Two new laws that went into effect in Nevada this month are sparking a lot of interest, especially among those involved with the local foods movement. The laws provide farmers, home-growers, home-cooks and others with increased opportunities to produce and sell their products locally, as well as to hold dinners featuring their homegrown products.
But, as with the passage of most new legislation, many people have a lot of questions. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has convened a panel of local and national experts to explain the legislation, provide guidance and answer questions at a workshop 9 a.m. - 4 p.m., Aug. 12. The workshop will be held in Las Vegas, but people throughout the state will be able to participate at several other locations, via videoconference. Registration is now open, and the response has been overwhelming, according to Carol Bishop, Extension educator for North East Clark County and the event's organizer.
"This is really blowing up," she said. "We've already had to change some locations, because the rooms weren't big enough, and we've had to add locations. And, we're still more than two weeks out."
The workshop is part of Cooperative Extension's Tomorrow's Table Program geared toward helping Nevada growers who are new to agriculture or are interested in diversifying their current farming and ranching activities. But, Bishop said the presentations are appropriate for and drawing a more broad audience.
Presentations in the morning focus on AB206, the Cottage Foods legislation that clears the way for home cooks and farmers to make and sell up to $35,000 in products such as baked goods, jams, vinegars, dry herbs and more, without the requirement of a commercial kitchen. The afternoon discussions will focus on AB200, the Farm to Fork legislation that allows farmers to hold up to two dinners a month featuring their products, without forcing the farmers to qualify as food establishments and comply with all the accompanying regulations. According to Bishop, these new laws:
- Give farmers, small growers and others an opportunity to supplement their incomes.
- Allow individuals to test potential new business opportunities without making large investments required when starting many businesses.
- Reduce risk for farmers and growers, by providing additional ways to sell their products before they spoil. For example, a berry producer with a bumper crop can now make and sell jams or jellies from berries going unsold before they spoil.
- Provide agritourism opportunities for Nevada's farmers and communities by allowing farm-to-fork dinners to be planned and marketed with communities' other tourism activities.
- Allow people to get acquainted with their local farmers and experience local foods, which encourages healthier eating and nutrition.
"Both of these bills are really aimed at stimulating local economic development," Bishop explained. "That's why Cooperative Extension really wants to help people understand this legislation and take advantage of it."
Bishop, an agricultural economist, will be on hand, and has also assembled a diverse panel of experts to help explain the laws, their impetus and how to take advantage of them, including:
- Laura and Monty Bledsoe, owners of Quail Hollow Farms in the Moapa Valley, about 50 miles north of Las Vegas. About two years ago, the two were hosting a farm-to-fork event, when an inspector from the Clark County Health Department came and shut it down. The incident gained national attention, and the Bledsoe's became a driving force behind Nevada's Farm to Fork law.
- Jack Jacobs from Jacobs Family Berry Farm in Gardnerville, about 50 miles south of Reno. Similarly, Jacobs helped to spur the Cottage Foods legislation and will talk about his experiences, as well as offer participants ideas and advice.
- Rebecca Nielsen, the Cottage Food Rule coordinator for Utah's Department of Agriculture and Food, will talk about federal requirements, including labeling. Utah passed similar cottage foods legislation in 2008.
- Eric Barrett, Extension educator from Ohio State University, will give tips on direct marketing, signage and other strategies.
- Representatives from State of Nevada, Washoe County and Clark County Health Departments will present and answer questions on regulations related to both the Cottage Foods and the Farm to Fork legislation.
In addition to the expertise represented at the workshop, Bishop said that Cooperative Extension can help growers and entrepreneurs with other questions they may have, by helping to connect them with other experts at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"That's what's really nice about being part of the University," she said. "We have such a wide variety of expertise at our disposal that we can help citizens throughout the state access."
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is offering the workshop with funding and assistance from the USDA's Risk Management Agency, which helps producers manage their business risks through effective, market-based risk management solutions to preserve and strengthen the economic stability of America's agricultural producers.
In addition to being offered at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office in Las Vegas, 8050 Paradise Road, the workshop will also be offered via videoconference at the Cooperative Extension offices in Ely and Logandale; the University of Nevada, Reno in Reno; Western Nevada College in Fallon; Great Basin College in Elko; and at a location to be determined in Yerington. The registration fee for the all-day workshop is $20 and includes lunch. Two people per farm may attend for the $20 registration fee. To register or for more information, contact Becky Holys, 702-397-2604, ext. 0, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is the outreach college that extends knowledge from the University of Nevada, Reno and other land-grant universities to local communities to address critical needs. It is a federal-state-county partnership providing practical education Nevadans can trust to help people, businesses and communities solve problems, develop skills and build a better future. For more information, visit www.unce.unr.edu.