Farmer releases reference book for Tahoe gardening
Have a green thumb, but think gardening and farming are impossible in the Sierras? 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 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. 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 said.
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 Sierras is July and winter. July is summer and every other month is winter. I thought that was an appropriate title for the book,” said Romano, who now owns Sierra Valley Farms in Beckwourth.
“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 Sierras [are] all about. 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,” Romano said.
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.
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,” Romano said.
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 and local South Lake Tahoe shop Gaia-Licious Global Gifts.