University of Nevada, Reno’s Main Station Farm
Supporters and advocates of Wolf Pack Meats and the University of Nevada, Reno’s agricultural future finally got some good news at the Reno City Council meeting on Dec. 14 after the Council voted to continue discussion with the university over the 104 acres designated to be sold to pay off university debt (“Saving graze,” Nov. 3). The meeting was called after three appellants and councilmember Jessica Sferrazza appealed the decision back in November. More than 200 people filled the council chambers, including regional farmers, university students, teachers from the Washoe County School District, and Occupy Reno participants.
A three-month continuation was agreed upon by the university president Marc Johnson and the Council.
“If you’re not planning on developing the property for seven to 20 years, I don’t understand the logic behind not waiting for a continuum,” Sferrazza said. Johnson initially objected to a six-month continuance suggested by Sferrazza, but three months was determined to be enough time for Johnson to organize a series of town hall meetings with the community.
While attendees rejoiced over the continuance, many still chose to speak in favor of the farmland, and WPM in hopes that it will set the tone for upcoming discussions. Several members of the Council supported this opportunity to hear out the public. Sferrazza said she received 3,828 emails about the rezoning issue and in support of WPM.
“You all did your jobs,” she said to the public.
“I got emails from Texas, Louisiana,” said Reno Mayor Robert Cashell.
The council was also presented with the Change.org petition started by Wendy Baroli from Grow for Me Sustainable Farm, which collected more than 10,000 signatures (“Be the change,” Dec. 15) from across the country. At press deadline, the petition was up to 11,468 signatures. Baroli plans to keep the petition open during the continuance period.
Erik Holland, an appellant and a local artist, spoke first, calling on the community to pitch in their fair share of taxes to help fund the university. Ann Louhela, director of NevadaGrown, shared a PowerPoint presentation displaying local farms, and spoke to the necessity of a thriving regional food market. She also stated that because the university receives finding for agriculture, it is obligated to offer farm and food programs for students.
“This land is intellectual property,” Louhela said.
Haley Anderton-Folmer, a UNR graduate student in land use planning policy, urged the council and university to discuss plans and proposals with the students who will be affected by the changes.
“I feel that the students have not been included,” she said. “I ask that this administration doesn’t close the door on discussions with the students.”
While officials from the university insist that the planned unit development and Wolf Pack Meats are separate issues, many supporters insist that the loss of the Main Station Farm land would quickly put WPM out of business. WPM’s financial struggle also makes it an easy target for closure, but Johnson said that he had met with Wolf Pack Meats’ stakeholders on Dec. 9, including representatives from local co-ops, food producers and restaurant owners, to discuss options that would allow the university to stop subsidizing the facility without having to shut it down. At this point, Johnson said that the university is looking for someone to purchase or lease the facility.