Rock-star farmers and other things that rock

Small farmers top the list of cool stuff

Small farmers are the new rock stars
CSAs—offering a variety of fresh, seasonal, organic produce to their communities—are popping up across the U.S. like proverbial wildfire. Here in Chico, we’ve now got the GRUB cooperative, Comanche Creek Farms, Pyramid Farms, and newcomer Freshies, and down the road in Gridley sits Green Beginnings Farm, run by 30-year-old ex-rodeo-rider Tyson Heusser. If Heusser isn’t a rock star, then I don’t know who is. He works from sun-up to sundown, seven days a week, to bring his amazingly varied and healthful produce to his local CSA customers.

Heusser is one of the increasing number of young farmers across the country choosing to focus on producing fresh, local, small-farmed food as an antidote to corporate-ag-produced food that is loaded with pesticides and trucked long distances to market.

Severine von Tscharner Fleming is another. Von Tscharner Fleming is the young farmer in New York’s Hudson Valley who heads up the nonprofit, grassroots organization The Greenhorns. She is also the director of the upcoming documentary film The Greenhorns, due out this fall (see trailer at

The Greenhorns’ mission, as stated on their website, is “to promote, recruit and support young farmers in America.”

“To us, the farmer is the perfect patriot. The farmer is self-sufficient, productive, independent, hard-working, community-spirited, and accountable,” begins the first chapter of the Greenhorns’ downloadable, 30-page Guide for Beginning Farmers, which includes chapters on how to gain access to land, apprenticeships and agricultural education, as well as urban agriculture.

In a recent interview with, von Tscharner Fleming spoke of networking with schools to provide aspiring young farmers with necessary information and education, and raised the issue of “the USDA providing educational debt forgiveness for farmers.” Read the whole Q-and-A at

Rocks and ice cream that rocks
My fiancé and I have been taking the two 5-gallon buckets we own and filling them—for super-cheap—at Sutherland Landscape Center (2720 Highway 32, 893-4531) with gravel for our ongoing driveway project. Five gallons of Pine Creek Chip crushed, gray, half-inch gravel will run you $1.28, a fraction of what you would pay by the bag at a big-box store. Similarly, top soil is $1.25 per 5-gallon bucket, and “walk-on bark” is $1.55.

I now mention Shubert’s Ice Cream & Candy Co. (178 Seventh St., 342-7163) because, in addition to being National Baked Bean Month, July is also National Ice Cream Month. What better way to celebrate than to head over to Shubert’s for some cool, delicious, housemade Chico Mint, Mt. Shasta (chocolate with coconut and a marshmallow swirl) or root beer (my fave) ice cream? Their locally famous fresh-boysenberry sundaes are back on the menu as well.

Count your blessings
My friend and colleague, CN&R Calendar Editor Stacey Kennelly, recently had the experience of shopping in a farmers’ market on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and to hear her tell it, it was quite an adventure. Customers get in a long line 20 minutes before the market starts, in order to get access to the cheapest, freshest produce they can find in a place where one store-bought banana goes for a buck.

After a traditional palm-frond greeting/prayer, shoppers are let in to peruse farmers’ wares and ask questions about the produce for five minutes (no buying), before a whistle is blown signaling time to buy (everything).

“Ten minutes and $12 later, we left with a ChicoBag full of fruits and veggies,” Stacey told me. “The experience of shopping in a ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’ atmosphere and witnessing how involved Hawaiian locals are with the food they eat gave me a newfound appreciation for the things that we have in surplus here in the North State.”