As Nevada looks to diversify its economy to cope with falling tourism revenue, many entrepreneurs point to Nevada’s rich farming history as a means of profitable business.
Seeing the need to expand the industry in Northern Nevada, the High Desert Farming Initiative was designed to provide education and assistance to farmers, students and entrepreneurs looking to expand or create business in the farming industry. The initiative consists of several hoop and greenhouses at the UNR Greenhouse Complex.
Not only do these houses allow for extended-season farming opportunities, they also provide farmers and researchers the ability to experiment with soil compositions and growing environments that best suit the high-desert climate. The research and testing performed at the initiative establish more efficient growing practices in these climates.
As the project matures, it will provide useful business experience, bridging the gap between production and the marketplace. It is this function where the partnership with the Nevada Small Business Development Center becomes important.
Emphasizing business practices, such as performing cost/benefit analyses and evaluating market needs, will strengthen individual agriculture businesses.
The project will remain sustainable by selling crops grown as part of the initiative to university dining facilities, providing the revenue it needs to operate beyond grant funds while also testing local micro-markets. The first crops already in the ground this fall are traditional salad greens and Asian greens. Different varieties of greens will also be tested this winter to determine their suitability as a viable winter crop.
Jeff Bryant, executive director of the Urban Roots farming program and a partner in the initiative, said the program has been instrumental in modernizing education about the agricultural industry.
“(The program) teaches different things to different people, whether they want to be growing for a business or continue their education as an agronomist or soil scientist,” Bryant said. “There are so many parts to the agriculture industry besides the traditional connection with the farmer in hat and overalls. There is a lot more to farming in our modern economy.”
By supplying real-time experience, problems and opportunities, students and businesses will have the education at hand to run their own farming and business operations. This program has become a viable tool in growing sustainable agricultural business in high-desert climates. For more information on the High Desert Farming Initiative, its partners and current projects, visit www.highdesertfarming.org.
The program is a university collaborative project between the Nevada Small Business Development Center; the College of Business; the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources; the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension; and several other community groups.