Written by Kaya Williams
Local food growers abound in the Reno-Tahoe area. The secret is knowing how to find them — and with the upcoming Growing NV Local Food Week celebration, getting to know your neighborhood farmer just got a whole lot easier.
Melons are just one kind of local food item that will be available during Local Food Week.
The inaugural event series, running Aug. 11th through 17th, aims to “connect the face of the farmer to the heart of the community” and raise awareness for Reno’s bountiful local food system, according to Jolene Cook, a project manager for NEON Creative Agency.
Local Food Week allows several groups of people who are passionate about sustainability and accountability to “cross-pollinate,” and offers a structured way for families and community members to “have delicious and healthy fun,” Cook adds.
NEON, which works on solutions for specialty crop issues, developed the concept of Growing NV with event support from NevadaGrown, a nonprofit focused on sustainable agriculture and healthy eating. Additional funding for the week’s events comes from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, which supplies federally funded grants to entities working with specialty crops.
The week will feature a cornucopia of events celebrating local food producers — connecting diners’ hearts, minds, and bellies to the farmers, vendors, and restaurateurs that support Nevada-grown crops. Many of the events are free with minimal to no advance registration required; details for all events can be found on the Growing NV Facebook page.
Green-thumbed participants can kick off the weeklong slate of events on Sunday with a tour of Saint Mary’s Community Garden in Reno from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Soulful Seeds, a Reno-based gardening nonprofit, hosts the event; the organization’s founder, Earstin Whitten, will guide attendees through creating their own community gardens, too. (Read our story, “Growing Hope,” about Whitten, the Saint Mary’s Garden, and Soulful Seeds in our Summer 2019 issue!)
Following Monday afternoon’s invitation-only farm and restaurant trade mixer at Great Basin Brewing Co. in Sparks. NevadaGrown hosts the Meet Your (Food) Makers event from 5 to 7 p.m. At this open-to-the-public event, attendees can get to know their local food purveyors over free Great Basin beer and appetizers for purchase.
Tomatoes take center stage at Tuesday’s (virtual) festivities. All are encouraged to post pictures of tomato dishes or recipes — with the hashtags #TomatoTuesday and #GrowingNV, of course — for the chance to win the Top Tomato Prize: the winning public entry will receive a $50 gift certificate at The Cheese Board in Reno, and the winning restaurant entry will receive a case of Nevada-grown tomatoes from Great Basin Community Food Co-op’s DROPP program in Reno.
Come Wednesday, participants can don their aprons for a 6 p.m. cooking class at Nothing To It! Culinary Center in Reno. Cast Iron Cooking will incorporate locally grown ingredients in a hands-on class led by chef Lara Ritchie. Limited space is available for this $95 course; call Nothing To It! at 775-825-2628 to register.
Local food producers will gather at Thursday’s celebration of the year-round Riverside Farmers Market, where shoppers can find everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to artisanal breads and cheeses. Come to McKinley Arts Center in Reno from 4 to 8 p.m. for the extensive selection of local food, then stay for the free yoga at 6 p.m.
Riverside Farmers Market at McKinley Arts & Culture Center in Reno is just one location that will host Local Food Week festivities during the week of Aug. 11 – 17. Photo by Kasey Crispin/Riverside Farmers Market
Mouthwatering melon tastings await at Food Truck Friday, from 4 to 9 p.m. in Downtown Reno’s Idlewild Park. NevadaGrown and the University of Nevada, Reno’s Desert Farming Initiative will be sampling the “sinfully sweet” Nevada melon; if you have a particularly vicious sweet tooth, you’ll also enjoy finding Nevada melons incorporated into the desserts served at the food truck operated by Reno’s Thali.
Saturday’s tour of Reno Food Systems’ Betsy Caughlin Donnelly Park Farm closes out Local Food Week and offers attendees an inside look at what it takes to grow local crops. Post-tour, attendees can refuel with a Bring Your Own Locally Grown picnic; the festivities run from 4 to 7 p.m.
According to Cook, the inaugural Growing NV Local Food Week will bring a greater awareness of locally grown produce to a larger, mainstream population and unite multiple organizations working toward growing and connecting the local food movement.
“In action, having a stronger community is an antidote to a stressful, tech-heavy world,” she says. “I think that’s really beautiful.”