Melon folks

Jennifer Ott


At the University of Nevada Farm in Washoe County, a project was launched of adding “NEVADA MELON/ SINFULLY SWEET” stickers to melons grown in the state. We spoke with Jennefer Ott, manager of the Desert Farming Initiative. The idea is that by publicizing one specific product, it will raise the profile of Nevada farming in general. The Initiative on Sept. 13 will also hold an elegant $95 fund-raising “Farm to Fork” dinner of local food to raise money for farming internships. Details are available at

What’s happening here?

We are launching today our branding campaign of the Nevada melon. Nevada melons are a historical fruit in Nevada. We’ve been growing Nevada melons here for generations. And, in an effort to highlight in our state and to bring a little recognition to what our farmers are doing, we’re branding the Nevada melon to make customers a little bit more aware about the great things that we’re doing in the state.

I noticed that one of the melons on display over there is labeled the Heart of Gold. We’re in Washoe County. Isn’t the Heart of Gold by definition grown in Fallon?

Fallon, yes. The Heart of Gold is grown in many different places, but Fallon has done a wonderful job of putting the Heart of Gold melon on the map. It’s one of the many melons that are available in Nevada, and it’s definitely sweet, but there’s other melons available from other growers as well. We don’t want to take anything away from Fallon.

One of the things I always heard about the Heart of Gold is that it is so tender, it does not ship well. It’s best eaten locally. Is that true?

Yes. That is actually true. One of the reasons people love the Heart of Gold is because it is so sweet—it’s so tender. It’s ready to eat as soon as you pick it. And so, yes, it doesn’t travel well, but there are a lot of other melons that we grow here that do travel well.

Why do melons need branding?

I don’t know that they need branding as much as it is that we want to bring recognition to agriculture. We really want to show people that we grow really great vegetables and fruits here, and one of the things that we grow really great well here is melons. We just have the perfect climate for it. We have a lot of knowledge, historical knowledge about growing melons, and we just want to bring light to that.

We are in a record heat summer. Are melons a water-efficient crop?

They are, as long as you’re doing the production practices properly. So most of the plants are planted under plastic mulch, which helps the evaporation in the soil. Most melons are grown using drip irrigation, so that’s also a very water efficient way of growing melons. There’s some melon growers that irrigate their fields once or twice a year, so it is a very water-efficient crop.

Is this like a school project, or is it a commercial venture?

This is a commercial venture. It is a marketing venture in order to help farmers. We work with farmers who farm for a living. I happen to manage a project that works with students and educates them about farming and farming practices, and so it’s a little bit of both. It’s a way for our farmers and the students at the university and in the community also to work together.