University of Nevada, Reno students and the surrounding community now have the opportunity to access fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables with just a click. The University's Desert Farming Initiative has opened a virtual farm stand, complementing their existing farm held every spring and summer.
"The idea of the online farm stand is to create an easy and convenient way for the University community to support student grown-produce," Alisha Cahlan, education and food safety coordinator for Desert Farming Initiative, said. "As an urban farm in the 21st century, the ability to offer customized farm stand boxes with the click of a button became our next step in progressing as an agribusiness."
Customers can order produce through the University's marketplace and pick up the items at the Nevada Wolf Shop, located inside the Joe Crowley Student Union.
The Desert Farming Initiative began in 2013 and is a collaboration between three key groups: University of Nevada, Reno College of Business, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources, and University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension. The initiative originated with the University's Nevada Small Business Development Center, and the effort continued to develop throughout the course of several years, collaborating with Sen. Harry Reid and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided $500,000 for the initial project, which is currently supported by CABNR.
The Desert Farming Initiative currently grows fruits and vegetables at two locations in Reno: the Valley Road Field Lab and the Main Station Field Lab.
"We have three main goals as part of the mission to support Nevada agriculture: education, research, and outreach," said Cahlan.
Currently, the initiative grows all vegetables, fruits and herbs listed on the Marketplace website. The list changes from week to week and season to season, which includes greens, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries, herbs and many more items.
Preparing the farm for spring and summer seasons includes activities such as equipment maintenance, farm crop mapping, soil preparation and seed ordering. The opening of the initiative's virtual farm stand also tests the ability for famers to expand their reach by investing in technology.
"With this virtual farm stand, we are also able to test out the behind-the-scenes logistics that occur with this type of operation so that we can better communicate with the industry on the costs that occur with investing in the technology," Jennifer Ott, program director, said. "It is just one more way that we can help Nevada farmers become more competitive in the agriculture industry."