New agriculture project launched
It’s June and 90 degrees in Reno, which means it’s a cool 80 in Bordertown. But the heat doesn’t stop a small group of 20- and 30-somethings from gathering to prepare nearly a hundred rows of soil at Rosewater Ranch. Sandwiched between Toiyabe National Forest and the Sallaberry Ranch, Rosewater has become a hub for permaculture farming, communal living and bright ideas.
The newest idea to come out of the property is the reason for this latest workday. It’s called Prema Organics, and it’s a budding, 35-customer, community supported agriculture project, known as a CSA. It’s overseen by a co-op of people who also happen to be Co-op people. Zach Cannady, Kasey Crispin, Nikki Boyce, Andrew Yokom and David Funk are among the Great Basin Community Food Co-op workers who are trading sweat equity for profits in the fall.
Like in any cooperative structure, there is no hierarchy, but Cannady is considered something of a spokesperson. As the produce buyer for Great Basin and a longtime yoga teacher in Reno, Cannady sees farming as a natural extension of his work.
“For me it’s been something that I was always kind of aspiring to that I didn’t know I was aspiring to,” said Cannady.
“I think that inherently we all seek to be connected to what we do, and there’s nothing quite as meditative as spending time outside really working with the land and getting your hands in the soil,” he said.
Today, getting hands in the soil means testing the irrigation to find out if 20 pounds per square inch is enough pressure to run only two water zones on the property. (It isn’t.) It’s not a bad problem to have, given other common obstacles farmers face like poor soil, germination rates and weather, all issues that Prema is lucky—or smart—enough to have in the bag.
“The soil is really amazing in that particular spot,” said Rosewater Ranch founder Nate Rosenbloom. “There’s not a lot of spots like that anywhere else in the state.”
Set on two acres previously planted in alfalfa, Prema soil is a sandy loam that was nitrogen rich even before adding compost.
As for germination rates, Prema uses a method of seed starting called soil blocking where seeds are planted in two-inch cubes that fit 50 instead of 72 to a tray. Though there are fewer plants, germination and transplant rates are higher because the roots “self-prune” when they hit air, resulting in less root-spinning and stress when the plugs are put in the ground.
Weather-wise, Prema sits 1000 feet higher and 10 degrees cooler than Reno, providing an opportunity to offer cool-season crops like kale and lettuce a bit longer than everyone else. So those who sign up for the 12-week CSA basket can expect lots of greens with warm-season crops like tomatoes and peppers sprinkled in as “ornaments.”
Not a bad start for a new CSA. But in the end, Prema’s biggest advantage might come down to its Sanskrit definition. “Supreme love,” explained Cannady. “What that means is that you’re giving everything every moment of the day to whatever action is at hand, and you’re completely disconnected or detached from the results of it.”
Even if that means having more than two watering zones.