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Farm Trail food box Nicole Johansson
This year's Sierra Oro Farm Trail in northern California, like most other things in 2020, went virtual, but that does not mean consumers cannot physically sample the offerings from Butte County farmers by the box.

Farm trail commodities boxed for the virtual world

Consumers can still physically sample the offerings from Butte County farmers.

In October each year Butte County, Calif. showcases its bounty of agricultural output by selling tickets that give visitors access to 30 different farms to sample the commodities produced there and to see first-hand what it takes to produce those products.

Like just about everything else, COVID restrictions put a halt to that this year. Yet, some quick-thinking and innovative ideas surfaced and now people can still sample Butte County farm products one box at a time.

The live event is called the Sierra Oro Farm Trail and is the brainchild of Oroville farm family Jamie and Nicole Johansson. The idea of the farm trail is to build agri-tourism in Butte County. The Johansson's farm olives for oil under their Lodestar California label. Jamie is the current California Farm Bureau Federation president.

Because the farm trail cannot be a live event this year – it happens each year on Columbus Day weekend in October – gift boxes can be purchased through the Sierra Oro Farm Trail website that features a host of Butte County-grown commodities and products. Included in that are some wines produced in the county, and a limited-edition beer from the Chico-based Sierra Nevada Brewery.

Rather than lose a year of contact with a growing number of people who buy tickets each year to visit farms on the Sierra Oro Farm Trail, Nicole Johansson, farm trail coordinator, said the idea of gift boxes was borne. Some of these have food products only, while others include beer and wine.

"We didn't want to skip it this year because we wanted to maintain our attention with people who visit our farms each year," Johansson said.

Colleen Cecil, executive director of the Butte County Farm Bureau, said the farm trail has gained in popularity since the Johansson's dreamed up the idea nearly 20 years ago. "People make a weekend of it to visit farms in one area of the county on Saturday, and the other on Sunday."

Some new collaborations were borne out of the change to this year's event. Sierra Nevada Brewery is making a limited-edition beer from locally sourced almonds, peaches, and rice. The peaches came from the Chico State University farm where typically visitors pick their own tree-ripened fruit in season. That too had to be cancelled this year, so the university provided the peaches for the beer project.

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