In the now-famous words of President Obama, a new organization in Truckee wants you to know that, ‘yes we can.’ The group is not talking about creating a political shift in the country, but its message is almost as radical. They’re talking about high altitude gardening.

Founded this spring, Homegrown Truckee is a collective of local backyard farmers and aspiring gardeners whose mission is to inspire, encourage and support others to garden at 6,000 feet. The group is dedicated to spreading the word that growing food at elevation is not only possible, but even necessary.

‘People think it’s challenging to grow up here, but really it isn’t,’ said Homegrown Truckee founder Cari Bivona. ‘That’s why we want to share success stories.’


At the group’s first meeting in March, 11 people gathered at Bivona’s East River Road home in Truckee. Like Bivona, who grows lettuce mixes, carrots, strawberries and broccoli in her backyard, most of the attendees have their own plots at home or spaces at the Project MANA community garden in Truckee. The group discussed their goals for the collective, which included growing their own food, a casual farm-share where members could trade food with each other, a tool-lending library and educating people about how to garden in a mountain climate and create a year-round sustainable food system.

‘We want to share knowledge so it’s easier for people to start growing,’ Bivona said.

The group also talked about its larger goals for the town of Truckee, such as creating local food demand and growing up to a quarter of Truckee’s food locally.

Since that first meeting in March, Homegrown Truckee has grown to about 25 members. The group has shared seed starts, done a bulk seed order, helped each other with composting and in May held a sheet mulching party at Bivona’s home. Bivona also started a blog,, where she and other members write about the organization’s activities, post photos and share recipes and gardening advice. An end-of-the-summer harvest party, dubbed ‘Lettuce Turnip the Beets Hoedown,’ is already in the planning stages. It will be a chance for members to share their success stories by exhibiting photos of their gardens.

Bivona, a 31-year old yoga instructor and landscape designer, grew up in the Garden State with a mother and grandmother who grew vegetables, but didn’t take an interest in gardening until she was older. When she was 22, she interned at Tomten Farms in Telluride, Co., which grew 30 different varieties of lettuce mixes at 9,000 feet for area restaurants. Bivona realized that if you could grow veggies there, you could do it anywhere.

‘It was the moment that changed my life,’ recalled Bivona.  ‘It struck me that there is no other way to be in this world, that I have to pursue this.’

Her time on the farm nurtured a passion in sustainable food systems. She moved to Tahoe in 2000, but in 2006 left for one year to earn her master’s degree in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Sweden, where she focused on community development. Bivona says that after Obama’s election and the organic vegetable garden the First Family planted in the South Lawn in March – the first at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II – the moment was ripe for starting a local gardening cooperative.

‘The time is right,’ Bivona said. ‘There is something about Obama and his taking action and the victory gardens – there was a buzz this year.’

Victory Gardens, also known as ‘war gardens or ‘food gardens for defense,’ were gardens planted at both private residences and on public land during both the World Wars to aid the war effort. As the threat of global warming, obesity and foreign-oil dependence has grown in recent years, victory gardens have seen a renaissance. Last July, volunteers planted a garden at San Francisco’s city hall for the first time since 1943. The city also started funding Victory Gardens 2008+, a project that aims to transform yards, window boxes, rooftops and unused land into organic food production as a means towards attaining urban sustainability and healthier eating habits. Homegrown Truckee’s blog calls this small-scale farming boom a ‘growvolution.’

Bivona hopes that an organization like Homegrown Truckee will help dispel the myth that growing your own food at altitude has to be difficult.

‘With greenhouses you can grow mangos and avocado trees,’ she said. ‘You can grow anything.’

For more information about Homegrown Truckee, contact Cari Bivona at

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  • Melissa Siig

    Melissa Siig ditched international politics in Washington, D.C. in 2001 to move to Tahoe, where she quickly found her true calling — journalism. She has written for regional and national publications, and enjoys writing about community issues and quirky human interest stories. When not at her keyboard, she is busy wrangling her three children, co-running Tahoe Art Haus & Cinema, or playing outside.

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