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Photo courtesy of Daphne Hougard
The story of the Tahoe Food Hub has a lot of moving parts and can be hard to capture in a press interview but Laura Brown with the "The Union" in Nevada City/Grass Valley, CA nailed it! We so appreciate her thoughtful reporting and comprehensive coverage of who we are and what we want to do. Below is an excerpt but for the full story, click here.

An emerging nonprofit group called the Tahoe Food Hub is reaching out to foothill farmers in Western Nevada County in an effort to supply restaurants and natural food stores in the Truckee-Tahoe region with fresh, locally grown produce.

If done well, the project has the potential to reduce the headache of marketing and distribution while securing a steady stream of revenue for local agriculture, say some local farmers.  A food hub aggregates food from regional producers, stores it, markets it and distributes it within a local area, according to the Tahoe Food Hub’s website.

“We’re mirroring a national food system but doing it on a regional level,” said Susie Sutphin, co-executive director of the Tahoe Food Hub.

Food hubs help small-scale producers find new markets, provide local communities with healthy, ecologically grown food and educates consumers about the importance of sustainable agriculture and the positive ripple effect of buying local. Read the whole story here...


 
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Christmas Eve harvest @ Truckee Community Farm
As we gather together this happy day and celebrate with a cornucopia of holiday foods, we should pause and assess the seasonality of our winter plates.

Are there eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, berries, or beans at your table? These are warm-weather, summer crops. To help build a sustainable food system, we have a responsibility to be aware of non-seasonal foods. If we don't buy them, then grocery stores won't stock them helping them focus on seasonal foods which are often accessible within  regions 150-250 miles away versus 1500 miles.

Yesterday, the Growing Dome at the Truckee Community Farm produced an 8lb harvest of leafy greens: arugula, curly kale, Siberian kale, Swiss chard, butterleaf lettuce and romaine lettuce.

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The aftermath - neatly trimmed rows of greens
Outside was four feet of snow with more in the forecast. Inside, the Growing Dome was busy raising winter veggies keeping them warm like an incubator does for its baby chicks. Other winter crops will soon come into harvest like spinach and mache and a variety of rooted vegetables such as beets, turnips, radishes, carrots, leeks, garlic and potatoes.

Tis' the season to be merry both in our hearts and in our stomachs! Keep the warmth in your thoughts and the cool-hearty foods on your plates.

 
No, I'm not talking about climate change but rather keeping your crops warm during winter. We are just beginning our 4th season here at the Truckee Community Farm's Growing Dome and last night, November 11th, marked our first truly cold night of the season at 5°F! Watch the videos to see how the Growing Dome's natural heating system is able to keep the inside just above freezing on such a cold night. We used floating row covers to help the soil retain as much heat as possible overnight especially for the sprouts and seedlings that are still getting established. But once they are more mature, the Growing Dome will stay warm enough that they won't be needed. I'm as excited for growing veggies as I am for skiing this winter season! Check back soon for a progress report.
 
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There is something about getting a logo that makes things feel legit! Check it out! it comes in purple, green and of course black. We co-branded the logo since the Growing Dome at the Truckee Community Farm will be the pilot for the Dome Raising Project...

What's the Dome Raising Project? The Dome Raising Project (DRP) is a community collaborative between institutional partners and local citizens interested in raising Growing Domes (www.growingspaces.com) for educational and food procurement purposes in the Lake Tahoe region. The DRP organizes the installation, disseminates resources and coordinates the funding of growing domes for Tahoe Truckee schools, hospitals, and municipalities.

The Growing Dome is what we grow in at the Truckee Community Farm. It is a 4-season growing structure appropriate for colder climates. They are designed and manufactured by Growing Spaces in Pagosa Springs, CO. They harness Tahoe’s 280+ days of sunlight helping an otherwise non-food producing region become more food secure and begin to create a more regional food system.

The Dome Raising Project is focused on “raising” domes, RAISING awareness for good nutrition and RAISING an understanding for eco-literacy, and RAISING healthy, sustainable grown food in our food insecure region. By raising domes, we raise a deeper connection and respect for our food and our human ecosystem. The DRP will be one of four programs under the newly established non-profit, the Tahoe Food Hub. The Tahoe Food Hub is focused on building a regional food system with producers within 150-miles which includes exploring ways to grow food locally using climate appropriate growing structures like the Growing Dome.

A network of Tahoe domes makes a regional statement and encourages all in the Tahoe Basin to think more consciously about where their food comes from. By working together versus independently, each project site will be more successful sharing funding, resources, curriculum and most of all passion.

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Integral to the DRP is the connection a community shares with food. Hospitals serve as dietary role models and schools serve as system-based learning centers to help our next, planetary stewards make the connection between good nutrition, health and an equitable food system.

The DRP’s first campaign...is to help the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and Tahoe Forest Health System install Growing Domes at area institutions for educational and therapy purposes as well as to provide locally, grown food to their cafeterias.

In order for a Growing Dome to get built at schools and hospitals in Tahoe, it needs to meet the heavy snow load requirements of Tahoe. Growing Spaces has been working diligently over the past five months to engineer a "Sierra Dome" just for our region." To put it in perspective...the standard Growing Dome is built for 65psf (pounds per square foot) ground snow load. In 25 years of manufacturing, Growing Spaces has only had to modify the dome up to 95psf. That is until Tahoe came along. The Sierra Dome's base model will be designed to withstand 205psf ground snow load. That's how we roll in Tahoe! Contact us if you are interested in learning more about Growing Domes and/or the Dome Raising Project by using my contact page.

 
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The recent issue of Edible Reno-Tahoe just came out. I have an article in there about how the Growing Dome got its start and how one was lucky enough to land in Tahoe so I could be its farm manager. Here is the intro but for the whole article, click here.

As community members across the country become more focused on their food security (not only as a way to improve access to ecologically grown food, but also to improve their local economy), they must evaluate their foodshed. Discerning local food enthusiasts should look at where their food is sourced but, more importantly, how food can be grown in their region.

Thanks to special growing structures and four-season growing methods, even those living in mountain climates now can grow food. These special growing structures aren't just ordinary greenhouses; they are geodesic dome-shaped greenhouses manufactured by Udgar and Puja Parsons of Growing Spaces in Pagosa Springs, Colo.
For the complete article, please visit Edible Reno-Tahoe.


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IN OTHER NEWS...me and my business partner, Eve McEneaney, filed the Articles of Incorporation for the Tahoe Food Hub last week. In order to expedite the process, we drove to Sacramento to file in person. We could have mailed it in, but filing in person made for a much more momentous occasion. It was an exciting day putting us one step closer to helping build a regional food system for Lake Tahoe.

 
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When I first came up with the "foodlust" concept, I tried to visualize what it might look like in a logo. I kept visioning this debonair, swashbuckling gentleman dipping a leek raptured by its earthly wonder. Foodlust is after all "a deep respect for food" and if consumed with foodlust, we would cradle the bounty of mother nature in awe and amazement at what she provides. We would not take our food for granted, expect it to be cheap, super-size everything, and let it go to waste.

I had a friend draw up this picture in my mind and I've included it here along with my interpretive tribute to foodlust.

This past week, I harvested my first leeks! It took five months but who's counting. It was worth the wait! They weren't the fattest leeks I'd ever seen but they had lovely, long white shanks! I learned this trick of long-white shanks from 4-season gardener, Eliot Coleman...when your leek seedlings are 10" tall, you loosen them from the ground trimming roots and tops and then transplant them into 9" holes. In his book, Winter Harvest Handbook, he says, " If you have never grown leeks this way before, you may find it hard to believe that it will work - but it does!" And it did!

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Volunteers and clients from Project Mana's food distribution in Truckee, CA.
Along with the leeks, was a whopping 56lb. harvest! It was our biggest yet. Like most of our harvests, 70% or more is donated to our local hunger relief agency, Project Mana. It was an incredible day and a big celebration! Over the past month, a traveler named Terry from Wyoming, had come out to the growing dome every week to volunteer. For his hard work, I would load him up with an arm full of veggies to share with his fellow travelers at the local hostel. He humored me by taking the photos of me with the leeks.

The following is a photo essay over the last week. My friend Daphne Hougard, who is a professional photographer, came down for the 56lb pickin'. She took the one of me with the carrots and the gorgeous one of the dome's interior at sunrise! Enjoy the harvest!

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Daphne Hougard Collection
 
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Eliot Coleman and his wife Barbara Damrosch on their farm in Harborside, Maine.
The only thing holding Tahoe back from being like its food abundant cousins down the hill, are its winters. Tahoe gets the same amount of sun - nearly 300 days of it - but has cold temperatures. We just need to harness the sun's heat and were golden, literally!

Fortunately, there are good people like Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm. He has been perfecting his 4-season growing techniques for the past forty years. He gleaned most of his information by visiting and studying the traditions of French and British farmers. He would come back to his farm in Maine adapting what he learned and further refining the skill of year-round farming.

Reno, Nevada had the fortune of a 2-day workshop this past weekend with the father of cold-hardy vegetables. As a budding farmer myself, I was eager to hear the voice behind the words in the books I had been reading.

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Row covers inside an unheated greenhouse
"Simplicity! That's our motto," preached Eliot. "Low-tech and high quality "real" food are our guiding principles." He wants his systems to be replicable. If they are complicated, they will never gain traction. And he's succeeded! To get in the game, however, you have to be okay with cold weather and hard work. But the systems he has designed aren't elaborate or overly expensive.

Here are a few basic winter gardening concepts:
  1. The cornerstone of Eliot's process is the "double-cover." Take an unheated greenhouse which serves as the first cover. And then place a lightweight row-cover over the crop. The insulating layer is the double-cover. it can increase the temperature near the plant by 25+ degrees!
  2. Focus on growing cold-hardy vegetables like salad greens and root crops. The matriarchs of the bunch are spinach and arugula. But leafy greens in general are the mainstay: mache, claytonia, endive, escarole, minutina, lettuces, watercress, parsley, raddichio, sorrel, mizuna, Asian greens, as well as chard, collards and kale. Other go-to winter crops include carrots, leeks, broccoli, garlic, radishes, turnips, beets, potatoes and kohlrabi.
  3. Strict planting schedules and crop rotations play an intregal role. Seeds must be planted well in advance of the first frost so plants can get established and keep producing throughout the winter. The bewitching hour is 10-hours of daylight. Once we fall below 10-hours/day, plant growth slows down. But by the time the last of the winter crops have been harvested in February, the clock has turned and we've rounded the corner and have started to exceed 10-hours of daylight. Crop rotations ensure that what comes out goes back in by enriching the depleted soil with nutrients from a different crop family each planting. There are 13 crop families!

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Inexpensive low-tunnels can still utilize double-covers

Eliot reminded the audience of a scene in the movie, The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman, "My hope is that one day, a respected elder will take a promising young graduate aside and say, son...I've got one word for you, farming!" He believes in what he is selling and the future that small-scale farming can offer our communities, economy and environment through 4-season growing!