Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
The University of Nevada, Reno Desert Farming Initiative (DFI) will be in compliance with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) by the end of January 2019 – as regulated by the Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA). DFI has partnered with the Nevada Department of Agriculture to train and provide educational resources for farmers in anticipation of enforcement of FSMA in 2019 and upcoming years.
Food safety planning can be overwhelming at the outset, but there are many helpful links and guidance documents available from the Produce Safety Alliance to assist growers. First of all, check here to see if your farm is covered or exempt from FSMA.
DFI will soon be posting an updated Food Safety Plan that can be used as a reference. Our plan is intended to meet GAP and FSMA requirements and includes procedures and log sheets for record keeping. It and templates that could be used to guide growers in developing their own plans will be available here soon. Wondering how GAP and FSMA are related? Here is an article that provides an overview.
If you are new to the requirements outlined in FSMA, check out these informational sheets to get the ball rolling:
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.
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
Winter Field Lettuce Production
In 2016 we received a Specialty Crop Block grant from the Nevada Department of Agriculture to trial different field production methods for producing Salanova varieties of lettuce in the throughout the winter months. We are currently growing the lettuce as loose-leaf cut lettuce under row cover, without row cover, and in hoop houses for comparison. We will also be transplanting the same varieties as head lettuce throughout the winter of 2018/2019 for late winter and spring harvest. Stayed tuned for results.
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.
Food Safety Education and Training
The DFI is contracted by the Nevada Department of Agricultural to develop a food safety training and certification program for NV growers who are subject to compiling with the FDA’s Food Modernization Act. The DFI also serves as a farm demonstration site for best food safety practices in field production and post harvest handling. For more information about on-farm food safety practices please contact Jill Moe.
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.
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.