When local is California
Where are all the Nevada farmers at Nevada farmers’ markets?
Sun-kissed tomatoes, fleshy cantaloupe, sweet corn, mounds of green beans. Nevada farmers’ markets are a picture of nature’s bounty. One of the few things not in abundance at Nevada farmers’ markets? Nevada farmers. Though each market has a few locals representing the state, the majority of vendors come from California. Even at the large market in Sparks on July 1, less than 15 percent of farmers were Nevadan.
“Local in Nevada means California,” says Nevada Certified Farmers Market Association executive director Linda Marrone. “It’s unfortunate, but it does.”
Marrone runs the downtown Carson City farmers’ market, and she says 10 Nevada farmers are part of that market, but three of them don’t have anything to bring yet. So there, as at other local markets, California farmers fill in the gaps, which Marrone says they can do by a curious double standard: California farmers can sell at Nevada farmers’ markets, but Nevada farmers can’t sell at California markets.
Not that residents don’t appreciate the plump berries, the juicy peaches, and the earlier tomatoes California farmers bring to Nevada residents. The Nevada growing season is a short one, and local consumers benefit from the longer season farmers across the border enjoy.
Fallon is home to many Northern Nevada farmers. Yet, even there, “The farmers I have now are all out of California,” says Fallon market manager Don Hardy. “None of the crops are in here yet.” He expects that roughly 30 percent of the farmers will be from Nevada by August. He also notes that more farmers seem to be taking the route of CSAs—Community Supported Agriculture, where consumers subscribe to a season of produce from one or a cooperative of local farms. Marrone mentions this trend, as well.
“A lot of people are starting their own CSAs,” says Marrone, naming Rise and Shine Farms, Girl Farm’s Grow for Me program and Salisha’s Delicious as new ones. “It’s a for-sure sale instead of a maybe sale.”
And whereas CSAs are a commitment between the farmer and subscriber, farmers’ markets are primarily a commitment for the farmer.
“It’s getting up early, picking your stuff before you come, spending four hours at the market, then driving,” says Marrone. “It’s an eight-or-nine-hour day every time.”
Through the wonders of intercropping, Salisha Odum of Salisha’s Delicious grows a wide variety of vegetables on less than an acre in Fallon. She has her own CSA, supplies produce to four others, and sells at a few local markets and the Great Basin Community Food Co-op.
“They give us a really good price for our vegetables, and then I’m done,” she says of the CSAs. “I don’t have to go down to the farmers’ market and sit there for a long time to sell as many vegetables.”
In general, if consumers want to eat most of their produce from Northern Nevada farmers all summer long, they should look to CSAs—though even many of them supplement with California produce, especially fruits. The other option is to have patience, enjoy the offerings from California, and wait as more Nevada crops—and Nevada farmers—come to market later in the summer.