A Simple Gesture and A Seat at the Table

In the 2011 growing season, market gardeners Brian Marshall and Nancy Heinzel owners of Sawmill Creek Farms in Paradise, stretched themselves and their 3 acre-CSA and market garden further than it had been stretched before and began growing a portion of their fresh produce for several Paradise food pantries. They donated their produce to these pantries through the charitable organization A Simple Gesture (www.asimplegesture.org).

A handful of home grown blueberries.

A handful of home grown blueberries.

Since then the couple, working with A Simple Gesture, have founded their own not-for-profit, "A Seat At the Table" to continue in their efforts to help to not only provide fresh produce to those in need through what they grow but also through the dedicated gleaning efforts of other volunteers as well as free cooking classes on how to prepare and enjoy all of this bounty being offered by yet other involved volunteers.

Brian Marshall and Nancy Heinzel, owners of Sawmill Creek Farms.

Brian Marshall and Nancy Heinzel, owners of Sawmill Creek Farms.

This is a model that expands the idea of Community Supported Agriculture to Agriculture-supported-by-Community-will-likewise-Support-the-Community: we are all in this together. The model is elegant in its simplicity of form and function. It makes me proud to know people who make - and grow - the world in which they want to live.

GOOD FUN, GOOD CAUSE

Carrots being prepared for produce boxes.

Carrots being prepared for produce boxes.

On March 23rd, 2013 A Seat at the Table hosts their barn dance and dinner benefit on at the Paradise Senior Center. During the past two years, A Seat at the Table has worked in conjunction with A Simple Gesture and their green bag program to provide over nine tons of fresh local produce to Ridge food pantries and lunch programs. The Senior Center benefit will be an opportunity to celebrate their new 501c3 status, extend their thanks to friends and supporters, and raise funds for the upcoming 2013 season.

Nancy Heinzel sorting and preparing dry bean harvest at Sawmill Creek Farm..

Nancy Heinzel sorting and preparing dry bean harvest at Sawmill Creek Farm..

The doors open at 6:00 pm, with Paradise Rotary providing a no-host bar. A pasta primavera dinner follows at 7:00, prepared by chef Scotty Parker, formerly of the Ahwahnee Lodge at Yosemite, and desert courtesy of Noble Orchards. Then at 8:00 local favorites the Revells take the stage with their own mix of classic rock, one-hit wonders and surf instrumentals. Throughout the event, guests are welcome to take part in a silent auction, bidding on a wide variety of gifts donated by local businesses. They are also encouraged to dress like a farmer, but please note that livestock and farm implements will be checked at the door.

Row crops of summer produce at Sawmill Creek Farm.

Row crops of summer produce at Sawmill Creek Farm.

A Seat at the Table was formed by a small group of Ridge residents who wanted to join in the fight against hunger, and help improve access to fresh, healthy produce. In 2011, Brian Marshall and Nancy Heinzel, owners of Sawmill Creek Farms, worked with the local non-profit A Simple Gesture to donate over three tons of produce grown on their farm. The following year they increased that harvest to four tons, while fellow board members Ken and Marilyn Prentiss launched a gleaning program at the Paradise Farmers Market that netted another two tons of produce which was then donated to lunch and dinner programs operating on the Ridge. At the same time, local chef Aubrey Prius and board member Ashley Estep began a series of free cooking classes to help pantry recipients use that produce to create healthy, nutritious meals.

Peppers glistening in the summer sun at Sawmill Creek Farm.

Peppers glistening in the summer sun at Sawmill Creek Farm.

Tickets for the benefit are $20 per person, and available for sale at Fir Street Gallery, Noble Orchards, Yowzer’s Printing and the Senior Center. For further information, please call Nancy or Brian at 877-5734, or visit the A Seat at the Table events page on Facebook.

ANNUAL UPDATE – 2/19/13 - Written by Sawmill Creek Farms

2012 – it was a very good year.

Or at least for the most part. We’ll cover the triumphs first, then move on to the few disappointments that – as always - managed to pop up.

Heirloom tomato plants grown from seed at Sawmill Creek Farm.

Heirloom tomato plants grown from seed at Sawmill Creek Farm.

The harvest from our dedicated acre of land surpassed 2011 totals by a good 25%, coming in at just over four tons of assorted veggies. We’d love to claim kudos for all this bounty, but in reality it was Mother Nature who deserves the most credit, serving up mild, dependable weather throughout the season. Still, we did make a few improvements of our own, including new trellises for the tomatoes, improved organic controls for the inevitable powdery mildew, and all sorts of little tweaks that could be summed up in our mantra for the year, “plant smarter, not harder.”

We also saw the launch of a new project initiated by Ken and Marilyn Prentiss, who have been frequent volunteers on the farm over the past few years. Following USDA guidelines, they began a gleaning program at the Paradise Farmers Market, providing an opportunity for vendors there to donate any unsold produce for use in free lunch and dinner programs on the Ridge. By the end of the season, Ken & Marilyn had collected over two tons of produce, and are now planning on expanding their gleaning to include Chico’s Saturday Morning Market.

Assorted dry beans from Sawmill Creek Farms.

Assorted dry beans from Sawmill Creek Farms.

Lastly, we joined forces with two more local volunteers, Ashley Estep and Aubrey Pruis, to offer free monthly cooking classes for those individuals who were receiving produce through the pantry programs. Each month’s recipes were based on whatever selection of fresh and prepared items were being distributed for that particular week, ensuring that these donations found their way into nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals. Most importantly, Aubrey’s casual, easy-going approach to cooking made the whole idea of preparing home-cooked meals a lot less daunting and a lot more fun.

Still, as mentioned earlier, not everything went quite the way we’d planned. Probably the greatest frustration was the unanticipated delay we experienced with the IRS and our application for 501 c3 status. Rather than a couple of months, the entire process took almost a full year, during which time we were unable to engage in any significant fundraising or outreach efforts. It wasn’t till January of this year that we learned we’d been officially approved, and we’re planning to celebrate the birth of our non-profit, A Seat at the Table, with a dinner-dance benefit in March.

Field grown onions being prepared for produce boxes.

Field grown onions being prepared for produce boxes.

But well before we’d received news of our official status, members of the local community were already stepping up to the plate. One of the church-based pantries has been encouraging parishioners to donate funds to help offset our monthly lease payments for the dedicated acre. We also learned that the Nielsen family, owners of the land, would be willing to forgo payments for the winter months while the field lies fallow. Jim & Lori Noble, owners of the last remaining orchard in town, have helped out by sponsoring spice sales at their farm, and sharing a bit of their hard-earned wisdom. In ways both large and small, people have made a point of letting us know that they value what we’re doing, and have come to recognize that food insecurity is a real and continuing problem here on the Ridge.

All of which gives up hope as we look forward to the 2013 season.

Garden grown beets add healthy color to life.

Garden grown beets add healthy color to life.

Want to comment - send thoughts and suggestions on this post? Follow Jewellgarden.com/In a North State Garden on Facebook - comment and like us today!

To submit plant/gardening related events/classes to the Jewellgarden.com on-line Calendar of Regional Gardening Events, send the pertinent information to me at: [email protected]

Did you know I send out a weekly email with information about upcoming topics and gardening related events in the North State region? If you would like to be added to the mailing list, send an email to [email protected]

In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California. It is made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time. Podcasts of past shows are available here.

Jennifer Jewell
In a North State Garden is a bi-weekly North State Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum - Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell - all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday morning at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time, two times a month.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

3 Responses

  1. `AJacoby says:

    WHAT BEAUTIFUL PICTURES . . . BOTH EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL!

  2. Michael Allison says:

    What wonderful people, and an inspiring program! I hope to develop a good chunk of my land to do the same thing, some day soon, here in the Redding area. We have long known that it is possible for small farmers, including backyard farmers, to grow enough healthy food to feed everyone in our community. I am so happy to see the structures emerging to actually make that happen. Thanks so much for publishing this article. It is heartening to hear these stories of good people doing good. Keep up the great work at NewsCafe!

You must be a subscriber to comment. Click here to subscribe!