New hoop house to provide fresh produce to low-income families

College of Ag, Biotech and Natural Resources partners with Northern Nevada Catholic Charities

New hoop house to provide fresh produce to low-income families

College of Ag, Biotech and Natural Resources partners with Northern Nevada Catholic Charities

In an effort to increase the quantity of fresh, locally grown produce available to low income families in northern Nevada, the University of Nevada, Reno's Desert Farming Initiative and Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada will soon break ground on a 2,600-square-foot hoop house that will produce vegetables year-round for the St. Vincent's poverty programs and other services offered by Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada.

The new hoop house will be assembled this month at the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station's Main Station Field Laboratory in east Reno on McCarran Boulevard at Mill Street. This will be the first production hoop house built at that location.

"We are so excited to partner with Catholic Charities to build this hoop house and increase our opportunities for year-round production of fresh fruits and vegetables to the local community," Jennifer Ott, Desert Farming Initiative director, said.

The new partnership follows an already established relationship between the two groups. The Farming Initiative has been donating all of their extra produce to St. Vincent's Food Pantry and St. Vincent's Dining Room since their first harvest in 2013. The new hoop house will allow for increased consistency and a greater volume of fresh produce for low income clients of St. Vincent's, a population that rarely has access to these types of foods.

"Having everyday access to fresh, locally grown food is something we want to be able to provide to all of our clients from young to old," Peter Vogel, CEO of Catholic Charities. "We can use this food in the St. Vincent's Dining Room, St. Vincent's Food Pantry, in our early learning facility and in our senior centers. This is another alternative to canned goods. It's healthier and it's local. We are thrilled."

The Desert Farming Initiative currently grows fresh produce for research, education and outreach, providing excess produce to a variety of local organizations, food distributors and University of Nevada, Reno dining facilities. The new hoop house will allow the farming initiative to expand their infrastructure, creating more opportunities for research, education and outreach in local agriculture.

The farming initiative is a joint program between the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and the College of Business.

Increased investment in the Initiative is part of a larger effort by CABNR, NAES and Cooperative Extension to promote healthy lifestyles that include increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. CABNR recently hired Dr. Felipe Barrios Massias as Assistant Professor of Sustainable Horticulture, and NAES is funding more horticulture research projects. Cooperative Extension already has several horticulture and health and nutrition experts in the state, and sponsors the successful Master Gardener program, the Grow Your Own Nevada, Veggies for Kids, Grow Yourself HealthY, and other programs aimed at increasing production and consumption of fresh produce in the state.

"This collaboration with Catholic Charities truly exemplifies the land grant university's mission of teaching, research, and outreach programs benefiting the health and economic vitality of Nevada," said Bill Payne, dean of CABNR and director of NAES. "It illustrates not only our continued commitment to Nevada agriculture, but also our efforts to promote health and nutrition in communities, particularly among disadvantaged populations."

"Expanding the hoop house program to the Main Station Field Lab is an important step for the Farming Initiative," Payne said. "We intend to gradually expand it into other parts of the state."

The Desert Farming Initiative works towards three goals:

•·         Develop, implement and provide resources for an educational program in sustainable farming systems for high desert climates.

•·         Provide opportunities for research and hands-on educational experience to University faculty, students and community.

•·         Demonstrate working agricultural systems that address the challenges of both economic and environmental sustainability for the agriculture community.

Construction on the new greenhouse will be a joint effort between Farming Initiative employees, interns and Catholic Charities volunteers and staff. The first crop is expected to be planted in late February or early March.

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