PlacerGROWN picks Farmer of the Year By Karen Killebrew Special to the News Messenger The 2010 Farmer of the Year Award was presented to Bryan Kaminsky by PlacerGROWN at their 15th annual Food and Farm Conference at Lincoln High School on Jan. 30. Kaminsky, who has farmed in Placer County for 15 years, is the owner of Natural Trading Company in Newcastle. A regular vendor at the Foothill Farmers’ Markets, the Natural Trading Company also delivers produce to families in local communities using a membership program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and sells their organic wheatgrass, sunflower sprouts and a variety of summer produce to local markets such as Whole Foods, the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op and Briar Patch. In 2007 Kaminsky purchased 40 acres on Fruitvale Road in Newcastle from the Yoshikawa family. Buying land in such a fast-growing county is a huge investment, so Kaminsky approached Placer Legacy, Placer County’s open space and habitat conservation program, for a solution. “Because of Natural Trading Company’s well-regarded status as a viable agricultural business, coupled with the strong agricultural economy in Placer County, the board of supervisors has directed us to pursue a grant from the State of California’s Farmland Conservancy Program,” says Loren Clark, coordinator of the Placer Legacy program. “This program allows farmers to acquire land they couldn’t otherwise afford, and this property in particular has the good soil and availability of water necessary for a sustainable agricultural operation.” PlacerGROWN Food & Farm Conference keynote speaker Lynn Miller, who has traveled the country extensively through his work with the Small Farms Conservancy, spoke eloquently about agriculture in the context of man’s longing for a sense of place. In a few short years, Kaminsky has created not only a place where his dream is taking shape, but a highly visible model for Placer County agriculture. Miller went on to say that pride of ownership, hard work and the rewards of feeding one’s family and community resonate with farmers all over the country. But despite the upward trend in supporting local food and small farms, many challenges persist. Miller issued a call for our country to grow the number of small farmers from 2 million to 10 million in the next 10 years. To do so, workforce training, internships, mentoring and access to reasonably priced land are crucial. This is especially poignant, as Placer County’s Sierra College recently announced its intention to discontinue its agriculture program. Despite the challenges ahead, innovation and inspiration are alive in Placer County. Products such as grass-fed meat, eggs and pastured poultry are increasingly available, as shared by a producer panel in a special afternoon session for community members. PlacerGROWN has launched Verde Grown, an online marketplace designed to connect producers with buyers such as restaurants, caterers and institutions. As always, the most stimulating moments of the day were the conversations taking place throughout the classrooms, halls and over a delicious PlacerGROWN lunch. Passion for farming, the need to conserve natural resources, the desire to supply food for the community while earning a living wage and the need for new and varied markets shows the intensity of the commitment to agriculture in Placer County and beyond. Karen Killebrew is president of the board of directors for PlacerGROWN. Reach Karen by e-mailing Karen@naturemedia.net.