Local Eats: “Farm to court dining”

THE FRESH, LOCAL FOOD MOVEMENT—from farmers markets to farm-to-fork dining to organic grocers—is becoming a year-round passion in our region. Our fertile soil and water resources are a real asset, along with the know-how of previous generations of farmers in our region, going back to the Gold Rush era.

Sacramento has rebranded itself as a farm-to-fork capital. The city has hosted a farm-to-fork festival for the past four years, and the annual Tower Bridge gala dinner is always a sellout.

The Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Center opens this fall with food that is dubbed “local eats,” not “concessions.” Under Executive Chef Michael Tuohy, a locavore pioneer, the Kings aim to source 90 percent of culinary ingredients from growers and producers operating within a 150-mile radius of the arena.

Tuohy’s “farm to court” dining is redefining concessions. One of the specialties is a food stand called Porchetta, featuring the Italian herb- and spice-rubbed pork cooked low and slow. The ethically-raised pork comes from Rancho Llano Seco in Chico.

Golden 1’s nachos are made with non-genetically modified corn, mixed with chia, flax and quinoa. The cheese sauce is a blend of natural cheeses from Sonoma County, topped with cilantro and jalapenos.

Local restaurants will offer their own specialties, including Centro Street tacos, Paragary’s wood-fired pizzas, Café Bernardo burgers and shakes, LowBrau house-made bratwurst and Star Ginger Thai BBQ chicken bánh mì sandwich. Local breweries represented at Golden 1 Center will include Track 7, Rubicon, Old Park Brewing and Knee Deep in Auburn.

Along with the new “farm to court” movement in Sacramento, more farmers markets are going year-round. This summer, a year-round farmers market opened in Yuba City—the first in Sutter County. The Nevada City Farmers Market is going year-round: It also will be open the first Saturday of the month, from December until May.

Year-round Farming

CSAs, or community supported agriculture, continue to grow. For the first time, Mountain Bounty Farm in Nevada City is growing its own winter vegetables for its CSA (or “veggies” in a box). “Although our mountain location is limited when it comes to winter growing, we have been slowly extending our season,” says the farm’s founder John Tecklin. “About 10-15 percent of the winter veggies will now come from our farm.” Tecklin started Mountain Bounty Farm in 1997.

Organic grocery stores also are continuing to grow. In Grass Valley, BriarPatch Co-op is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The festivities include a party on October 13, including “fav foods” from four decades.

This summer, New Earth Market of Yuba City opened a second store in Chico—the first new market to open in Chico in years. “New Earth Market includes organic grocery staples, a full meat and seafood department, and a huge selection of craft beer and wine,” says owner Kevin Cotter. The 16,500-square-foot market has a deli, 70-seat restaurant, and a coffee bar.

In Nevada County, the longtime owners of organic grocer Mother Truckers on the San Juan Ridge and Natural Selections in Grass Valley, bought the iconic Country Store, also on the Ridge.

Local Economic Benefit

Consumers often say they buy locally produced foods because they want to support their local economy. A new report from UC Davis confirms that buying locally produced foods does support the local economy.

Sacramento-area farmers and ranchers who sell their products directly to consumers generate twice as much regional economic impact per dollar of output as do area food producers who don’t engage in direct marketing.

Food & Farm Conference

The Sustainable Food & Farm Conference on January 6-8 in Grass Valley draws over 500 farmers, ranchers, homesteaders and foodies. Featured speakers include Elaine Ingham, a renowned soil microbiologist; Greg Judy, an expert in holistic pasture management; and Ben Hartman, who practices “lean farming.” The conference also includes 20 workshops, three farm tours and lunch at Three Forks Bakery & Brewing Co. in Nevada City. FoodandFarmConference.com

(Photo: Golden 1 Center)

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