Mar 29, 2013

My outspoken perspective on the MSFL issue

Here is an opportunity for me to be politically correct and play nice when talking about UNR and the Main Station Field Laboratory (MSFL)...but I think I'll pass this time and speak out instead.  There are many places to read the "can't we all get along" version of this situation, but stakeholder activists experienced a very different, less warm and fuzzy version of this well known local topic.  It's my blog so I'll tell you about it here. The subject is complex and this post is on. 

Mar 24, 2013

GMO labeling in Nevada - AB330 (previously know as BDR 955) is on the table

Nevada has joined 22 other states that have put GMO labeling bills on the table in 2013.  If you read this blog it's likely you are already aware of the concerns surrounding GMO labeling so I won't get on my soapbox, but I will provide a link to Label GMO Nevada and encourage you to contact your lawmakers now and tell them you support BDR 955 (update - the bill has a final name and it is AB330).

Organizers and supports must act quickly on this bill because the timeline is short:
  • March 18 – Bill must be assigned to a committee. Speaker, Marilyn Kirkpatrick does the     assigning.
  • March 25 – Committee bills must be in.
  • April 12 – Bill must be approved by the committee and sent to the Assembly for a vote.
  • April 23 – Bill must be approved by the first house
  • May 17 – Second house, bill must be approved by committee
  • May 24 – Second house – bill must be approved
  • June 3 – end of legislative session. Next one is 2015!
Volunteers are working hard to get the word out but funding must come from us.  Donate if you can!

We're all really busy so a click and support button would be a nice option but our lawmakers respond best to a brief, personally written encouragement to support.  Take a minute to find out who your lawmakers are (link also provided at Label GMO Nevada) and tell them you want them to support AB330. 

We've all seen the power of Monsanto and Friends, and the money they are willing to spend to defeat these initiatives - more than $35 million went into defeating Prop 37 in California. The good news is, post-election polls show that even those who voted "no" actually support labeling. The money bought votes but it didn't change values.

Feb 24, 2013


The University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) has submitted to the Reno City Council (Council) a proposal to zone 104 acres of the Main Station Field Laboratory (MSFL) light industrial, in preparation for commercial sale. UNR and the Board of Regents (Regents) are pushing through with this proposal in spite of overwhelming opposition and ongoing concern about food security, due diligence, and the safety and cost issues associated with flood water storage capacity. Homeowners, businesses, planners, government agencies, farmers, ranchers, local food and business advocates, UNR students and the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources Advisory Board (CABNR) have been and continue to be in opposition to this proposal.

On March 27, 2013 the Council will again consider the UNR proposal. Go to the end of this post to RSVP for the meeting to show your support and help us demonstrate to the Council the level of community opposition to the proposal.

Here is what the Coalition to Preserve the UNR Farmland and Floodplain (Coalition) wants you to know about this issue.

Feb 24, 2012

Reprieve for 104 acres on Main Station Farm

Thanks to the huge community response, UNR has withdrawn the proposal to rezone Main Station Farm property.  The support for the Farm convinced Mr. Johnson that Nevadans value the last of our urban farmland and our agricultural heritage.  That land is still designated large residential so is still a candidate for sale for development, but this process has allowed the community to temporarily divert “the development train” and given us time to engage UNR in a discussion about a different future. Woo hoo!

Our numbers : 100-150 people attended the December Reno City Council meeting.  Jessica Sferrazza received about 3,800 emails.  As of today 11, 907 people have signed the petition to save the farm. Approximately 100 people attended UNR’s Community Forum re: the 104 acres.

What’s next? How about a 21st century high-desert eco-agriculture program at UNR? There is significant interest in supporting young people who want to stay on the farm or go back to it.  A few months ago the Local Food Network conducted a workshop to help the community determine the next steps towards a healthy local food system.  Many people participated and the suggestions were numerous, but the one that dominated the top of the list is the need for new farmers and ranchers, and an educational system that teaches 21st century practices.

 Just a few weeks ago someone I’ve known for years talked to me about his plan to partner with a couple of other people to grow a new farm in Nevada.  He is now on the hunt for a cutting edge farming education and assistance developing a business model.  Accessing the business component is fairly easy.  Finding a higher education farming program that teaches high-desert production techniques will be much more difficult.  This is where UNR’s comes in.

There is much to do and I hope that the UNR administration and the Board of Regents will call on the people who live and work here to help create a new future, one that includes Wolf Pack Meats and helps us further develop our growing local food system.

Feb 17, 2012

Main Station Farm community discussion continues on February 21st

At the request of the Reno City Council, UNR will hold a public forum regarding the Main Station Farm zoning proposal and the future of the farm. The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday February 21st, 5:30 -7:30 pm at Joe Crowley Student Union.  Doors open at 5:00 p.m.

Free parking will be available on the third and fourth floors of the Whalen Parking Garage and directional signage will be posted on North Virginia Street.

The immediate issue on the table is UNR's request to zone 104 acres of the most fertile land in Reno to light industrial. UNR's stated intent is to protect the property's monetary value for possible future sale to developers or for a proposed flood plain project.

Community stakeholders are floating a different idea. That is, use this invaluable property to enhance Nevada’s future and rebuild an agricultural education program to meet the needs of sophisticated college students and 21st century challenges and opportunities.

This meeting is our opportunity to convey to UNR the level of community support for a new future and our collective opposition to the zoning proposal.

We know many are in favor of a different future for the Main Station Farm than the one currently in the UNR and Board of Regent plan, and all of us need to be at this meeting. We've heard from a broad spectrum of stakeholders. From those who live near the site to flood plain experts. From those dedicated to Nevada's long-term economic health to those who recognize Wolf Pack Meats as a key component of a healthy local food production system. From students who want to obtain their degree at UNR and put it to use in Nevada, to their parents who want to keep their educational dollars in Nevada. From established and emerging businesses that are creating food-system jobs and incomes, to the customers who buy from them. The list goes on.

UNR will likely return to the Reno City Council in March to continue the rezoning discussion. We hope to convince them to present a totally different proposal than the one on the table now. Join us and be at the meeting on Tuesday, February 21, 5:30 -7:30pm in the Joe Crowley Student Union to voice your support for a brighter future.

Jan 27, 2012

Learn to grow food when it's cold outside - Eliot Coleman teaches in Nevada

Many think Nevadans can grow only what our gardens or farms produce between May and September, but we know some farmers and gardeners harvest all year. Here's an opportunity to learn how they do it and what is possible on your piece of land.  

Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm is on the cutting edge of cold region food production and he's coming to northern Nevada to share what he knows.

Coleman grows food year Maine. Using no-energy technology and season-appropriate crop selection he grows food for his table and his business. We discovered his techniques a few years ago when I came across his book, Four Season Harvest, at the Washoe County Library. Since then we've read all his books and have been using what we’ve learned to grow some of our own cold-weather food.

Year round production is not a new concept. One hundred and fifty years ago France fed much of its urban population using year-round agricultural practices in the heart of its towns and cities.
Now is your chance to learn directly from a man who is reviving cold weather production, bringing it into the 21st century and introducing it to the US.

Whether you're a farmer or a backyard gardener this is a fantastic opportunity, not to be missed.
The Saturday workshop is geared towards farmers, the Sunday towards gardeners.

Saturday, February 11
Four Season Farming and Gardening with Eliot Coleman
Saturday, February 11, 9 am - 3:30 pm
$75 (includes lunch) - $85 after January 27

Sunday, February 12
Session 1 - 10:30 am - Noon Session 2 - 1:30 - 3 pm
$45 each session - $50 after January 27

Presented by Western Nevada College Specialty Crop Institute.
Information/registration: Ann Louhela -775-351-2551 or

Dec 5, 2011

Zoning initiative jeopardizes future of Wolf Pack Meats and northern Nevada's local food infrastructure

If you love local food and local jobs make your voice heard. 

On December 14th @ 6pm the Reno City Council will vote on a Planning Commission recommendation to zone 104 acres of the Main Station Farm for light industrial use making the land accessible for development. Should the Council vote yes, this will open the door to the parceling off and destruction of this valuable piece of urban agricultural land and northern Nevada's agricultural infrastructure.

Though UNR and the Reno City Council are correct when they say the zoning decision to be addressed at the December 14th meeting will not close Wolf Pack Meats, what it really means is it won't close it right now. This will be the first parcel to be paved over and other development initiatives will follow. As development encroaches, opposition to the close proximity of a slaughter facility will surely result in the closure. This has happened to agricultural land everywhere.  In the US we pave over 1 acre of prime farmland every minute.

Wolf Pack Meats is the only USDA meat facility in northern Nevada and access to it keeps production costs lower so local ranchers can make their product available to us at a reasonable price.  Processing the meat here reduces middleman and transportation fees. It ensures the animals are treated humanely from farm to table.  This production circle keeps our food-based jobs in Nevada.  Read more or sign the petion now to oppose this proposal.