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June 24, 2013
By Mike Wolterbeek
Construction is underway on six hoop houses for the High Desert Farming Initiative, a University of Nevada, Reno farming demonstration project.
The business-oriented collaborative will provide applied research and demonstration in hoop-house, greenhouse and organic farming in high desert climates for local growers and the agriculture industry, as well as assessment of various options to support economic development - primarily to support agriculture. Educational opportunities are also available to students interested in agriculture and business.
"It's exciting to get started and begin to realize the potential for this initiative," said Sam Males, director of the University of Nevada, Reno's Nevada Small Business Development Center. Males was instrumental in the design and funding of the initiative, who received a $500,000 grant in collaboration with Sen. Harry Reid and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The project, under the direction of Jennifer Ott, also based in the Small Business Development Center, is on one acre at the Valley Road Field Lab, one of the University's Nevada Agricultural Experiment Stations, which is operated as part of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources.
Rick Lattin of Lattin Farms is the liaison and agriculture consultant working with the high desert farming initiative, and is a part of its working group.
Urban Roots, a 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," Jeff Bryant of Urban Roots said. "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."
The University is also offering a course in the Fall through the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources that will be a part of the Initiative. The course will cover growing crops, but also the business of growing crops for small to medium growers.
"This initiative is for research, outreach and education," Ott said. "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 when students are back in class.