Supporting a Stronger Food System, From Seed to Tummy

By Richard Drace, Board President

Why was I thinking about spring planting in early November? Because I was listening to a presentation hosted by Riverhill Farm featuring FarmLink, an organization that makes loans to small-scale farmers.
With “rebirth” the theme for this Vine issue, we’re prompted to think about all the gardens and farms soon to be planted. Yet our local farmers have to plan well ahead of time about where the money is going to come from for the seed, amendments, and labor to get those plants birthed. And that’s quite a challenge, since in springtime a lot of money has to go out but not much is coming in. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but plants do grow, so to speak, on money.

BriarPatch guarantees these loans, but the actual funds come from other sources. Farmers that qualify for these loans are thoroughly vetted by FarmLink, so our risk is minimal. We’ve encouraged more local farmers to take advantage of this great program, so I was excited to learn about workshops offered to educate farmers in business practices that make them loan-worthy.

At BriarPatch we strive to link whatever we undertake to our Ends Policies. So let’s take a look at how supporting farmers with their springtime planting—I like to think of it as being a doula to produce birthing—helps fulfill our goal to further “A stronger local food system.”
In my design and development business, I often encountered the phrase “cradle-to-cradle”, which describes tracking the chain of custody through all aspects of environmentally-responsible production, use, and re-use of building materials products. To encourage a stronger local food system, we go beyond buying farm goods and selling them to shoppers. We’re in for the entire “seed-to-tummy” chain of custody: financial support to help get the plants started; purchasing practices that offer reliability and predictability; promotion of local farms through our marketing; support of farm-friendly organizations (such as Sierra Harvest); support of local foods offered by others (such as underwriting Nevada City Farmers Market); selling us all the freshest and bestest; donating what’s left over—the list could go on.

When I’m in the store admiring the beauty of our produce layout, I’m prone to congratulating ourselves. And then I look at the posters of the farmers above, and I remind myself that the real challenge in a stronger local food system is—to borrow a phrase—“It’s the economy, stupid.” It’s just plain really difficult to make a living as a small scale farmer. Yet we have local farmers making it. And others almost making it. If we’re in for the game, then we’re in for the entire game—from seed to tummy.
uet of Dino Kale for a loved one on that special day. Happy renewal everyone!

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