 in local-regional produce last year, up 19 percent from 2011.

This summer—when local growing is at its peak—BriarPatch will sell more than 300 dif- ferent local-regional fruits, veggies, flowers and plants, from 50 regional farms. (Local food is grown within 20 miles of the store, while regional food is grown within a 120- mile radius).

BriarPatch celebrates local farms and farmers in August, with a “Discover Local” campaign. Events include:
I A farm tour on Saturday, August 11, starting at 9 a.m. The tour includes First Rain Farm, just north of downtown Nevada City. First Rain is one of the farms that supplies fresh produce (Rainbow Chard, collard greens, Dino and Red Russian Kale, basil and green onions) to the store.

“This land has an agricultural history dating back to the Gold Rush,” says farmer Tim Van Wagner, whose sister Wendy Van Wagner owns In The Kitchen.

The farm tour also includes a visit to the Food Love Project, an educational farm. It is at the Burton Homestead in Nevada City.

Eating Alabama film screening, Sunday, August 23, 7 p.m. at BriarPatch. A thoughtful film about sustainability. I Local Food and Wine Tasting Party, Sunday, August 25, 5-7 p.m. at BriarPatch.

•Sampling of local and regional foods every- day, including tomatoes, melons, honey, cheeses, yogurts, chicken and more.

(photo: Daphne Hougard)

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