BY SUSIE SUTPHIN
In the October issue, there was a My Shot column questioning what has happened to the local food movement in Truckee/Tahoe. Yes, we have progress to make but organizations like Tahoe Food Hub and Slow Food Lake Tahoe are a testament that the local food movement is growing, not dying. Here is the story of how Tahoe Food Hub got started and came to define what local food means to us.
Food hubs support diversified family farms by creating the infrastructure for a local food system, playing a critical role in helping make local, sustainably grown food more available to consumers going beyond farmers markets and into grocery stores, restaurants, and schools.
As a 501c-3 nonprofit organization, TFH’s mission is to galvanize our community to build this area’s local food system and make it sustainable and equitable. We wanted to create a network of farms using regenerative farming practices that can mitigate climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil. Within this network, we saw the potential for a local foodshed to feed our community.
Our endeavor began with just five farms and five restaurants in 2013. We now have over 50 farms and 70 restaurants in our network. We are galvanizing and serving our community through our Farm Shop that is open five days a week; an online farmers market to make access to local food easier for consumers year-round; and events that celebrate local food and farms. Our Farm to School program gets more local food into schools and teaches students about the importance of local sustainable agriculture. Next year, our new education farm, the Sierra Growing Classroom, will provide students hands-on learning. We also partner with local agencies through our Feed Your Neighbor food donation program that connects farms and local businesses to donate food to those in need.
When we first formed, we created a foodshed map displaying how many farms were within 100 miles between our two watersheds (we have the Yuba River dropping down into the Sierra Foothills and the Truckee River flowing down into Nevada). We knew we couldn’t reach every corner in the beginning so we started with the Sierra Foothills, where many farms such as Riverhill Farm, Towani Organic Farm, and Natural Trading Co. were already participating in our local farmers market. We have since expanded to include Reno and Placerville. This is local food for Tahoe! Tahoe is not an agricultural area but we are blessed to have food being grown year-round within 100 miles. That is amazing! Many places in the country are not as fortunate to have year-round access to incredible local produce.
North Lake Tahoe does have farms within 50 miles (which TFH works with as well) but they alone are not enough to feed Tahoe. TFH looks to encompass the greater Northern Sierra region and source food from sustainable family farms that fall within our entire foodshed. We have created aggregation points where we can efficiently meet our farms and bring the food to Tahoe for distribution including a potential location in Portola for our farms to the north.
We are so grateful for all the farms, chefs, restaurants, small grocers, consumers, donors, community partners, and schools for believing in and supporting Tahoe Food Hub. But just like any nonprofit, the work is never done. There is always a river to repair, a habitat to protect, access to create, and awareness to be raised. For TFH, the goal is to build an even stronger local food system of farmers and eaters. We can provide the means for a local food system but it takes the community to make a local food system grow!
You can support local producers by going to the Farm Shop, open Tuesday 2 to 8 p.m., and Wednesday through Saturday, 11 to 6 p.m., located next to the Truckee Airport off Soaring Way. Or shop TFH’s online farmers market, Harvest to Order, and pick up your custom box of produce and specialty products at the Farm Shop. And don’t forget the farmers markets in the summer!
~ Susie Sutphin is the founder/director of Tahoe Food Hub and a 20-year resident of Truckee. When not working with farmer, chef, and eater to build a local food system, she is out in the woods either backcountry skiing, mountain biking, or adventuring with her dog Ralphie.