Local Food Projects with Modoc Harvest
● By Emily Miranda
By Emily J. Miranda
Photo Courtesy of Modoc Harvest
THE SEEDS were planted by a group of volunteers in 2013. They sprouted into the Surprise Valley Saturday Market in Cedarville and grew into Modoc Harvest, becoming an official nonprofit organization in 2016.
“We have developed and partnered on many other local food projects in Modoc County since then,” says Executive Director Leah Larsen. One partnership is with Modoc Public Health and the Episcopal Church in Alturas to establish an Alturas Community Garden.
“Our goal is for the garden to promote access to nutritious food and a healthy lifestyle by providing a positive space and environment for community members interested in learning to garden,” Larsen explains. The garden will be ready for the 2019 planting season.
“There will be plots available for 20 members of the community,” Larsen says, adding that mentors can assist with gardening tips and techniques.
The Modoc Harvest mission centers on food, health and community. “We envision a thriving food economy where Modoc residents have affordable access to locally grown food, connecting them to farms, ranches, community gardens and various outlets and opportunities,” says Larsen, also mentioning the challenges they face in accomplishing this.
One challenge is the food industry. “It is geared toward large producers, but our providers are small producers, primarily producing food the way it used to be produced – by manual labor,” explains Larsen. This makes it difficult to compete in providing large quantities of fresh, locally grown produce to the community.
They are fighting back with projects like their Farmer Mentorship Program, which will match seasoned producers with amateur gardeners, farmers and the like. “We want to help new and experienced producers enter the local food system and make their products available to the community,” says Larsen, adding that they hope this platform will strengthen the local food culture and overall resiliency of rural towns.
“Another challenge we face is changing habits. People like convenience – packaged and ready-to-eat foods,” she continues. “Most of the food we are promoting requires preparation, and not many people like cooking or have the skills.” This is why Modoc Harvest offers cooking classes and demonstrations in local high schools, at its farmers markets and throughout the community.
“We hope to become a model for other rural communities,” she says. “I believe local food has the power to transform struggling rural towns. We can support each other, keep our dollars circulating amongst each other, find joy in providing for ourselves, and revive a piece of rural America.” •