Farming Initiative brings hoop houses to campus greenhouse complexes of public lands grazing

University of Nevada, Reno's Greenhouse ComplexCABNR's High Desert Farming Initiative (HDFI) will become the University's agribusiness flagship. The project, announced in early March, will serve as an educational facility for students, faculty and community members to discover the fruitful benefits of hoop-house, greenhouse and organic farming in high-desert climates.

Along with serving as an open-house learning hub for visitors, HDFI will also employ student workers and interested community members. Employees will help maintain the facilities, harvest crops and contribute to the project's sustainability efforts through participation in farmers markets and produce sales.

The University's Nevada Small Business Development Center has developed the initiative for several years, collaborating with Sen. Harry Reid and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to secure $500,000 to fund the project.

The facilities will contain six new hoop houses, one greenhouse, a produce-packing facility and an area for soil and compost mixing. Planting is scheduled for early fall so that produce will be ready for the winter months when locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables are harder to come by. Large-scale hoop- and green-house operations can function year-round, which means good news for Nevada growers once held back by harsh winters.

Such growers will now be able to see the benefit of year-round hoop-house food production first hand. Public lessons from HDFI could mean more money in local growers' pockets.

The project will be guided by a committee of community representatives, including Rick Lattin of Lattin Farms and Mark O'Farrell of Hungry Mother Organics, and University representatives, including faculty from the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, the College of Business and Cooperative Extension. CABNR and the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station have integral roles in the project.

University students have remained involved with the project since its inception, and the University plans to incorporate a waste-recycling project, where food waste is used as compost to add nutrition to the soil.