The Desert Farming Initiative welcomes a new project manager, Charles Schembre, to the Nevada Agriculture Experiment Station. The Initiative is a diversified commercial farm at the University that serves as a demonstration, education, outreach and research farming program. It is a collaborative project of the University's College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources and its Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension units.
Schembre joined the University in Fall 2018, and in December, he attended a course so he and DFI staff could teach food safety best practices and began developing a technical assistance program to teach Nevada growers how to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act. This past spring, Schembre oversaw the planting of a new, 1-acre demonstration vineyard of cabernet franc, merlot and malbec wine grapes at the University, expanding upon more than 20 years of wine grape research done at the Experiment Station focusing on techniques for advancing viticulture in the high desert. Schembre previously worked for the Napa County Resource Conservation District managing a demonstration vineyard and orchard, as well as multiple conservation programs focused on soil health, water conservation and bio diversity. He also served two terms in the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project.
In addition to researching grapes at the new vineyard, Schembre says the Initiative is conducting trials on vegetables and fruits, such as winter lettuce and raspberries, to collect crop data on different growing conditions.
"We collect data on 30 different varieties of vegetables we grow and also provide services, like organic plant propagation, to the local agriculture industry," he said.
Schembre hopes to expand the farming operation to become a mid-sized farm that focuses on precision farming techniques. He also wants to create more teaching and learning opportunities for students at the Experiment Station, as well as expand the Initiative's services to the community.
"I hope that with the expansion of the farming operation we can donate even more to the food pantry," explained Schembre. "I also look forward to continuing to provide the latest research-based food safety information to our state's producers, which is one of the Initiative's primary focuses."