If John Steffanic’s dreams come true, supermarket shelves across America will soon be stocked with Plumas Pickles.
Steffanic, the Plumas-Sierra County Fair manager, wants to earn revenue for the fair and livelihoods for county residents by bringing commercial agribusiness to the fairgrounds.
Steffanic presented his money-making idea to the Plumas County supervisors during their Feb. 5 meeting.
The idea is already gaining traction at the state level.
“We’ve become the poster child for the California Department of Food and Agriculture,” Steffanic told the board.
Admitting that he has had a “lot of businesses in 30 years,” most of which “were unsuccessful,” Steffanic thinks this idea has merit and he has applied for a $600,000 grant to make it a reality.
Under the plan, range cattle pens would be transformed into greenhouses, and a commercial kitchen and packaging plant would be built.
Steffanic said his concept is that the fairgrounds would provide the space, the equipment, packaging, distributing and marketing, as well as bring together local growers.
Whereas now there are limited options for local producers — i.e., taking their products to a farmers’ market — this idea would provide “viable income for agriculture” and “build Plumas as a brand,” Steffanic said.
That’s where the “Plumas Pickles” come in. Steffanic envisions a group of farmers agreeing to grow cucumbers, which could then be processed and packaged.
Participants and the fair would each receive a share, with proceeds being distributed equally.
Steffanic said that he hopes some of the “products go big,” in which case the participants would have to “go outside” to keep up with production, but the shares would remain intact.
“I have a legal question,” Supervisor Lori Simpson said. “Can a government agency like the fairgrounds participate in a money-making enterprise?”
County Counsel Craig Settlemire assured Simpson that it was legal.
Board Chairman Terry Swofford asked if there were enough participants to make the plan viable.
Fair employee Kathy Tedford said that there were already 35 Sierra Valley producers who were interested.
Supervisor Jon Kennedy asked if “matching requirements” were included in the grant, as is typical.
Tedford said there were “in-kind” requirements.
Kennedy liked the concept, but said, “You can only know by doing it.”
He added, “I think it would be a great addition to the fair itself. Don’t see why you shouldn’t continue with the effort.”
Swofford agreed and said, “I think it’s worth looking into.”
The supervisors asked Settlemire to review the grant application.
Americana Mountain Fair
Steffanic’s other money-making plan is a “celebration of rural life” that he hopes to hold over the Labor Day weekend.
The event would begin Friday evening with a barbecue and dance, a host of events on Saturday and conclude Sunday with a church service and pancake breakfast.
Country music, cowboy poetry, square dancing, quilts, livestock, a farmer’s market and commercial vendors would all be featured Saturday.
Steffanic’s hope would be to draw people from Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona, and to accomplish that, he wants to spend $10,000 advertising the event in publications such as Ruralite, which reaches 300,000 readers, and Grit, read by another half-million.
Steffanic laid out a spending and revenue plan and said that he hoped unanticipated funding of $36,000 from Fairs and Expositions would cover the costs.
The supervisors didn’t approve or disapprove of the plan because it was just an informational presentation, but Simpson said she thought it would be a popular event.
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