Courtesy University of Nevada, Reno
Six hoop houses constructed at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Valley Road Field Lab to provide small- and medium-scale growers information on high-desert crop production.
Construction is underway on six hoop houses for the High Desert Farming Initiative, a farming demonstration project with the University of Nevada, Reno.
The business-oriented collaborative will provide local growers and the ag industry with applied research and demonstrations in hoop-house, greenhouse and organic farming in high desert climates, as well as assessment of various options to support economic development—primarily to support agriculture. Educational opportunities are also available to UNR students interested in agriculture and business.
“It’s exciting to get started and begin to realize the potential for this initiative,” says Sam Males, director of UNR’s Nevada Small Business Development Center. Males was instrumental in the design and funding of the hoop-house project and received a $500,000 grant in collaboration with Sen. Harry Reid and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Jennifer Ott, also based in the Small Business Development Center, will be directing the project, which is located on 1 acre at the Valley Road Field Lab, one of the university’s Nevada Agricultural Experiment Stations operated as part of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources.
Rick Lattin, of Lattin Farms in Fallon, Nev., is the liaison and agriculture consultant working with the high desert farming initiative, and is a part of its working group. Urban Roots, a seed-to-table education nonprofit and community partner to the project, is working closely with the initiative to help realize the goals of education, research and outreach.
“We’re happy to be a part of the University’s project,” says Jeff Bryant, executive director of Urban Roots. “We’re bringing a service-learning component through a federal AmeriCorps grant. We’ll bring in young adults who want to be part of the ag community to do day-to-day, hands-in-the-dirt work.”
University of Nevado, Reno, is also offering a course in the fall through the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources as part of the initiative. The course will cover growing crops, as well as crop production for small- to medium-scale farm businesses.
“This initiative is for research, outreach and education,” Ott says. “One way to accomplish this is to test and research different varieties of produce and growing methods so farmers won’t have to go through the expense and time of seeing what will grow and be profitable. We’ve already received a federal block grant to test a new variety of lettuce for this area.”
The hoop houses are scheduled to be completed this summer and the first plantings will begin in September 2013 when students return to class.