The Farmstand will be closed this season, however, the U-Pick will continue. Please sign up for our mailing list and we will notify you regarding dates and times.
June 23, 2013
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION SHOWING YOUR SUPPORT FOR SUNSMILE FARMS
Following is an email sent out encouraging people to sign a petition in support of SunSmile Farms to be presented to the NID Board of Directors. Thank you to everyone for the support and consideration you have shown.
Hello Everyone, Will you take 30 seconds to sign it right now? Here's the web address: http://www.change.org/petitions/nevada-irrigation-district-save-sunsmile-farms Here's why it's important: SunSmile Farms is the biggest, most diverse certified organic farm in the Grass Valley area, sitting on 70 acres only 2 miles from downtown Grass Valley. The farm actively participates in the community, supporting the local food bank, providing flowers to Hospice, hosting the Twin Cities Run for the Community, inviting the public to their farm for U-pick opportunities, and more. And, most importantly, the owners have produced massive quantities of vegetables and fruit for our community for 100 years. But two years ago, they had a leak in their water line. After a costly delay of nearly one year - due to contention over whose responsibility it was to fix the line - NID acknowledged that the line was theirs and repaired the line. In the meantime, the farm lost all their mature cherry trees and blueberry and raspberry plants. Please ask NID to help save the farm - including compensating the farm for damage to their crops - by signing this online petition and passing it along to anyone else who might want to sign it, too. Without fair compensation, the farm is likely to go out of business. This farm, so integral to our community, to our independence, our health, and our sense of identity, is worth saving.
Following are a some of the many letters sent by the public showing support for the farm.
June 4, 2013
To whom it may concern, I am a lifelong friend of George Loftus, having grown up with George in the Bay Area. Over the last 35 years I've seen the evolution of SunSmile Farms from his grandmothers era to a remarkable transformation over the last 20+ years of what SunSmile is (or was) today. My family and I have had the privilege of working on the farm over the years, particularly during cherry & peach season and acting as the orchard docents for U-Pickers. If there's a way to measure the impact the farm has on the local community, it's listening to the folks who shop at the farm stand during the week and the people who come out religiously on weekends to pick fresh fruit right off the trees. Time after time, individuals, families or groups of friends would comment on what a community treasure SunSmile Farms is, and how this resource is so important in either rekindling memories of their youth or teaching their kids the importance and value of knowing where food comes from, what a farm looks like and how hard work pays off in supplying delicious fruits and veggies to the region. It's devastating to see the farm in it's current condition, all because of the NID water issue. Years of hard work have dissolved into a wasteland of dead trees and plants. What's equally frustrating is the enormous amount of time, effort and expense that George has invested in trying to resolve this, only to have NID resist bringing this to a beneficial and positive outcome. Why? As a customer of NID for over 75 years, you'd like to think that the agency would do whatever it could to continue a partnership that's important to the community at large and to its own economic interest of keeping a long term paying customer. I'm asking the NID board of directors to act fairly and swiftly to resolve this matter, before the continuing damage to this farm and its legions of community supporters is irreparably harmed for all time. Respectfully, Mark Laber & Family
June 21, 2013
Dear Division Directors, When was the last time you ate a tree ripened peach? When was the first time? What could be more important than helping to keep SunSmile Farms in business… a farm that has existed in this county for over 75 years? Is this who we are as a community? Is this the kind of thing you, as NID district directors, want to happen on your watch? We should all ask ourselves; Do we want to be a rural community that has our food trucked in for us, or do we want to be a community who grows our own food? The NID mission statement reads: The Nevada Irrigation District will provide a dependable, quality water supply, strive to be good stewards of the watersheds and conserve the available resources. I consider SunSmile Farms a valuable resource in our community, and I call on you today to help conserve that resource in any way you can. In 1917, when the idea for an irrigation district came to Mr. Church, he hoped to accomplish 2 main goals; 1) To bring DEPENDABLE irrigation water to the dry lands of Western Nevada County. 2) To build a better community, to form a partnership between the people, the land and the water. Ladies and Gentleman, communities and civilizations are built, judged and even ruined by how they treat one another. The growth and sustainability of a community is dependent on how well it's citizens take care of each other, how they react when tragedy strikes, and how they help one another through hard times. These are hard times for even the greatest of farmers, on the richest soil, in the most hospitable climates. There are climate change issues, there is more foreign competition than ever, there are difficult balances to strike between stewarding the land and producing a higher yield. And then there is water, always water… a farm can't survive long if it lacks a dependable source of water. Communities can't thrive long with out farmers to grow their food. Mr. Church knew this, as did the district supervisors and an overwhelming majority of Nevada County citizens when they voted to form the NID in 1921. At that time George Loftus' ancestors already lived in the area, and 18 years after the formation of the NID, his great Uncle, Joel Bierwagen, started SunSmile Farms. Mr. Bierwagen, no doubt, could only be confident in the enterprise he was undertaking back in 1938 because of the DEPENDABLE water provided by NID. For 73 years, SunSmile farms received that dependable service, until August of 2011 when the water stopped flowing to SunSmile due to a broken underground pipe. On that day, 70 acres of fruit trees, vegetables and berries starting dying of thirst. Slowly, but certainly, they began to fade. As NID and SunSmile argued over whose pipe it was that was broken, and who should fix it and "now we need a permit" and, "we have to work it into our schedule". Then, in the end, NID acknowledged they were wrong and requested that SunSmile "file a claim", "calculate your damages", and "submit them for review". This left Mr. Loftus and his wife in a situation where, in addition to taking on the challenge of recovering from a season without water and subsequently having a much lower income due to the lack of water, they now had to document their losses and file a claim with NID. These individuals are not accountants, they are not executives, they are not CEOs, they are farmers. That is not to say they are not intelligent by any means. It is to say that they are not trained, equipped or experienced at doing forensic accounting and claim filing. But they did it, they hired a forensic accountant, they did their due diligence and produced a through claim report which they turned in in January 2013. At which point NID rejected his claim, stating that it was "untimely". Now, we are not just talking about 70 acres of perennial fruit trees and berries that have died. We are talking about a family owned local business that is on it's death bed. This is a business that has been run by generations of Nevada County farmers and has fed generations of Nevada County residents. This is a business that has gone the extra mile and become certified organic in order to stewart their land as best they could. A family who has eked out a living doing what they loved, in a place that they love, not because it was making them rich, but because it was who they were, it was what they were put here to do, it was their legacy. As we sit here today, this family business… these member of our community... may not see the light of the 2014 growing season. This may be then end of a very long run for SunSmile Farm. It is of no use for us to point fingers and decide "who was wrong", or "who was responsible for what", or "why this", or "how that", and "get the lawyers and the scientists and investigators to look into this, that, and the other thing." I challenge you, as NID Division Directors, but also as Nevada County residents, to consider that it was not Mr. Loftus' claim that was "untimely", it was in-fact, the stoppage of water to SunSmile Farms, in AUGUST, that was "untimely". Further, the petty bickering about who's responsibility the pipe was and the bureaucratic claims process is also "untimely". You see, we have a choice, every day, we can choose to do only what is required of us by law and contracts, or we can choose to do what our heart and soul tell us is right. That's what Mr. Church did nearly 100 years ago. He saw that the NID was possible, he felt that it was a good thing for his community, and he did it. He was not obligated by law to do so, he did it because it was a good thing to do. I would like to live in a community where a situation like SunSmile's broken pipe occurs, and an agency like the NID says "Let's figure out who's pipe it is later Mr. Loftus, what can we do, with all our resources, to make sure that a fine, longstanding, community farm like yours, get's that dependable, quality water that we promised you." But that's not what we have here… what we have is a situation where the local consumers of the irrigation water are a much lower priority than the consumers of treated water, many of whom are outside of our local area. It seems anytime a situation arises with irrigation water, we are told "The local irrigation water aspect of NID is not profitable, it doesn't even pay for it's self… that aspect of our business is funded by our treated water program." Well who's fault is that? Certainly not Mr. Loftus', certainly not the thousands of other farmers in our community like him. Should all the local farms go belly up because NID has not managed their enterprise in such a way that those farmers' business is not profitable to NID? Should we allow our irrigation water, come to earth in the peaks and valleys of our county to run past our farmlands and support agriculture and communities south of us who have grown beyond their own sustainability? I think not, ladies and gentleman. I think that would be an unthinkable shame on our community. I think Mr. Church, Aubrey L. Wisker, Herman Graser and Guy N. Robinson Jr. and the other visionaries who founded the NID would find that idea absurd and offensive, not to mention a complete betrayal of their hard work and original vision for the NID. I think they would remind you that the reason they worked so hard to create this astonishing network of canals was to help farms in their community to thrive. Not to allow those farms to "wither on the vine" for lack of irrigation water or lack of "timely" navigation of some bureaucratic, red tape, forms in triplicate system. I implore you, to do anything in your power, to see that this shameful situation is remedied as soon as possible. Please do not allow SunSmile Farms to become another canary in the coal mine of an industrialized agricultural system that has been hell-bent on eliminating small local producers in an effort to form enormous conglomerates. Conglomerates who produce cheap, un-nutritious fruits that are harvested long before they are ripe, so they can sit in a ship or a truck for weeks as they belch their way across oceans and highways, to arrive on grocery store shelfs still under ripe and lacking flavor and nutrients. I challenge you to take your family to SunSmile this weekend and let them eat peaches that they just picked off his trees. Take 30 minutes out of your day and find your way over to SunSmile, walk out into the rows, find the biggest, juiciest, fuzziest, miracle of life and sustenance you can. Pull it down off that tree, don't bother cleaning it off (he's an organic grower), just sit down in the shade of that tree, appreciate the beautiful view of our foothills, bite into that peach, a BIG bite, let the juice run down your cheeks and your hand, and drip off your chin and elbow… and as you tastebuds light up with joy and you eat your way down to the "free stone" seed of that peach… ask yourself and your family; "Is this something worth saving in our community? Should our grandchildren be allowed to experience this?" I for one believe it is something worth saving, I think it is something our grandchildren should get to experience. I hope our grandchildren have such an appreciation for this kind of thing that they help Mr. Loftus' grandchildren to overcome some other future challenge should one come up in their time. Because we all need help from one another now and then, that's why we have huddled together in tribes and villages and communities and towns and cities since the dawn of time… because together we are stronger than we are alone. Please help this community to help SunSmile, please don't leave them all alone in their time of need. If we were all starving, I'm sure that George Loftus and his family (as well as the other farmers in this community) would be the first ones to help us. I hope that your moral sense of what is right will show you the way. If that fails, I hope your desire to retain your elected position will motivate you. If that fails, I hope that this communities many strong voices will convince you. If they all fail, perhaps we will have to wait for those produce trucks that deliver food to our community to stop coming before we realize the value of local farms like SunSmile. "That will never happen." You say? "The produce trucks have always dependably delivered a quality product and they always will." You say? I'm sure that's what Mr. Loftus thought about the NID until August of 2011. His supply stopped, and one day our supply could stop too. Thank you in advance for your timely attention to this issue, our children and their children will thank you for it! I hope to see you at SunSmile Farms this weekend, I'll be there, with peach juice all over my SunSmiling face. Sincerely, Eric Lee Dickerson Nevada County resident, farmer, volunteer, business owner and homesteader Letter from Twin Cities Church
HELP SUNSMILE FARMS!
For years this farm has strived to support the local community by producing quality fruits and vegetables. We have actively supported the local food bank, provided flowers to hospice, invited the public out to experience the farm with our U Pick, hosted the Twin Cities Run for the Community, and much more.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is George Loftus. I am a fifth generation farmer in Nevada County. My family has farmed here for over 100 years. My great Uncle, Joel Bierwagen, started SunSmile Farms 75 years ago. SunSmile Farms is a 70 acre Certified Organic farm located at the end of West Drive in Grass Valley, CA.
Today, the farm is about to go out of business. In August 2011, NID turned the water off to the farm causing irreparable damage. The farm’s perennial stock, the trees and berries, was severely damaged. We grew nearly 400 thousand plants in our gardens at the time the water was turned off. The farm was devastated. In Spring 2012, I brought in a water truck to water 41,000 onions and 12,500 heads of garlic. Most of the onions and garlic were unmarketable or rejected for wholesale seed.
Our operation used to consist of a Farmstand that was open 6 days a week, U Pick cherries, peaches, and blackberries, CSA, and Farmers Market. The Farmstand is now open on occasional weekends just to sell peaches. We still have U Pick peaches, but the U Pick cherries, blueberries and raspberries are gone. The trees and plants have died. In 2012, we had to cancel the CSA subscriptions as we were unable to plant our gardens.
We are unable to plant our gardens because we don’t have a consistent supply of water. The water was restored in mid June 2012 and we have had continuing problems with our service. NID sleeved the pipe to repair the leak and installed a new box to turn off the water. November 2012, they crushed the old service box and reconfigured a new one. I still contend that I am not receiving the water I historically had. It is an ongoing issue.
NID acknowledged they were wrong and told me to file a claim. My wife and I spent countless hours going through my records to calculate the damages. I then hired a forensic accountant to verify the calculations according to my harvest and sale records. This took considerable time. In January 2013, I sent the damage estimates for the perennial stock (trees and berries) to the NID Board of Directors. They rejected my claim saying that it was untimely. I was hoping for an early settlement.
My attorney contacted the NID insurance adjuster and let them know of the rejected claim and made arrangements for them to tour the farm. I was contacted by a forensic pathologist who visited the farm 3 weeks ago. We met for 5 hours. No word so far.
If I am unable to reach an early settlement by July 23, I will be forced into filing a lawsuit. To date, I am requesting damages for the loss of the trees and berries. If I am forced into litigation, I will include the damages for the annuals, the gardens, the flowers, and the year of being closed.
Now we are at a crossroads. Due to the damage caused by the situation with NID and our water supply, we may soon be forced to go out of business. As the owner and farmer of SunSmile Farms, I am asking for the support of the community to voice their concern and request NID to take responsibility for their actions.
Please contact the NID Board of Directors. Send letters, emails, and phone calls. Or fill out the postcard and send in. These postcards are available at the farm, in the “Take One” box mounted on the sign out front. You can also pick up postcards at A to Z Supply, Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply, and Briarpatch.
10113 West Drive
Grass Valley, CA
Constituents wishing to contact members of the board are invited to e-mail the directors at the addresses listed below or contact Board Secretary Lisa Francis Tassone (273-6185, ext. 222), who will be happy to put you in contact with your elected representative.
Director, Division I (Term of Office Expires in 2014)
John H. Drew
Director, Division II (Term of Office Expires in 2014)
W. Scott Miller, MD
Director, Division III (Term of Office Expires in 2016)
Director, Division IV (Term of Office Expires in 2014)
Director, Division V (Term of Office Expires in 2016)
SunSmile Farms has been experiencing a “water crisis” since August 2011. I know the faithful farm customers are wondering why we haven’t opened…why the truck is not up on the corner. The following is a synopsis of the events of the past year.
Our irrigation water has been provided by NID since 1941. The irrigation water for SunSmile Farms flows through an irrigation ditch in the vicinity of Twin Cities Church; from there it is piped under the parking lot and across to a point above the Rough and Ready Highway; then crosses under the highway and down Mills Rd.; and then to the Farm.
In August 2011, a leak developed under Rough and Ready Highway. Nevada County requested NID to repair the leak. NID responded that the pipe belonged to SunSmile Farms and was my responsibility and the county then notified me. I have never been of the opinion that I owned the pipeline until it comes onto the Farm, and I requested NID to provide documentation showing my ownership. NID then took the stance that I owned the pipeline from the “box” (where the pipeline begins at the ditch), but did not provide documentation. I repeatedly requested documentation and nothing was received. This was NID’s response to the desperate situation of a customer whose account has been in existence for 71 years! In May, I contacted my district board representative, Nick Wilcox, explained the situation and was granted a meeting with the WHO committee. I also retained legal counsel to aid in rectifying this devastating situation. I had to wait 3 weeks for the WHO meeting. In the meantime, the orchards could not be watered and the gardens could not be planted.
After my attorney made a formal request for documents, on June 11, the day before the WHO meeting, NID produced an easement deed from their files clearly showing that they own the pipe to the end of Mills Rd.!
NID has now agreed to repair the leak at Rough and Ready Highway (to take place 2 weeks from the June 12 WHO meeting). There remain other outstanding issues. NID requested that I take ownership of the pipeline from the highway to the Farm. If I refuse, they are threatening to raise my water rates and assess a maintenance fee! This has yet to be resolved.
On June 15, the water was turned on. It will be shut off again to repair the leak. I am presently in the process of getting things up and running. At this point, there has already been extensive damage and loss. I have returned the vegetable starts to the nursery and have been watering the onions and garlic with a water truck. The fruit trees are defoliating due to lack of water (I can’t water them with the water truck).
I can’t begin to tell you how this saddens me. Any of you who know me, understand how much this farm means to me. This has been a nightmare! I have always taken pride in producing quality fruit and produce for my customers and very much appreciate the support you have shown.