Know your local farmers

Meet the Johansen Family on their organic farm in Penn Valley, CA

Anyone who’s been living in Nevada County for a while knows about the yearly build up of excitement around the local/regional citrus harvest. Just as we go into the chilly months and the winter holidays, the citrus are gathering their final sweetness and juice. Suddenly, and usually unexpectedly, because the citrus ripening depends on weather factors right up to the picking, the Johansen Ranch Organic Satsuma Mandarins start appearing at BriarPatch Food Co-op.
The Johansens have been supplying the Co-op with organic Satsuma Mandarins, Clementines, Navel and Blood Oranges, and Meyer Lemons for decades, but 15 years ago, Rich and Mila purchased 37 acres in Penn Valley and decided to grow additional crops. They started improving the property and readying about 12 acres for an organic farm to supply BriarPatch customers with even more fresh produce. In the last several years, the winter squash and melons grown at their Penn Valley farm have become shopper favorites, just like their citrus.
This year, Mila has a favorite melon: the Piel de Sapo, Spanish for “skin of the toad.” “You know how when you eat a watermelon you have to leave a bunch of the rind, well, with the Piel de Sapo, you eat right down to the skin and they store much better than other melons.” She adds, “Other farmers are selling Piel de Sapo at BriarPatch too, but no matter who brings them to BriarPatch, buy them—they’re delicious!”
In addition to Rich’s abundant harvests of melons and squash varieties (Delicata, Spaghetti, Kabocha, Butternut, Blue Ballet, Acorn), Mila cultivates herbs and plants orchards. She specializes in licorice and lemon grass, elderberry, and chasteberry, and will be starting Chinese hawthorn berry soon. After finding out that the sweet aroma in Nevada City comes from Linden trees, she started a Linden orchard.
The Johansens grow for co-ops all over the West—be sure to come to the Farm Tour!

A farm isn’t a farm without the contributions of canines, and the Johansen Farm boasts four active dogs who supply love and entertainment: Clementine (named after the super-sweet smallest type of Mandarin) and her “puppies,” Franklin, Princess, and Flower. Mila adds, “Flower is the real worker of the group, but Princess gets to go on all the hikes, because she’s the only one who doesn’t drool all over everything.”

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