Coffee and Conservation series begins
Agriculture and environmental conservation don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, but developing a sustainable food system in Northern Nevada has long been a priority for Jeff Bryant, executive director of the Reno teaching farm Urban Roots. On a snowy morning in late February, Bryant stood before a group of coffee-drinking conservation enthusiasts at Whole Foods Market in Reno, sharing the story of his career and of upcoming projects, as the first speaker in a new series of discussions called Coffee and Conservation.
Growing up on a military base in Hawthorne, Bryant saw firsthand the negative effects of upstream agriculture on Walker Lake, as fisheries and water levels declined over time.
“One of the things that I learned with Urban Roots was that despite the agriculture that was my baseline of frustration with the Walker Basin, recognizing, well, we just can’t make it go away,” he said. “Agriculture is here. … We need to figure out how to make it work, make it viable and sustainable,” Bryant said of plans for how to better teach and develop sustainable farming methods in our “foodshed” of the Truckee, Carson and Walker River basins.
Coffee and Conservation, co-sponsored by the Nevada Land Trust and Whole Foods, will be an ongoing series of discussions on conservation issues in our region, featuring monthly talks by different local figures. Although the topics on the table are new, the idea for such a forum is rooted in Reno’s past, according to event organizer Lynda Nelson of the NLT.
“This is sort of a reenactment of a program that was in the community over 10 years ago,” said Nelson. “That was called the Conservation Forum, and it was a really successful gathering of conservation-minded people. It served as a great exchange for folks to find out what was going on—not only in the community, but the legislature, politically, all kinds of things affecting conservation issues.”
The original Conservation Forum was a monthly lunchtime gathering held at the Liberty Belle Restaurant, which closed in 2006—near the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. Though many of the environmental issues, challenges and faces of Reno’s conservation community have changed in the years since the original program’s demise, Nelson now hopes to revive something similar through Coffee and Conservation.
The Conservation Forum “was hosted by some great environmental stalwarts in our community,” said Nelson. “And I sort of felt like that was missing. I hope that if we reenact that same, similar model, that the idea will still be viable today.”
Upcoming speakers include Bill Hauck, senior hydrologist for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, who will present an overview of the Truckee River Operating Agreement on March 17. On April 21, Nevada state climatologist Doug Boyle will give a talk on the water outlook for the coming year. In May, a speaker from the Nevada Department of Wildlife will discuss wildlife conservation issues in the state. After that, all ideas are welcome, said Nelson.