Fresh, local food year-round in the Sierra Foothills

THOUGH LEVELING OFF IN SOME other places, the fresh, local food movement—from farmers markets to farm-to-fork dining to organic grocers— is booming in our region and becoming a year-round passion.

The movement has become an “economic engine” in its own right, diversifying our region’s economy. It stems from a desire to support local businesses and farmers, community spirit and an abundance of mild weather and land for farming.

Nowhere is the boom more apparent than at the BriarPatch Co-op Community Market in Grass Valley which carries fresh, local food (kale, squash, turnips, citrus and more) long after some seasonal farmers markets have closed.

Only six years ago, BriarPatch opened a new store that was three times the size of its former location to better serve customers. The “green” store incorporated sustainable and ecological design measures.

Now “The Patch” is weighing further expansion—studying whether to expand at its current location, open a second store or relocate to a new site and build an even bigger store. They expect to make a decision on one of the options by April 2014.

“We need to expand for two reasons: first, to meet the demand; and second, because we believe the co-op model is good both for our own community and for the larger society,” says Board Preisdent Alan Weisberg.

Some other examples of expansion in our region:

• Farmers Markets are staying open longer, providing fresh, local produce. The Nevada City Farmers Market and Nevada County Growers Market is open until November 23 this year, longer than usual. Downtown Grass Valley has a new Harvest Festival in October. The Foothill Farmers Market in Auburn is open year-round.

•Local producers such as Nevada County Free Range Beef continue to grow. Its fresh beef is now offered at SPD Market in Grass Valley, along with BriarPatch. Owner Jim Gates is expanding his pastureland so fresh beef can be ordered in bulk year-round.

•The Sierra Foothills Meat Buyers Club in Placer County has expanded to include eggs, seasonal fruits and veggies, bread, honey, sauces and seasoning—not just locally grown meats.

• CSAs, or “community supported agriculture,” are going year-round. Examples include the winter “veggies in a box” from Mountain Bounty Farm in Nevada City.

• Farm-to-Fork dining is booming. Nevada City recently held its first farm-to-table dinner on Commercial Street in the historic downtown.

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