University research farm shares 3,000 pounds of harvest with community

The Desert Agriculture Initiative at the University of Nevada, Reno, this year donated more than 3,000 pounds of fresh produce to area pantries, according to officials at the Experimental Station of the UNR. The harvest went to local pantries to support students and community members in need.

The demonstration and research farm, operated at the eastern end of the campus on Valley Road, is part of a research unit focused on sustainable agriculture and research into desert farming practices. This year’s growing season has been more difficult than most.

Pack Provisions delivers food, including fresh produce, to students in need. Image: UNR

“We grow over 90 varieties of fruits and vegetables on the farm,” said Jill Moe, who is now director of the Initiative and started volunteering in 2018. “We had a lot of challenges this year – the smoke and air quality are so bad some days we had to shut down the farm, equipment issues and heat waves. I am really proud of what our staff and volunteers have been able to accomplish.

Farm officials said they harvested more than 13,000 pounds of produce this year, most of which was sold to the Great Basin Community Food Coop, Fallon Food Hub and area farmers’ markets.

Proceeds from sales, along with donations and grants, support the farm’s Farm-to-Food Pantry partnership with the University’s Pack Provisions and the Community Health Alliance’s WIC Nutrition Assistance Program. Pack Provisions provides free food to students in need. A student survey in 2020 found that one in four students reported experiencing food insecurity.

Moe said she hopes to add climate controls to the farm’s hoop houses soon to extend the growing season. Growth in spring and fall has been good, she said, but winter production is limited. She estimates that a modernization with climate control could double their pantry deliveries in winter. The Initiative launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund the improvements.

In southern Nevada, the UNR Extension Research Center and Demonstration Orchard donated more than 5,000 pounds of produce to the community. The Orchard is a cooperative effort between The Extension, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the City of North Las Vegas.

Source: UNR Extension

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