The last frontier

Apparently, the 104-acre spread of farmland located next to Wolf Pack Meats belongs to University of Nevada, Reno interim president Marc Johnson—or at least that’s what the Reno City Planning Commission would like the public to believe as it moves forward with its plan to rezone and monetize the property, ignoring the public response and the potentially disastrous consequences for regional businesses and homes.

While Wolf Pack Meats itself is not on the annexed land, the Main Station Field Lab is, as a well as the Agricultural Experiment Station, and the loss of the these would render many of WPM’s missions impossible, such as offering organically and humanely raised and humanely—well, as humanely as possible—slaughtered meat to the public and businesses who depend on locally available products, as well as educational opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in the fields and in the labs. WPM is already struggling to make ends meet and is seeking other options to stay afloat, and they are close to breaking even this fiscal year rather than sinking further into debt. That seems hopeful, but it may be short lived.

The outpouring of community support for WPM is indicative of the public’s demand for local agriculture, but per usual, those priorities don’t seem aligned with those of the people in charge. Despite vocal opposition at the Nov. 2 meeting at the Reno City Council Chambers, the planning commissioners moved forward, with a 3-2 vote, a recommendation to rezone and annex the property and prepare it for sale under the pretense of flood regulations. But it doesn’t make much sense to cover one of the last available plots of permeable soil with impermeable concrete, and then put a bunch of offices on top of that (no matter how LEED-certified they may be, as potential applicant Wood Rogers boasts on their company website). If this happens, the next flood could pour into nearby residential and business areas rather than soaking the land—but letting the land dry out and be paved upon is a fitting metaphor for Nevada’s agricultural and economical state.

Community agriculture is besieged around the country, with community supported agricultural (CSA) and independent farms under attack. As cities become more populated, the demand for food increases, but urban farming is at risk. A local food economy may be what saves struggling towns and cities. Nevada needs jobs, research opportunities and a small-business economy, all of which a thriving agricultural community provides. But who benefits from outsourced food and products? Not the many farmers, restaurant owners and consumers who pump money and resources into the community.

The Wild West exists now as a battle between the farmers and the barons, between those who to cultivate the land and those who want to buy it—but when has Nevada been any different?

Know your food, know your farmers, and know your land. Nevada’s economy, environment and community depend on your knowledge.