Reno Garlic Festival goes online with free year-long course.

Written by Claire McArthur

Photos courtesy of Reno Food Systems


Though the much-loved Reno Garlic Festival was cancelled this summer due to the pandemic, the event organizers want to make sure there is no shortage of garlic-fueled fun in your future.


Garlic Bulb cross view from underground

A garlic bulb ready to be harvested. Photo by Rachelle Le Rude


This October, Reno Food Systems and Be the Change Project kicked off a year-long online (and free!) course teaching Reno-Tahoe gardeners of all skill levels everything they need to know about planting garlic this fall for a hearty summer harvest.

In just three years, the festival had succeeded in its mission to support local garlic growers and build a community of garlic enthusiasts — the 2019 festival attracted nearly 4,000 attendees — but the organizations still wanted to find new ways to inspire more people to grow garlic at home.

“We just hadn’t gotten there yet,” explains Jolene Cook, board member of Reno Food Systems. “We were glad to hear from the garlic growers who usually depend on our festival that much of their crop was pre-sold due to supply chain disruption in China, which supplies 75 percent of the world’s garlic, as well as the continued recognition of the importance of local farmers. So we turned our one-day, in-person event into a year-long learning opportunity.”

The online-based course, A Year in Garlic, will provide new articles and videos each month from Reno Garlic Fest vendors on the user-friendly, community-based platform Mighty Networks. 

“October’s lesson is all about learning how to make your bed. A lot of people who have signed up for the course already said they’ve tried to grow garlic and it’s been really puny and hasn’t worked out,” Cook says. “Garlic grows really well in Nevada, but the number one thing is you’ve got to have really good soil — fertile, soft, organic-matter-rich soil.”

On the first of each month, new content that is topical in terms of what needs to be done to your garlic crop during that period will be posted, and throughout the month, video tutorials, recipes, and community-engagement opportunities will be highlighted. Preparing your garden bed for garlic is October’s theme, and the content can be viewed whenever you’d like, as often as you’d like.

Throughout the year, participants will learn about all different topics pertaining to garlic, from composting with Full Circle Compost and Down to Earth Composting to garlic braiding with Katy Chandler-Isacksen from Be the Change Project.


Katy Chandler standing at her booth with a shirt that says "FARMY" in an ARMY logo style

Katy Chandler of Be the Change Project. Photo by Ben Lazar


Cary Yamamoto of Yamamoto Farms, Lyndsey Langsdale of Reno Food Systems, Charles Schembre of Desert Farming Initiative, and Earstin Whitten of Soulful Seeds are also slated as instructors during the 12-month course.


Earstin Whitten standing in his garden

Earstin Whitten of Soulful Seeds. Photo by Rachelle LeRude


During the winter months, when the garlic growing process is hands-off, participants will discover fun ways to use garlic in their kitchen, including a highly anticipated garlic doughnut recipe from Fausta Apambire of MwintSoph Enterprises. 

Once signed up for the course, participants also will have the opportunity to win garlic-themed prizes. Five lucky winners will take home a Be the Change Project garlic braid; 10 registrants will be offered “farmer mentors” who will come to their houses three to four times over the year for personalized, COVID-compliant garlic-growing consultations; and 30 more will receive a few heads of locally grown garlic seed and compost from Full Circle. A beautiful container from Moana Nursery pre-planted with garlic also is up for grabs.


NDA funds

NDA funds purchased Arnold’s Acres Garlic to give away to 30 participants
enrolled in the A Year in Garlic course. Photo by Ben Lazar


The Reno Garlic Festival, funded by the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, has grown each year since its inaugural event in 2017. And with a tentative 2021 date of July 31, it will be back at a new location, Dick Taylor Park, to accommodate that growth.

“It’s something to look forward to for next year, and if it can’t happen how it used to, we’ll come up with a new way to continue to engage our community’s love of garlic!” Cook adds.

To sign up for A Year in Garlic, visit

Local Food Week Event Raises Awareness About Area Farmers and Food Producers

Written by Natasha Bourlin

Photos courtesy of Growing NV


variety of heirloom tomatoes in a basket


Now in its second year, Growing NV local food week is back to connect area folks to the foods cultivated and crafted in their backyards. With mostly virtual events happening from Sun., Aug. 9 through Sat., Aug. 15, more than 50 regional organizations, from farms and restaurants to nonprofits and food producers, are participating.

Led by event founder and local food advocate Jolene Cook, the weeklong celebration of whole, healthy foods will help teach food lovers where their non-processed nourishment really comes from. Taking place the week before school begins, events were created to reach a wide breadth of age ranges and community segments.

“My inspiration comes from being a local food enthusiast,” Cook says. “That’s my secret. I really care about eating healthy. And with local food, it’s so easy to do that.”

Her husband, Steve Cook, partner in Reno’s NEON Agency, a marketing and advertising business, had attended a local food week in Ontario and, afterward, prompted his wife to create one of her own. So she reached out to a multitude of food-industry organizations to help build this event-based spotlight on healthy eating and the many locals who make that possible for everyone.

She was an ideal candidate for such a task. Cook currently serves as board president for Reno Food Systems, a nonprofit whose mission is “cultivating community-based food systems through education, research, and civic engagement.” She’s also a former buyer for the Great Basin Community Food Co-op. She used her involvement in the food industry and knowledge of healthy eating to form a passion project that directly affects the community.

“Everyone had their own struggles and was super busy doing what they were already doing and didn’t really have bandwidth to reach out and connect with other organizations and make things easier on each other, or help each other,” Cook explains. “[I wanted to] help other people raise awareness about what they’re doing and kind of connect it all together … knowing that it’s needed and knowing that I could do that work.”




Local farmers showcased their products during Reno’s inaugural Local Food Week in 2019


She entered the event field not wanting to create more work for the participants, many of whom were already stretched thin. She simply wanted to raise awareness about their work. In Growing NV’s first year, the organization successfully achieved this mission, drawing attention nonprofits such as Soulful Seeds, who increased its volunteer base and attention to its efforts after hosting a day on its farm in 2019.

During this time of COVID-19, nonprofits constantly are having to pivot, with their programs and various events getting stymied by new rules and regulations.

“It’s important to me to make the event as accessible as possible,” Cook says.

Cook has put together a roster of events for 2020 that kick off with Sunday is for Sunflowers, Shoots & Sprouts. People of all ages who are interested in learning to grow their own sprouts from seeds can pick up supplies at select businesses in advance, then attend a live Facebook event, which will show them all the steps to get from seed to sprout.




Results from attendees will be documented on Growing NV’s social media channels throughout the week. It provides kids in particular with a tangible way to see where their food comes from.

Other happenings during the week include Workshop Wednesday, which teaches adults how to make fruits and veggies more appetizing to their little ones; Thirsty Thursday, when area mixologists will demonstrate how to concoct cocktails using fresh, local ingredients; and Apothecary Day, in which a local herbalist hosts a ticketed (free) workshop on turning plants from Reno Food System’s Park Farm into treasures.

One of the missions Cook is most excited to launch this week is Money Monday, where people pledge online to spend at least $10 in one week on local foods, creating a direct and trackable economic impact on local food producers, farmers, and retailers. Her goal is to get a minimum of $5,000 in pledges that week.

Anyone participating in the week’s events is entered into a series of drawings, and those who pledge to spend $10 on local food are entered to win a goodie-filled grand prize package.

Growing NV’s overarching goals, however, are to raise awareness about eating healthy and local, to get people away from eating heavily processed foods, and to teach people of all ages and cultures that eating more fruits and veggies is so important. With the largely virtual nature of this event, perhaps people from other areas may also be inspired to explore their own area food systems.

“Farmers know food; if we don’t support them and buy from them, we’re just so disconnected from the larger picture,” Cook says. “But we have an opportunity to slowly but surely plug in, and once you go to a farmers’ market, or buy from a certain farmer, there’s just this special relationship being built that really inspires further development … People want to be connected; it’s just really easy not to be.”


For more information on Growing NV’s local food week, visit


In Northern Nevada, barely a day passes without news of an exciting new restaurant, a sensational up-and-coming chef, a must-try dish, and an event that celebrates all of this. The Nevada Restaurant Association has created an edible experience that makes it easy for the community to dine out for a cause this upcoming July 24 – 30. During its inaugural Nevada Breakfast Week, many participating restaurants will turn your dining experiences into philanthropic ones as we celebrate this year’s National Culinary Arts Month. 


Read more: Nevada Breakfast Week Sets Students Up For Success


Summertime is synonymous with local food here in Reno-Tahoe — or at least it should be. There’s nothing better than biting into a perfectly ripe cherry tomato from Fallon, slicing up a Yerington onion for your gazpacho (because it’s too hot to cook anything), or sweetening your iced tea with Reno honey … or is there? What if you could meet your farmer — and learn about where and how that tomato was grown —– right from the grocery store or restaurant menu?

hidden valley honey farmers market copy

Read more: Meeting the People Growing Your Food Has Never Been Easier

Warm Caramelized Apple Tart
Warm Caramelized Apple Tart


Written by Sandra Macias
Photos by Chris Stowell

La Ferme draws food aficionados from as far away as New York and from as near as Reno, Lake Tahoe, and Carson City. Its reputation for fine French country-style food budded in Incline Village, its first home in 1992. The buzz didn’t fade when Owner Gilles La Gourge, who is French-Basque, moved it to Genoa six years later.

Read more: FARM CHARM


Feast in the Field

Written by Amanda Burden • Photos by Jaci Goodman

Guests gathered at the Shaw Family Farm in Truckee on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2010 for a Feast in the Field.

Before dinner, participants walked around the 40-acre property to enjoy the Shaws’ bountiful outdoor gardens and beautiful greenhouse stocked with leafy greens. A large enclosure housed roaming chickens and a coop brimming with fresh eggs. Another enclosure housed two fat pigs, Mr. and Mrs. Bacon, who will be slaughtered this fall. Guests gathered around a large outdoor oven and counter for Northern Sierra wines and freshly baked pizza piled with Barbara Shaw’s basil pesto, Super Sweet 100 tomatoes, and shaved American, Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano cheeses, as well as a pizza of Brie and prosciutto with Nevada’s Hearts of Gold melon and Shaw arugula salad.





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