Cedar Mill Eco-Farm
Can delicious organic tomatoes be the answer to restoring our forests and making our communities more fire-safe? We think so.
When John Van Diepen, the owner of Cedar Mill Eco-Farm, an innovative greenhouse operating under the trade name Sierra Fresh Organics, went looking for a place to move his business, he settled on an abandoned sawmill site in the small Sierra Nevada town of Pioneer.
With over 300 days of sunshine annually, convenient and abundant supply of water, biomass for heat, and access to appropriate markets, Amador County proved to be ideal for the relocation and expansion of the business.
John knew that using wood to heat his greenhouse would shield him from the global fluctuation in fossil fuel prices (who would’ve known?!) and the economical BTU output of wood as a fuel source as opposed to propane or natural gas. What John didn’t know was that his operation would become a beacon of hope for forest restoration advocates and the local community by demonstrating how low-value forest thinnings can be converted into value-added products- in this case tasty, organic tomatoes and cucumbers.
As a part of our efforts to promote forest restoration by focusing on community-scaled solutions, we are hoping to connect John’s farm with an effort underway in the nearby community of West Point in Calaveras County so that jobs can be created restoring local forests while producing high-quality wood chips that can be used for heat and landscaping.
West Point is a community whose local economy was built on big timber operations and was shattered when the industry abandoned the local mills in favor of distant automated mega-mills.
It is hard to miss the irony that this “swords to plowshares” tale represents with the old mill site now converted to a high-tech greenhouse directly employing two dozen local workers and potentially paving the way to put numerous other local citizens back to work in the woods restoring the forest from decades of destructive logging practices.
You can find Sierra Fresh organic tomatoes and cucumbers at a variety of northern California supermarket chains including Whole Foods, Andronico’s, and many food cooperatives. Be sure to ask your retailer to stock the Sierra’s ultimate renewable resource, Sierra Fresh tomatoes!