Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Desert Farming Initiative (DRI) will be in FSMA compliance by the end of 2018 as regulated by the Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA). DRI has partnered with Nevada Department of Agriculture to train and provide educational resources for farmers in anticipation of enforcement of FSMA in 2019.
FSMA can be a work intensive process, but it doesn’t have to be. We have posted some helpful links that set us in the right direction and soon will be posting our own Food Safety manual and log sheets that you can copy and apply to your farm. Additionally, our Classes page will list any upcoming FSMA training happening in the state. Classes are also offered through the Produce Safety Alliance, and can be found here.
If you are new to the new federal regulations outlined by FSMA, check out these informational sheets to get things started:
Projects + Services
Services for Growers
The Desert Farming Initiative received a Specialty Crop Block Grant to provide Nevada farmers with an affordable and local organic propagation service. Non-local propagation services can be very expensive due to travel and shipping fees. The goal of this project is to provide a local propagation service to allow farmers to increase their potential to try new specialty crops, free up funds for other purchases and provide training in propagation techniques. As the propagation service becomes more successful we aim to train other individuals in our business model so that those looking to start plant propagation and expand their business can do so. Please contact us if you are interested in either organic or non-organic propagation services, which start at $15/128 slot tray.
Commercial Produce Washing
In 2015, we acquired a commercial washing station that can handle big washing jobs. Providing a more efficient and effective way for growers to safely sanitize their produce, our commercial washing station is offered at an at-cost rate. Please contact us if you are interested in this service, which starts at $2/lbs of produce.
Raspberry and Blackberry Maintenance Guide
Partnering with Jacobs Family Berry Farm in Gardnerville, the Desert Farming Initiative has created an online grower’s guide for red raspberries, black raspberries, and blackberries. Intended for use among local production scale growers to backyard gardeners. This tool is a free and easy-to-use resource that provides actions and insight from month to month.
In order to build awareness about the robust history of melon growing in Nevada, the Desert Farming Initiative has launched an ongoing campaign to leverage knowledge of the fruit’s success in Nevada into sales for farmers. In conjunction with Nevada Grown and local farmers we will encourage Nevadans and a national audience to think of melons as “sinfully sweet”. Contact us to get more information about using Nevada Melon branding for your own farming endeavors!
Current Projects on our Farm
Raspberry Plant Sales and Educational Workshops
In the Spring of 2018, we began to ramp up production and care for our raspberries based on lessons learned through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Northern Nevada farmers. Continuing on the farm production tracking for the different varieties will continue along with the addition of two other goals. First, we will take root divisions from the plants (removing suckers), and pot them for replanting and sale in Fall 2018. Secondly, in 2019, there will be educational workshops on raspberry production to northern Nevada farmers, students, and backyard gardeners.
In the Summer of 2018, we began revitalization efforts on our vineyard that had originally been used in UNR viticulture academic course programming and research. The project involves three phases with the goal of creating a nursery of wine vines adapted exclusively to the Nevada climate for sale to the community. Phase one involves maintenance, trimming, beautification, and health assessments of the current vines. Phases two will be tracking the quality and quantity of the grapes during the growing season. Phase three will be to pot new plant cuttings for sale while additionally being utilized for outreach, research, and educational purposes.
Hydroponic Food Security
In the late Summer of 2018 we will begin growing food hydroponically for production to distribute to food pantries both on and off the campus. Both UNR Pack Provisions and Catholic Charities help their clients meet basic food security needs, and rarely have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. The food grown at DFI will be a piece to serving that need.
Working with the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Northern Nevada farmers, this project will dedicate one hoop house on the DFI site for two years to the production of raspberries. The DFI will plant raspberries in a hoop house in order to both collect data and create demonstration space. All information on varietal selection, planting techniques, pruning practices, time to maturity, and yield will be recorded in order to create a how-to document for growing in a hoop house. Expense and revenue information will be recorded to give farmers an accurate picture on the expectations for profit from year to year. This project completed in 2017.
Cucumbers in Hoop Houses
In cooperation with the Specialty Crop Institute, the Desert Farming Initiative performed cucumber trials in a hoop house during the 2014 spring and summer season. We trialed two types of trellising systems with 3 different varieties. A presentation of our project can be found here.
Salanova Lettuce: Is it the right choice for Nevada?
The DFI has received a Specialty Crop Block Grant to measure the efficiency of Salanova Lettuce in a high desert climate. Salanova lettuce has been said to significantly reduce harvest and packaging processes because the leaf lettuce is produced on a head lettuce core, making the core removable with just one single cut – leaving evenly portioned leaves. It is a unique crop, previously only available in Europe, now available in the United States.
The DFI dedicated two hoop houses to the production of Salanova lettuce to evaluate the labor savings and differences in yields compared to other known lettuce varieties.
The farm stand is currently closed. Check back in late winter of 2019 to find out when it will open up again.
In the past DFI has held a Farm Stand at the University of Nevada, Reno Main Station. In 2017 we also piloted an online farm stand where folks can customize their own farm boxes for pick up at the University of Nevada, Reno. We are proud to offer fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables to the community while supporting university students.
Support local agriculture and students while enjoying fresh, healthy, local foods!
The Desert Farming Initiative (DFI) began in 2013, and is a collaboration between two key groups: University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) College of Business, College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources & UNR Cooperative Extension. Operating out of two sites in Reno on 920 Valley Road and 5895 Clean Water Way, DFI is composed of heated greenhouses, hoop houses, vineyard, and commercial wash station. Check out our top level goals, ways to work with us, and the core team members that keep it going.