There are few things more beautiful than an organic farm in the first few days of summer. My nieces are visiting from the Bay Area and I had the privilege to take them to Mountain Bounty Farm this morning. They are 12- and 13-years-old and got up early today to volunteer their time with the Gold Country Gleaners.
We got to Mountain Bounty Farm at 7:45am, just when the cool air had all but worn off. There were butterflies touching their noses to yellow flowers and bees bowing to bolted broccoli. It was breath-taking.
My nieces are definitely “city mice” but they are not totally ignorant about country ways and where their food comes from. My nieces have spent enough time with us in the country, and have spent many days on local farms while visiting us here in Nevada County. They like the country and they love to visit farms. Today was no exception.
The girls and I spent the morning picking vegetables with, Clif Mackinlay, another Gleaners volunteer. The owner of Mountain Bounty Farm, John Tecklin, and his skilled farm managers, are great at preparing the fields for succession planting so that the farm’s CSA and market customers always have the best of the best and a wide variety of veggies, lettuce and herbs. The fields were filled with a variety of greenery.
I laughed when the 12-year-old, Mariana, said today, “Auntie, this plant smells like pickles.” She was standing next to a wispy-leafed plant with big, yellow sprigs of flowers. She thought for a moment and asked, “Is this dill?”
It sure was. “Yep!” I said. “Nice plant identification!”
Mountain Bounty Farm is in full swing right now but many of the cruciferous vegetables out at the farm are in their last days. For Mountain Bounty and their customers, they have had their fill of vegetables like cabbage and bok choy; they are now moving onto other varieties that are more in season.
Vegetables like cabbage, cauliflower and bok choy grow better in the late winter and early spring up here in the Sierra Foothills. With summer upon us, things like cabbage and bok choy are starting to bolt. The CSA and market customers have delightfully gotten the cream of the crop (quite literally) but there were still some very nice cabbages and lots of bok choy left in the field. That’s where gleaning comes in.
The concept of gleaning dates back to before the Christian bible was written. In other parts of the world, gleaning has been a staple of consistent community service for centuries. In Nevada County, our most organized efforts have taken place in the past few years. Last year, we really took off. Last year alone, we donated more than five tons of food to local organizations. The Gold Country Gleaners have been called out to orchards, homesteads, farms and gardens to help with gathering and donating food.
I’m not sure how effective my nieces and I were in the field at Mountain Bounty today. I cut heads of cabbage away from the roots with my knife and tossed them to the girls who ran the cabbages back to boxes up the hill. I think we probably looked more like we were running a P.E. drill than like we were farming.
Pulling the bok choy and helping Clif with things like fennel and lettuce proved even more of a mess. As we tried to separate the plants from their strong roots, we found ourselves covered in dirt and often times holding leaves and stalks, rather than a whole bunch. Still, we worked hard and eventually came up with nearly twenty boxes of veggies to take to our local food pantries.
Clif Mackinlay had a much easier time than the three of us. He is a skilled harvester and is much more patient than a couple of teenaged-girls and their auntie. I watched him as he carefully harvested lettuce and a green, leafy vegetable related to bok choy. He had large stalks of fennel and several boxes filled with neatly picked greens.
We agreed that my nieces and I would go to the San Juan Ridge Family Resource Center to drop off some produce and then to the Interfaith Food Ministry in Grass Valley. Clif would go to the Salvation Army, Hospitality House, and then to the Nevada County Food bank.
Altogether, the Gold Country Gleaners donated about 50 boxes of food and several work-hours to help feed the hungry in Nevada County today. We served several non-profits and made sure that our food pantries were stocked.
My nieces were happy to help and they had a great time. I’m glad that we all had a nice day out on the farm.