Education Program to Develop Local Food in the Desert

By: Holly Gatzke  

Farmers in desert regions have an opportunity to produce local food but knowledge gaps existed as a barrier. A progressive line of education programs were established to support the production of healthy local foods in Lincoln County, Nevada. These programs included starting a 4-H vegetable garden and market, extended season production on-farm demonstrations, and classes with the goal of showing that quality produce could be grown. Market profiles were developed through surveys of farmers’ market consumers and chefs. Quality testing of local produce was done by chefs in Las Vegas. Mentor farmers and enterprise analysts provided assistance to improve production, marketing, and financials. Education to locals on healthy eating improved their understanding of the health benefits and preparation techniques for using the local produce. A program on value-adding used substandard produce to create more local foods. As a result, a local food industry is started with producers growing in over 40 high tunnels to sell local fresh produce to residents at a farmers market, local restaurants, and chefs in Las Vegas. Challenges still exist with inconsistent markets and distribution networks to urban markets.

Local Foods, Agriculture, Education, Produce, Food Supply
Food Production and Sustainability
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Holly Gatzke

Extension Educator/ Associate Professor, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, United States
United States

I am employed by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension as an Associate Professor. The adult education I provide uses creative programing which identifies and addressed the gaps in the whole system to assist people to improve their lives and create community improvements. My work focuses on local food systems for Nevada and rural economic and community development in Lincoln County, Nevada. As a speaker, I have provided presentations, workshops and classes on topics ranging from soils, produce production, season growing extension, marketing of produce, selling to chefs and value-added processing. As well, I have been an invited speaker for rural tourism, youth education and career planning. The Lincoln County Extension office that I manage provides education on econoomic development through developing a local food industry, expanded tourism and leadership skills. The office provides local health awareness through health classes for adults and families. Development programs are provided through 4-H, and workforce development programs.