Current Projects on our Farm

Sustainable Produce Packaging – 2019 Summer Internship

The Desert Farming Initiative is reducing single-use plastics in produce packaging! Intern Kaitlyn Crannell evaluated DFI packaging, surveyed plastic use at area farmers markets and compared the costs of alternatives to earn credits towards her Agricultural Sciences degree at UNR (AGSC415 with Tracy Shane). Her evaluation assisted DFI in preparing to launch a Sustainable Produce Packaging Campaign in Nevada. Read Kaitlyn’s paper for more information.


Winter Field Lettuce

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 throughout the winter months.  We are currently growing lettuce as heads and loose-leaf cut lettuce under row cover and without row cover, and in hoop houses for comparison during the winter months.  Stay tuned for the results.

High Altitude Vineyard

In 2018, DFI was asked by the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station to take over the farm management of the Station’s research vineyard, and work with faculty to revitalize and bring energy and enthusiasm to the vineyard.  In 2016, DFI received a Specialty Crop Block Grant to research and plant more grape varieties that would be viable for commercial scale production in the high desert.  DFI and professor Grant Cramer at UNR worked together to determine that Cab Franc and Merlot would be two good varietals to select to plant a new acre commercial demonstration vineyard.  In Spring 2019, this vineyard will be planted, 1/2 acre of each varietal with two different V-shaped VSP trellis systems.  DFI plans to build a small but robust hands on vineyard management program, that will facilitate a great learning ground for students and the public to learn how to farm grapes for commercial scale in the high desert.

Farm to Food Pantry

Creating a reliable supply of fresh local produce to area food pantries is a priority at DFI. We are seeking grant funding and partnerships to expand capacity for this at our and other farms in the region.

As part of DFI’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to provide weekly produce deliveries to CABNR faculty, staff and students, we offer an opportunity to donate a box to Pack Provisions.

DFI also partners with Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada (CCNN) to grow and supply fresh produce to the St. Vincent’s Food Pantry in Reno.  DFI distributes vegetables to the food pantry when there is excess on the farm, and hopes to target specific acreage to pantry food production in the future.  CCNN has donated funds in the past to build hoop houses at the DFI field station, and CCNN volunteers participate in the growing of the food while learning a thing or two about farming.

Melon Variety and Production Technique Trials

We will begin implementing a long term project for establishing best production techniques and varieties for enhancing the production of Nevada grown melons.  The high desert climate is a challenging climate to farm, but melons are a very promising specialty crop that could bring secure income to small farms in NV.  The project proposes to conduct a melon variety field trail screening to identify varieties that confer improved crop performance, increased yields and fruit quality; and to evaluate production techniques that may contribute to accelerate crop establishment, improve performance, yield and fruit quality.  Approximately 8 melon varieties will be selected for trialing.  Variety selection will include melons varieties that are currently grown by NV farmers, and varieties that prove to be high performing that may have great potential in the climates of NV.  A technical advisory committee will be established to identify best varieties and production techniques to compare in the trials, and for consultation on crop production during the season.

Past Projects

Raspberry Trials
Working with the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Northern Nevada farmers, this project dedicated one hoop house to raspberry production at the Agriculture Experiment Station Valley Road site for two years. The DFI planted multiple varieties of raspberries, and monitored their performance.  All information on varietal selection, planting techniques, pruning practices, time to maturity, and yield was recorded in order to create a online-to tool for growing in a hoop house. 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.

Fall 2013: The first season at the High Desert Farming Initiative