Pumpkin Chili

Serves 8 to 10 3-pound pie pumpkin or other orange-fleshed squash such as butternut, Red Kuri, or Golden Hubbard 2 medium turnips 1 cup olive oil 1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal 2 red bell peppers, chopped 1 large onion, chopped … Continue reading

To the Moon

A film about co-ops, college students, and an epic bike ride. Free screening Friday, Oct. 24 in the BriarPatch Community Room.

Pear and Pomegranate Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

serves 6 8 cups baby spinach or romaine lettuce 1 ripe pear, diced 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds 1/3 cup candied walnuts 2 ounces Gorgonzola Fresh cracked pepper 1 tablespoon honey Champagne Vinaigrette: 1/4 cup champagne vinegar 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard … Continue reading

Stuffed Hatch Chiles

4 Hatch chiles 1 tbsp olive oil 1 lb ground pork (or cooked barley) 1/2 onion, diced 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped 2 tbsp salt 2 tbsp chili powder 1 tbsp cumin 1 tsp oregano 1 clove garlic, smashed & … Continue reading

Sweet Roots Farm hosts free tour

Sweet Roots Farm TourA tour of Sweet Roots Farm in Grass Valley will be given on Sunday, September 14, at 9:00 a.m. This is the third year that BriarPatch and Nevada County Grown have co-sponsored a farm tour, free of charge, with coffee and baked goods from the BriarPatch kitchen.

Sweet Roots Farm is owned and run by Deena Miller and Robbie Martin. The farm is CCOF Certified Organic, and in addition to a thriving CSA, they provide food and flowers for special events, and participate in the Saturday morning farmers market at North Star House. Sweet Roots Farm will be bringing to BriarPatch a varied line of produce this year, which includes Japanese cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, fennel, red chard, dandelion greens, red bore kale, curly and Italian parsley, Crenshaw melons, cipollini onions, shallots, red potatoes, serrano peppers, green and gold zucchini, and sun gold cherry tomatoes. The farm’s Mission Statement reads as follows:

We pride ourselves on growing great soil and the quality, flavorful produce that follows. Through the use of integrated organic systems and the farm’s many microclimates, we produce food, flowers and nursery starts that are healthy and vibrant. We have a diversity of crops and markets that will build a healthy farm and business.  Farming brings us close to the land, which we will preserve and improve for the future. Our business management and sustainable agricultural practices will eventually support our family while providing equal access for a diversity of community members.”

More about Deena and Robbie’s farm can be found at www.SweetRootsFarm.com.

Community events feature wine, food, and philosophy

Treks for the Mind – A Book Discussion
Monday, September 8, 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Tomes / Sierra Mountain Coffee Roasters
671 Maltman Drive, Grass Valley
Free — everyone is welcome

With Bear Yuba Land Trust’s focus on agriculture, it seemed like a natural to read one of David Mas Masumoto’s lovely books this summer.

David Mas Masumoto works a family farm, growing organic peaches, nectarines, and grapes. When his father has a stroke on the fields of their eighty-acre farm, Masumoto confronts life’s big questions: What do his and his father’s lives mean? What have they lived and worked for?

In “The Wisdom of the Last Farmer,” he tells how to tend growing things, and how to know when to let nature take over, weaving together stories of life and death to reveal age-old wisdom.

With insights full of beautiful, lyrical descriptions on how to nurture both the tangible and intangible, Masumoto’s quiet eloquence reveals how our own destinies are involved in the future of our food, the land, and the farm.

For more information, email melony@bylt.org or call (530) 272-5994, extension 200.

Nevada City Uncorked
Saturday, September 6, 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Nevada City Veterans Hall
$35 in advance, $30 for Wine Club Members of participating wineries, $45 on the day of the event. Tickets include a wine glass, unlimited wine tasting, and five food tickets.

Nevada City Uncorked is a wine and food event that celebrates the agricultural bounty of the Northern Sierra Foothills. A walk-about-town style format includes 20 different venues throughout historic downtown Nevada City. Each venue, whether it is a retail shop, restaurant, or winery tasting room, will include wine tasting and food sampling.

This year’s event features a farm-to-table theme featuring everything from grapes to zucchini, and lots of basil in between. Participating restaurants and caterers will partner with local farmers, transforming fresh materials into delicious dishes.

18 wineries from Nevada and Placer Counties, as well as two local breweries will be pouring their favorite wines and beers. The wineries will be showcasing their newest releases in celebration of the upcoming harvest.

Uncorked is a collaboration between the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Vintners Association. For tickets or information, go to www.sierravintners.com or call (530) 265-2692.

Sample the Sierra Farm to Fork Festival
Sunday, August 31, 12:00 noon – 5:00 p.m.
Bijou Community Park, South Lake Tahoe
$30 in advance; (775) 588-1728

Sample the region’s best food and wine at this festival, which pairs local farmers with chefs who produce tasting samples, which are then paired with the appropriate wine or brew. The weekend is full of festivities for the whole family including farm tours, winemaker dinners, music, live entertainment, and art; all culminating with a fireworks extravaganza over Lake Tahoe.

Moms against Monsanto

Congratulations to the NC Label GMOs group for winning third place in the July 4 parade in Nevada City. Photo by Tony Finnerty.


Answers to frequently asked questions and concerns about BriarPatch’s Next Steps

Next Steps logoAs you know, BriarPatch leaders are considering how to manage the growth in business that we’ve experienced in the past few years.

In April the Board produced a Development Report to present the details on the work that the Board, staff, and consultants have done so far, and asked for your input on the options it laid out for our future. Many thanks for your extremely constructive input, in the survey and elsewhere.

We reported some of the survey results in the June/July issue of The Vine and have posted the full results — all 68 pages of them — as well as a compilation of 100 comments online at www.briarpatch.coop/our-next-steps.

This article addresses the major points that people raised in the survey and elsewhere, and explains what we’re doing to address them.

As you’ll see – we have yet to decide upon any one option. Many factors remain in flux, so this process is going to continue for a while longer. Keep reading The Vine for updates. The status will also be presented at the annual Owner Meeting on October 2 at Miners Foundry.

Here are responses to some of the issues raised most frequently.

People really like the Sierra College Drive store and don’t want to move. At the same time, people recognize that growth has led to challenges that need to be addressed. 

There appears to be agreement among all concerned that we love our current store. Remaining at Sierra College Drive for the long-term, while making modifications to accommodate more business, is still very much an option.

Regardless of what we might do in the future, we have to improve our current store for the short-term. We’re not going anywhere for several years, so we need to continue to implement improvements to maintain the best possible shopping experience, as well as the best possible working conditions for staff. We’ve already done a study of the parking situation, and since our outreach efforts in April, we’ve been re-examining our facilities improvement plan. This involves working with staff on the addition of new efficiencies and space modifications for to allow for both safe and efficient shopping and working.

Would moving from Sierra College Drive mean losing our valuable relationships with people associated with neighboring businesses and schools? How would this affect us? 

We’re well aware of the value of these relationships, and we deeply appreciate our loyal customers. Any new site would have to be convenient for as many owners and shoppers as possible, including, of course, those “near and dear” to us now. This is of prime importance when we look at other sites.

Would we lose the soul of the place if we were to move or expand?

We’re lucky to be able to learn from other co-ops throughout the country who have faced this same question. There’s a great legacy of experience from which to learn, and that includes both failures and successes. From both personal visits and conversations we’ve heard this unanimous message, “your soul goes with you.” This is actually a message we’ve already learned in our own past. After all, didn’t we find that our larger location expanded not just the store’s size, but also the breadth of community served by the Patch? One reason for this is that we look at everything we do through the lens of our Ends Policies, which define our guiding goals and principles. You can be sure that whichever option is chosen, it will fulfill these goals, and will be designed to ensure that our co-op spirit travels with us.

Are our growth projections accurate?

It’s always difficult to predict the future, let alone definitively claim that our present growth will continue. (So far for 2014, our sales have grown 12.6 percent over the same period in 2013.) In all our models and studies, we’ve tried to be very conservative about assumptions concerning future growth. Since reading your comments, we’ve asked our market study experts to hone in on some specific related issues. Because we share your concerns, we have commissioned a second opinion from a different market study expert. We take this question about future growth very seriously.

Can BriarPatch afford any of the options listed in the report?

Just as with the initial market study, we’re revisiting our financial projections. We’re refining our cost analyses for all the options — in terms of their total cost, total debt, and short- and long-term cash flow, to make sure that any option we choose is financially sound. Our research suggests that through a combination of financing sources we could raise the funds needed for the options discussed.

Many people are opposed to BriarPatch considering a move to the proposed Dorsey development, while others are all for it.

We still face many hurdles regarding the possibility of a Dorsey Drive development. The Board is continuing to evaluate this option and whether it would be consistent with our Ends Policies. Other important considerations include the store design, other tenants, growth projections, and issues of timing. It will likely take at least a year before a decision can be made on this option. As we pursue this possibility, we’re also exploring other options and keeping them open.

Many expressed interest in a second store.

We’ve received many helpful suggestions for possible sites to consider for a second store, including smaller stores in Nevada City or South County.

With the help of a commercial real estate expert, we’ve looked at more than 30 sites. After reading your comments we revisited some of these, and also checked out some new ones. Some of the newly suggested sites are simply not available. Others are not suitable for our needs or are too expensive to develop. We’re continuing to look, and we continue to appreciate your suggestions.

We also received numerous suggestions for what a second store might entail – everything from a specialty-oriented, small-scale store to an even bigger version of our Sierra College Drive store. Others suggested we open a separate deli/kitchen/restaurant. These ideas have alerted us to various new possibilities that we’re looking into. In any event, we have not yet found an ideal site for any of these uses.

Why do we need to grow at all? Are you taking it for granted that growth is good?

The growth of sales and activity at BriarPatch is a fact, as is the limited capacity of our current store.  Our leadership is responding to the fact that people like what we’re doing, and that there is a growing local and national interest in healthy food, community-oriented markets, local businesses, and the co-op movement as well. If we do nothing about warehouse conditions, congestion in the Deli and the parking lot, and a host of other factors that we listed in our Development Report, our already strained store operations could become unsafe and unsatisfactory to all. People may well choose to shop elsewhere. Neither our owners, staff, or the community at large want to see that. We are continually questioning our assumptions, and are highly sensitive to the downside of growth. Our over-arching goal is to make sure that what we do is best for our owners, our staff, and our community, with a current as well as a long-range perspective.

We will continue to keep you informed about our progress, and again — we have not made a final decision. A number of key variables are still months away from being resolved. We will update you on new developments as they occur, both in The Vine, online at www.briarpatch.coop, and at the annual Owner Meeting and banquet on October 2.

Keep those suggestions and comments coming!

Board and staff inspired at Madison co-op gathering: workshops, tours, bicycling, and Wisconsin cheese

Board Director Deb Plass, and Kat Bass

Board Director Deb Plass. left, and Administrative Assistant Kat Bass at the tour of Capital Brewing Company in Madison.

Adam Schwartz from Cooperative Development Services (CDS) gave a unique twist to an old proverb when he said, “if you’ve seen one co-op, you’ve seen one co-op;” a comment on the unique personality of each. A record high of 580 cooperators from over 150 U.S. co-ops attended the 58th annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) Conference held in Madison, Wisconsin in June.

A team of seven BriarPatch staff and Board members returned with innovative ideas, new practices to implement, new colleagues, and insight into the progress of the national co-op movement.

Madison is the capital of Wisconsin and home to the University of Wisconsin. It hosts a bountiful Saturday farmers market on the sidewalks that circle the historic, domed Capital Building. Yes, Wisconsinites talk like Minnesotans, have a keen appetite for beer and cheese.

There appear to be more bikes than cars in Madison, and some of us toured around on the “B” bike rentals we had previously only heard about. You just put in your credit card, select the bike slot number, and off you go on a 3-speed bike with a basket and a lock.

The BriarPatch team got a close look at several of the local co-ops, including the Willy Street West Co-op (food market), the Capital Brewing Company (30 years old and named the #1 brewery in the U.S. in 1998), the Growing Food and Sustainability Co-op (educating youth with a focus on growing and selling produce transported on bike carts), the world headquarters of the Credit Union National Association, CUNA, and more.

We learned that cooperative businesses do a lot more than provide food. They can be found in almost every industry, with their focus on owner membership and the seven cooperative principles as a common thread.


Cooperators from all over the country packed the conference room at the conference.

A few facts we learned at the meeting are that:

• There are 29,000 co-ops in the U.S., providing over 850,000 jobs and creating more than $74 billion in annual wages, with revenue of nearly $500 billion.

• Food co-ops have been innovators in the areas of unit pricing, consumer protection, organic and bulk food, and nutritional labeling.

• More than 900 rural electric co-ops deliver electricity to more than 42 million people in 47 states.

Highlights from “Forward Together” session

Several national co-op leaders told stories of how co-ops have been involved in collaborative, combined, and cross-sector cooperation.

Some new initiatives are taking place at National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA), of which BriarPatch is a member. According to Chief Operating Officer CE Pugh, since 2004 NCGA has been able to leverage cooperative buying among co-ops and supported co-op development and sustainability. What’s new at NCGA is a ‘Talent Development Department’ that supports co-ops through e-learning and skill building, a web portal to support sustainability reporting, and a Loan Fund Cooperative to loan capital dollars for co-op projects (newly funded for $10 million with the Capital Impact Co-op).

CDS’s Schwartz shared how the Wedge Co-op worked with the Spire Credit Union to create a Visa card that contributes a percentage of its sales to the Wedge Community Fund when it’s used at the Co-op. Adam encourages co-ops to find areas of common interest and look for ways to work together. He said, “The Seven Cooperative Principles are a great place to begin. Even in a competitive marketplace, there are often areas where co-ops can collaborate to benefit the community and owner members.”

The CCMA conference was an amazing opportunity for Board members and staff to share what we do at BriarPatch and to support the co-op movement, while learning new ways to enrich and engage our local BriarPatch community in serving owners, community, and staff.

Next year Boise, Idaho will host the 59th annual Meeting, where potatoes will be served along with some of those great cheeses from the Wisconsin co-ops!

“We’re accustomed to thinking of co-ops primarily as businesses that are owned cooperatively by their members, yet cooperation among co-ops is also a big part of what sets us apart from conventional businesses. At the CCMA conference I was so impressed by how much co-ops help one another. We bring projects, problems, and success stories of our own to share; other co-ops share their experiences with us. We all also share programs, systems, resources, even financial data. This is hugely different from the usual model that portrays other businesses as competitors. We’ve learned so much about how to — and how not to — undertake an expansion project; how to engage members in helping us fulfill our principles and ends policies; how to improve our governance; how to support and engage staff in all that we do. We’ve learned so much from others, and I’ve been impressed with how much our own success has enabled us to offer advice to other aspiring co-ops. Finally, I’ve been impressed how many things we are doing right: our products, our management, our outreach, and the thoroughness of our efforts as we deal with the pressures of our growth.” — Richard Drace, Board Vice-President

“The opportunity to attend CCMA has been invaluable to my role as the Administrative Assistant to the General Manager and Board of Directors. Not only was I introduced to some of the different types of co-ops that are out there, but to their organizational missions and practices, as well. I was provided with a plethora of knowledge and networking opportunities that will enhance my resources and position here at BriarPatch for many years going forward. “ Kat Bass, BriarPatch Board Administrative Assistant