By Shawna Gallasi

naturestouch1.jpg Nature’s Touch Nursery & Harvest in Templeton is reminiscent of the mom and pop stores that used to service neighborhoods back in the day before 7-Elevens took over.  With one notable difference – if it’s corporate grown or corporate produced, you won’t find it here.  Everything in the family-run store is grown or produced within California and is California certified organic or naturally grown without foreign substances.  Melanie Blankenship, who opened the store six and half years ago with her husband Clint, is as select about what she sells her customers as she is about what she feeds her own family.  “I don’t believe in letting corporations feed us,” Blankenship said.  “There are so many laws protecting them versus us.”

Blankenship said they only support California certified organic as opposed to USDA organic because the California label requires the product be 100 percent organic.  They also sell some naturally grown produce, but Blankenship said she requires the farmers show her a soil analysis so she can verify that the produce was farmed sustainably.  But certified organic has first priority, she said.  It is also important to her that the food be grown as close to the Central Coast as possible.  “Food is not supposed to travel,” Blankenship said.  “When plants are overdone and stressed out they’re not going to survive.  That’s why the chemical world is as big as it is.  So you can push things harder.”

Depending on the season, Nature’s Touch carries greens, citrus, tomatoes, zucchini, and basil from Four Elements Organics;  spinach, arugula, leeks, carrots, heirloom dry beans, chipotles, sundried tomatoes, and winter squash from Windrose Farms; eggs and zucchini from Hollyhock Farms; rice from Sacramento; potatoes from Yolo County; and citrus and navels from the Central Valley when they aren’t available on the Central Coast. 

The store also sells beef, lamb, and pork from Charter Oak Style Meats in Templeton, where all of the animals are raised.  While the meats are all natural, Blankenship said the meat is not certified organic because that would require the animals be fed certified organic feed, which is not available locally and is expensive to purchase.  They also sell chicken, turkey, and lamb from Gold Coast Meats in Atascadero, where the animals are raised on grass pastures.

Other gems include local jams and fresh baked bread from two area bakeries.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays the store carries fresh loaves from C & C Garden Bread in Paso Robles, which makes mouth-watering varieties such as cinnamon pecan, very moist peach, rosemary olive, and sweet potato lentil.  And on Tuesday and Thursdays, Skipping Stone Productions in Paso Robles delivers a batch of freshly baked wholewheat sourdough.  The bread can be paired with any number of cheeses lining the refrigerator shelves.  The store sells hundreds of California artisan style cheeses, including water buffalo, goat cheese, cow cheese, bries, blues, and fresh. 
This impressive selection of fine foods is all kept in 500 square feet of space.  Outside, on another 500 square feet of space is a specialty plant nursery that stocks California natives, antique flowers, and certified organic vegetable and herbal plants.  They also sell 100 percent organic fruit trees and 100 percent organic local compost.  “When you buy corporate horticulture, you’re buying a plant on drugs,” Blankenship said of the plants that are sold at major retail outlets.  “There’s only a three percent chance of it surviving because of the amount of drugs.”  Blankenship has a background in horticulture, having owned her own wholesale plant nursery.   She said her customers include local farmers, home gardeners, and people involved with garden clubs and school and community gardens.  Blankenship said she doesn’t want her customers coming back to buy plant food and fertilizer because the plants she sold them are not faring well.  She said it is her hope that her customers will come back and talk about how many tomatoes the plant produced or to exclaim, “Oh my God, that plant was so good!”

Recently, Nature’s Touch started offering a harvest basket program, which is much like a CSA program, only Nature’s Touch is not growing the produce themselves.  Instead the baskets are filled with produce from local farmers and farmers throughout California.  There are three different sizes available and customers can order on a weekly basis, or make a one or two month commitment and get a discounted rate.
Nature’s Touch Nursery & Harvest
140 7th Street, Templeton (805) 434-3062
Hours:  Monday-Fridays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.