Introducing… the 2022 Farm Champion awardees! To make it as a small farm and to affect real, lasting change in our food system, it requires unwavering determination, hard work, ingenuity, and a deeply rooted sense of purpose with a view extending a thousand growing seasons. Those listed below exemplify these qualities bountifully. Each year, nominations pour in from across California by people like you. And each one, especially this year’s honorees, give us hope for the future. For that, we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
Join us on March 2nd for the free, virtual Awards Ceremony, part of the 2022 California Small Farm Conference.
NEW FARMER OF THE YEAR:
With their environment, land, community and labor in mind, Pixca Farm is forging its own path in the south bay of San Diego, just a mile from the border. A diverse, worker-owned cooperative, Pixca has rooted itself in equity where everyone’s labor is tied to the pride of their farm and business, offering a more decentralized model to farm ownership. Pixca runs a CSA and farm stand for the Tijuana River Valley community, providing fresh, healthy and organic fruits, vegetable and flowers to communities that have long lacked access. Congrats to Cristina Juarez Garcia, Leonard Vargas, and Erik Rodriguez. We look forward to watching this farm grow!
LEGACY FARMER OF THE YEAR:
MOUNTAIN BOUNTY FARM
Few farms have had such a lasting impact on the Sierras. Since 1997, Mountain Bounty, the oldest and largest CSA farm in the region, has provided a huge variety of organic produce to families from Grass Valley to Lake Tahoe to Reno, Nevada. Founded by John Tecklin, Mountain Bounty has been a training ground for many new and aspiring farmers and has more recently become an collaborative effort, with management passed on to a team of employees, Maia Lipkin, Jake Benedict, Cory Jones and Grace Debbeler.
In October 2020, the Bear Yuba Land Trust, Sierra Harvest, BriarPatch Food Co-op and Tahoe Food Hub bought the land through a partnership called Forever Farm. Together, they’re safeguarding affordable access to the farmland by providing a long-term lease to Mountain Bounty so that it continues to produce local, organic food in an ecologically responsible way for generations to come.
FARM ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR:
KITCHEN TABLE ADVISORS
The most consequential moments for a small farm–those make it or break it moments–take place less often in the field than at the kitchen table where farmers pour over bills, receipts, orders, payroll. That’s where Kitchen Table Advisors (KTA) steps in, offering a trusted partner to navigate the business of running a farm. With few idle hours, farmers are often too busy working in the business to work on business. Which is why KTA has been such an asset to small farms all over the Bay Area, working side-by-side with dozens of farmers from a variety of backgrounds, providing support in several languages and always meeting farmers where they’re at.
We commend the whole team of KTA advisors for rooting their work in economic equity through practical solutions. When you eat, thank a farmer. When you come back next year and that farm is still there, still thriving, thank KTA.
FOOD BUSINESS OF THE YEAR:
MENDO-LAKE FOOD HUB
Spanning over 5,000 square miles of rugged terrain and remote communities, the task of connecting Mendocino and Lake Counties is not for the faint of heart. But with heart a’plenty, that’s exactly what the the Mendo-Lake Food Hub is doing. Launched in 2015, the hub has provided small farmers access to a shared sales and distribution network serving wholesale buyers like grocery stores, schools, and restaurants, all with a mission of increasing the economic viability of local agriculture and increasing local food access in their community.
During the pandemic, when vulnerabilities in our global supply chain become apparent, the Food Hub stepped up, pivoting to provide food direct to consumers. Self reliance runs deep in this part of California. The Mendo Lake Food Hub is showing that, at the community-scale, local food sovereignty is not only possible, but necessary.
CLIMATE SMART FARMER OF THE YEAR:
When a small film crew arrived at Sierra Orchards last year for a video shoot on integrated crop livestock systems, the interviewer asked farmer Sean McNamara about his seed mix. Without hesitating, Sean not only named a dozen species, but launched into a soliloquy on the ecological benefit of each grass, each bean, their interconnectedness to the soil bacteria and fungi; the rotations of sheep they graze between the trees each year, the carbon-holding capacity of the earth, the native wilderness buffer they set aside on their land and the eternal search for balance with Nature, assuring it thrives alongside their own operation. The entire Sierra Orchards team is not only deeply knowledgeable and committed to their roles as land stewards, but they are forever generous with that wisdom.
Since 1980, this organic farm located along Putah Creek in Winters, CA, has been a leader in regenerative agriculture. From transitioning to no-till to compost production to mindful integration of livestock and crops, Sierra Orchards sets the gold standard for land stewardship, all while producing some of the state’s best walnuts, olives and eggs.
FARMERS MARKET CHAMPION OF THE YEAR:
MEGAN KENNEY, NORTH COAST GROWERS' ASSOCIATION
Somehow, between working the Fortuna, McKinleyville and Arcata Farmers’ Markets and coordinating the Harvest Box program, a multi farm CSA style produce box, Megan still finds the energy to trail blaze on behalf of farmers in her community. To ensure local food resilience and the future of family farms in Humboldt County, Megan is leading the effort with North Coast Growers’ Association and host of partners to create a new Food Hub, building the collective infrastructure to empower a whole community of agriculture while making local food more accessible. Going above and beyond, Megan’s commitment is unwavering and her leadership shines when obstacles arise, like pivoting markets and local food programs during the depths of pandemic disruptions.
True to the Humboldt spirit, her scrappiness and tireless creative troubleshooting has allowed her to chase down funding for the furtherest flung corner of California. Megan’s collaborative nature and her desire to learn from others lies at the heart of her accomplishments. The North Coast is lucky to have her.
FARM POLICY CHAMPION OF THE YEAR:
ASSEMBLYMEMBER RICHARD BLOOM
Richard Bloom was first elected to the 50th District of the California State Assembly in 2012 and despite his city-centered district of Los Angeles, Bloom has grown into an unwavering champion for small farms. Last year, he authored AB 1009, which will create the new Farm to Community Food Hub Program, aiming to create new food hubs across the state. As a Budget Chair, he has championed food systems funding for technical assistance as well as beginning farmer and farmworker training. In the past few years, Bloom has attended several events with Community Alliance with Family Farmers, speaking directly with producers about the barriers they face, including a growing cohort of urban farmers in Los Angeles. We can only hope other state leaders will follow Bloom’s lead and invest in local food, small farms and equity in agriculture.
Click here to learn more about this award, named in honor of Pete Price, a fierce champion for California family farmers.