Generation Organic: Young farmers in the Sierra Foothills

For decades, the average age of farmers has been rising—to 57 years old, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But American agriculture is benefiting from youthful vigor, at least when it comes to small farms. Here are some examples in our region:


A “little family farm that could,” the Boorinakis Harper Ranch has been growing pears and plums in Auburn since 1918, when George Boorinakis purchased the 15-acre property off Dairy Road. Now, four generations later, the ranch is owned and operated by husband and wife Thomas Harper and Phyllis Boorinakis and their daughter, Julia Boorinakis-Harper.

“We do pretty much everything ourselves,” says Julia. “Pears and apples are the main crops. We also have honey, figs and a variety of wine grapes.” Boornikis Harper Ranch has been managing its fruit trees organically since 2009.

Julia and her mom also host a monthly radio program on KVMR called the “Homestead Radio Hour.” The popular show focuses on backyard farming and urban home-steading.


One of the most delightful Sierra foothills’ farmers markets, with gorgeous produce, is Jardin del Rio, located at Sierra Knolls’ Bear River Tasting Room on Hwy. 49 just past the Bear River in Auburn. The market is open Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

“People like to eat local and drink local, so it’s a beautiful pairing,” says Aubree Young, an enthusiastic and talented young farmer who manages Jardin del Rio (Spanish for “Garden by the River” and pronounced “Hardeen”). “We’re an artisan farm stand. You can get your standbys, but you’re always going to find something new and exotic with us.”

Jardin del Rio will have a farm stand at California WorldFest, and the Combie Plaza and downtown Grass Valley farmers markets. It also supplies produce to Tahoe Food Hub.

This season Jardin del Rio is offering 74 different varieties of tomatoes (most are heirloom). Other affordable produce includes 42 different peppers, 17 varieties of eggplant, 14 different hot peppers and exotic melons (and the standards, too), peaches, pluots, plucots, okra, onions, garlic, cabbage, peas, carrots, tomatillo, Honey & Pearl corn that tastes as great as it sounds, raw honey, and other various types of marvelous produce. The food is grown on Rincon Way in Nevada County.

(Photo: Philip Wood/Auburn Journal)

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