When a Truckee woman called Mountain Bounty Farm asking what it would take to have their CSA boxes delivered to the area, owner John Tecklin told her to find 25 friends who were also interested and he’d make it happen. Within two weeks, she’d rounded up 40 people who sought the fresh produce deliveries, reported back to Tecklin, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Approximately 15 years later, despite being located down in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Nevada City, Mountain Bounty Farm is a familiar name in the Tahoe/Truckee region.
“The farm has grown in proportion to people asking for it,” Mountain Bounty’s Grace Debbeler told Moonshine Ink in a phone interview discussing the farm’s recent restructuring. “John said it’s not about inserting ourselves in a market we think is great, we want to go into a market that is asking for us.”
Tecklin founded Mountain Bounty in 1997. After decades of running the show, he’s ready to take a step back and with years of hard work and dedication to the land under their belts, longtime farmers Maia Lipkin, Jake Benedict, Cory Jones, and Debbeler are stepping into senior management roles.
“It feels a little big now that it’s here,” Debbeler said, but really their new positions are just a natural extension of what they’ve been doing. “We all have different roles. We’re taking things off John’s plate.”
Lipkin and Benedict have each spent the past decade working the Mountain Bounty fields, while Debbeler has been there for four years and Jones six years. Aside from stepping into their expanded functions, there won’t be any changes to the farm’s operational structure. While the October 2020 land acquisition by the Bear Yuba Land Trust of the land upon which Mountain Bounty sits will ensure the farmland is protected from development for future generations, it also opens the door for the farm to make various improvements, including a new greenhouse as well as a new barn, which will enable a good amount of operations to move out of Tecklin’s house.
The purchase was made possible through Forever Farms, a partnership with the Bear Yuba Land Trust, Sierra Harvest, BriarPatch Food Co-op, and Tahoe Food Hub. Not only will the land trust hold the property in perpetuity, thereby safeguarding affordable access to the farmland by providing a long-term lease to the farm, it will also manage the land to ensure it continues to produce local, organic food in an ecologically responsible way for the benefit of the community, according to the Mountain Bounty website.
Debbeler noted that preserving the land was something Tecklin had long sought to accomplish.
“For young farmers, it’s really hard to get started if they can’t afford it,” she explained. “This is primo, primo [agricultural] land. So much comes with that.”
For Debbeler, secure land means a secure job. It also provides the ability to house interns on the property, employing people for the long term, and attention to infrastructure projects, like the greenhouse and barn.
Nestled near the Yuba River, 18 of the farm’s 50 acres are actively cultivated; yet there’s much more to the land than the crops planted in the earth. The farmers at Mountain Bounty are quick to recognize that while they are the ones presently working the soil, the acres comprising the farm are the ancestral homelands of the Nevada City Rancheria Nisenan Tribe, which led them to share this sentiment on their website:
We acknowledge this land was taken repeatedly with no compensation or regard for the lives and ways of the original people, until they had no land left. We acknowledge we are settlers here, that we live, love and work on land the Nisenan never ceded.
“It’s so obviously the right thing to do,” Debbeler described the acknowledgements, noting that Mountain Bounty is donating $100 each month to California Heritage: Indigenous Research Project in partnership with the Bear Yuba Land Trust and Forever Farms. It’s not unusual, she said, for farmhands working the land to find Native American artifacts like grinding stones and arrow heads. “We’re so fortunate to be able to farm this land and to [just] be here.”