Farmer releases reference book for Tahoe-Truckee gardening | SierraSun.com

Farmer releases reference book for Tahoe-Truckee gardening

Autumn Whitney | awhitney@tahoedailytribune.com

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Have a green thumb, but think gardening and farming are impossible in the Sierra?

Never fear — Gary Romano, whose 65-acre farm is located north of Truckee, recently released a new book, "July & Winter: Growing Food in the Sierra," in which he shares his knowledge and experience growing food in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin.

"My motivation at first was to get more young people involved in farming. Anything over 3,000 feet elevation people said wasn't an option because they thought it was too difficult to do," Romano said. "I thought it would be a good starting point for a lot of people to have hope that you can garden from 3,000 up to 7- or 8,000 feet."

Romano is a third-generation farmer who grew up in the Bay Area. His childhood was filled with pulling weeds and planting seeds, and after working as a park ranger and county park administrator, he returned to the farm.

The book title itself comes from a phrase Romano's uncle used to say on the farm when he was younger.

"He used to say all you have up here in the Sierra is July and winter. July is summer and every other month is winter," said Romano, who now owns Sierra Valley Farms in Beckwourth. "I thought that was an appropriate title for the book."

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"July & Winter" covers an array of topics, ranging from varieties of vegetables, fruits, nuts and berries suitable for the region, to when and how to plant, to biodiversity benefits and how to extend the growing season. The reference book also includes tips for working with soil, water and nutrients for any site.

"(Sierra Valley Farms) is a good reference for what the Sierra (is) all about," Romano said. "We're at 5,000 feet — mid-range of what my book covers. We have a cold climate I can relate to, we do have snow, so we deal with how to handle a fair amount of snow — not like Tahoe, but pretty close.

"I thought (the book) would be a good starting point for the average person trying to garden in Tahoe or Yosemite — it follows the whole Sierra mountain range."

The book begins with elementary points of gardening, and works its way to more advanced material.

"There are some beginning points for the general public, but then in the appendix we have a whole section set up for small farmers on how to set up a mountain farm," he said. "Most of the book is for the gardener or homeowner, anybody wanting to garden, and in the appendix it's set up for small farmers who maybe want to go the next step, farm for hobby, living, second job, or just for their own use."

He calls the book comprehensive, saying it's useful for any farm size, and farmers and gardeners living outside the Sierra can also utilize the techniques discussed.

Romano has written one other book, "Why I Farm: Risking It All for a Life on the Land," which published just over three years ago. While it is not necessary to read his first book before picking up "July & Winter," he says they tie together and make a good pair.

"('Why I Farm') is about the philosophy of being a farmer and the challenges ahead. This book coming out now is the tools for how to do it," Romano explained.

"July & Winter: Growing Food in the Sierra" is available for purchase online, as well as through publisher Bona Fide Books, which is based in Meyers. You can buy it also at The Bookshelf and Bespoke in Truckee.

For more information about the book and publisher, visit bonafidebooks.com.

Meet the author

On Friday, Sept. 30, The Bookshelf in Truckee will host a Q-and-A and book signing with author and farmer Gary Romano of Sierra Valley Farms. The event is at 5:30 p.m. and open to the public. Be sure to bring your questions about gardening.

Romano owns and operates Sierra Valley Farm in Beckwourth, Calif., and hosts the state’s only certified, organic on-farm farmers market each summer. Romano also hosts barn dinners and concerts and can be found weekly at the Tahoe City, Truckee and Reno farmers markets.

The Bookshelf is located at 11429 Donner Pass Road, No. 2, in Truckee. To learn more about Romano, visit sierravalleyfarms.com.