Urban farm's growth exceeds owners' expectations
Toni Ortega and Lyndsey Langsdale have put a fair amount of hard work and determination into getting their urban farm in Midtown up and going. And after a good growing season, they were able to start selling to restaurants about two months ago and opened up a farmstand on the premises three weeks ago.
“We’ve had more thumbs ups than thumbs downs, which is good, because if that wasn’t the case, then it would be hard to keep going,” Ortega said. “It’s not easy, and it’s not glamorous.”
Ortega and Langsdale did not anticipate crops doing as well as they did in their “just shy of an acre” plot in the middle of the city, but a good portion of their crops grew fabulously. Some of the crops that did the best were basil, carrots, beets, flowers, peppers and potatoes.
“The soil—for it being the first time growing—has been super kind to us,” Ortega said. “We’ve had a lot more productivity than we actually ever thought imaginable. … Everything went really well, except for the tomato situation. We didn’t have yield on our tomatoes.”
Ortega and Langsdale have also done more tours and presentations than they expected. Some of these have been for various classes and departments within the University of Nevada, Reno, including English, geography, gender, race and identity, and a book arts class. Interestingly, they haven’t had much interaction with the agriculture department but hope to work with them in the future.
“I think it would be really great to have an intern,” Ortega said. “I think it would be great to have one, the extra hands, but … I think a lot of times as a student … you get to these farms that have been farmed for like, young is 10 years and some of them are like 45 or 50 years being farmed. … I think the starting part of a farm is really a place where there’s a lot to learn about. The learning curve is intense, and there’s so many facets of a farm that isn’t just the actual planting the seed, weeding, cultivating the land.”
The farm sells to six restaurants in the area: Bowl, Great Full Gardens, Cafe DeLuxe, Pneumatic Diner, Midtown Eats and The Seed. And they have made one delivery to a new food truck in town, the Electric Blue Elephant. Death & Taxes also uses their herbs in cocktails. Some of the restaurants have even made “Lost City Farm specials” that has all of their produce in it. This relationship has helped both parties out with publicity in town, according to Langsdale.
“I was in Café Deluxe one time and this woman said, ’Oh, I’m here because I’m friends with Lost City Farm on Facebook and saw a picture of you guys here in this restaurant giving them produce, and it looked like a good restaurant. So I came here, and I love this restaurant now,’” Langsdale said. “That’s fun to see the support that we can give to the restaurants and they can give us.”
The urban farmers plan to stay open as long as weather and their produce allows for this season, but they will not be growing year-round this year. Ortega said they plan to experiment with some crops over the next months, research about how to better grow for next year, build a hoophouse, work on infrastructure, move the rocks from their property and “take a well-earned break.”