Lost girls

Lost City Farm finds a home in Midtown

Urban farmers Lyndsey Langsdale, left, and Toni Ortega will be planting crops near downtown Reno.

Urban farmers Lyndsey Langsdale, left, and Toni Ortega will be planting crops near downtown Reno.

Photo By ashley hennefer

A fundraiser for Lost City Farm will be A fundraiser for the farm will be held on Feb. 16, 6 p.m. at Sundance Bookstore.

With a few piles of manure atop a muddy ground, the whimsical-sounding Lost City Farm doesn’t look like much now—but by the spring, founders Toni Ortega and Lyndsey Langsdale hope it will be well on its way to becoming a bustling food hub in the heart of Midtown.

“We were interested in stewarding a vacant lot,” says Ortega. “It’s exciting to us. People are really ready for this.”

But there’s much to be done first, including cultivating the plot of land, just shy of an acre on the corner of Moran and Center streets, which has never been cultivated before.

“This first year will be highly experimental,” Ortega says. “We’re curious to see how much food we can grow in an acre.”

“There’s still a lot of infrastructure to build,” says Langsdale. “We’ll start planting in March in a greenhouse, and planting here in April.”

Lost City Farm has a three-year lease on the property, and plans to grow vegetables and offer a farm stand and ideally, a greenhouse or hoophouse.

“We’d like to stay in production year round,” Langsdale said.

But until recently, it wasn’t legal to farm on this land—Langsdale and Ortega went to the City Council and enacted the urban farming ordinance, which now permits farmers to grow vegetables and raise hens on city land. The ordinance was approved in September 2012.

Both women attended the University of Nevada, Reno. Ortega has art and geography degrees and Langsdale is an anthropologist. After spending time elsewhere, working on farms in neighboring states, they reunited and discussed the need for Reno to have a centrally-located urban farm.

“We thought, ‘Why not Reno?’” says Ortega. “It has a lot of entrepreneurial small businesses here. It was a great place to start something like this.”

The name, evocative of fairytales or mystical lands, was inspired by the first known cultivated land in Nevada, called the Lost City. Ortega and Langsdale hunted for inspiration at the Nevada Historical Society before coming across the story.

The two hope to turn the farm into a neighborhood beautification project, too. They’ve already gotten approval from nearby residents to paint murals on the garage doors facing the farm, and they also hope to have a mural on the far wall, currently part of a motel. Once growing season is underway, Langsdale and Ortega hope to sell vegetables wholesale to restaurants or local businesses, such as the Great Basin Food Co-op. They also have plans for a bicycle food delivery service, seed exchange and a tool-lending library.

At this point, Langsdale and Ortega shoulder much of the work themselves, but give credit to Reno’s strong support system for local farmers.

“Every farmer in this area has probably called us and given advice,” Ortega says. “We’ve had a lot of offers for volunteers.” Others have also helped by donating horse manure and other supplies.

Both say that this farm location could be temporary—“this parcel could be sold” once the lease is up, Ortega says—but think that three years will be enough time to determine the interest and demand for urban farming.

“We just hope we can set an example for what can be done here,” says Ortega.