Hoop Hoop Hooray!

By at February 20, 2017 | 1:06 pm | 0 Comment

hoop house 2


They are a hot new trend on Nevada farms. Drive through Nevada’s rural counties, and you’ll see them popping up everywhere.  It’s not a new crop, but rather a new way to grow crops  in our region. They’re hoop houses, also called high tunnels. You’ll likely see more high tunnel designs on Nevada farms, as they have flat, rather than curved sides, allowing more growing space. A traditional hoop house is more like a Quonset hut. Many people interchange the words, and that’s ok. Either way, they’ve had a big impact on Nevada farming.

A hoop house or high tunnel is a simple structure, built using curved pipes covered with greenhouse plastic.  It’s the low tech, and unheated cousin of a modern greenhouse, using just sun and wind to control the temperature. Another difference is that greenhouse crops are often grown in pots on shelves, hoop house and high tunnel crops are generally grown in the ground using native soil.

Hoop houses began popping up in Nevada about 15 years ago, but really gained popularity over the past five years.  Credit the area’s harsh winters, unpredictable weather, high winds and short growing season for that.  A hoop house can extend the traditional growing season by at least two months, and some farmers are able to grow cold-hardy crops year round inside a hoop house.


hoop house latingLattin Farms was an early adopter of hoop houses and high tunnels. Rick Lattin now has 19 on his property in Fallon. This winter he is growing and harvesting carrots, kale, spinach, and several lettuces. Not only do the houses benefit his farming operation, they also benefit Fallon residents who are able to eat local, fresh produce in the coldest months. Much of the produce is delivered to the Fallon Food Hub.



Lotspeith Family Farms near Elko is in its second season of hoop house farming.
Dan Lotspeith says his winter lotspeithspinach and carrots are exceptionally sweet and flavorful. He’s also growing Swiss chard and snap peas. He says despite subzero temperatures this winter they will have a nice harvest next month. Dan agrees that hoop house farming is a great idea and he is planning to triple his number of structures.

Holley Family Farms grows cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, greens and some root vegetables in six hoop houses on their Dayton farm. The houses allow them to get a jump start on the growing season and have fresh produce at the early farmers markets in Western Nevada. Rob Holley and all the farmers we talked to, say not only do hoop houses extend the growing season, but they also help produce a better crop of tomatoes and peppers in the summer. The structures protect the plants from Nevada’s hot and dry winds and create a better growing environment and better produce which is more appealing to consumers.

It’s not always easy to find local produce in the winter, but the Fallon Food Hub in Fallon and Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno are two good places to look. You can also find it in some local restaurants. City Green Gardens in Reno just harvested winter kale for The Old Granite Street Eatery in Reno, and they also provide produce to 4th Street Bistro, La Strada, Roxy’s and Grateful Gardens.

There’s no reason to believe that the popularity of hoop houses and high tunnels will wane anytime soon as there is really no downside. We’re betting more and more hoops and tunnels will be setting down roots across the state. Want to learn more? Go to


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Food, Festivities and Fruitcake!

By at December 13, 2016 | 1:37 pm | 0 Comment

Ah, the holidays: the time of year we celebrate with food, festivities and dare we say fruitcake?  Love it or loathe it, it’s an iconic symbol of the season.

fruitcake-1Fruitcakes date back to ancient Rome. Their compact size and long shelf life made them a favorite of Roman soldiers who brought them to the battle fields. An early recipe lists pomegranate seeds, pinenuts and raisins as primary ingredients. The cakes quickly became popular throughout Europe, with many countries creating their own variations. Dried fruits, honey and other spices found their way into the cakes during the Middle Ages, alcohol was added during the Victorian Era. When the cakes caught on in America, they became even sweeter and nuttier due to the low cost of sugar and nuts. They also became boozier, as alcohol-soaked loaves had a much longer shelf life.

So how did the humble holiday cake get so maligned? Some blame Johnny Carson. The late night show host once joked in his monologue that there was really only one fruitcake in the world, and it just kept getting passed around. However, even before The Tonight Show, fruitcake was the butt of jokes on Father Knows Best and the Donna Reed Show. But, public opinion may have begun to change much earlier in 1913 when the cakes became massed produced and available via mail order.


Whether you are a fan or not, you might enjoy a few fun fruitcake facts:

  • Fruitcake has traveled to space. A pineapple fruitcake traveled on board Apollo 11 with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. However, they must not have liked it since it returned to earth uneaten and is now on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
  • Truman Capote based a popular short story on a fruitcake baking escapade. Published in 1956 “A Christmas Memory”, tells the story of two cousins, one in her 60s the other just seven, who spend a day baking fruitcakes for an eclectic group of friends. The story in now part of many holiday celebrations.
  • Two American towns claim to be the “Fruitcake Capitol of the World”. Claxton, Georgia, and Corsicana, Texas, both boast the title. Collin Street Bakery in Texas has been making the cakes since 1986. And the Georgia Fruit Cake Company in Claxton, Georgia, claims to bake four million pounds of fruitcake a year.
  • December 27 is National Fruit Cake Day.
  • A cake well soaked in alcohol can last years. In fact, a Michigan family has a cake baked in 1878. Jay Leno bravely sampled it on the Tonight Show in 2003.
  • In the 1800s, unmarried English wedding guests would put a slice of fruitcake under their pillow to help them dream about their future spouse.

Now, we know there are tasty fruitcakes out there. In another tie to The Tonight Show, Truman Capote’s cousin Marie Rudisill published a collection of fruitcake recipes titled Fruitcake in an effort to improve the cake’s reputation. The book brought an invitation to appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Johnny Carson’s successor. During her appearance, Rudisill taught Leno and guest Mel Gibson the art of fruitcake making. It was such a hit that she appeared several more times on the show in her own segment, The Fruitcake Lady.

Whether you are enjoying fruitcake or not this holiday season, we hope all of our NevadaGrown family and friends celebrate and enjoy the season with family and friends – even if you believe a few of them are nuttier than a fruitcake.

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Wild about Winter Squash!

By at November 2, 2016 | 1:33 pm | 0 Comment


We see the displays this time of year, squash of different shapes, colors and sizes in bins at grocery stores and harvest festivals. Many of us don’t know quite what to do with them beyond Thanksgiving dinner or fall table decorations.

Winter squash, as they are often called, refers to a myriad of colorful squashes. The name is a bit of a misnomer as winter squashes are actually harvested in the fall, but get the moniker because the fruit (yes, fruit) has a long shelf life and stores well over the winter. Another benefit, winter squash packs a healthy punch, providing a good dose of riboflavin and iron as well as vitamin C and A.

So let’s get cooking. Most likely you’re already familiar with pumpkins, butternut and spaghetti squash, but there are many others you should consider adding to your meals this time of year. Be adventurous and try some of the more “exotic” squash that are available now.


Delicata squash is a great option for fans of butternut squash. It’s like a richer, creamier version with the added bonus of being smaller and easier to cut, clean and cook. Try roasting the squash, and use a metal pan if you like it caramelized.

Kabocha squash is often referred to as a Japanese pumpkin. Wildly popular in Japan, is now catching on here in the United States.

When roasted it takes on the flavor of roasted chestnuts. You can use it the winter-squash-1same way you would use butternut or pumpkin. The Japanese often use it in tempura.

When picking out a winter squash look for a hard, cork-like stem and deep color. It’s OK if there’s a pale spot, that’s where it rested on the ground. Just make sure there are no cracks. Don’t worry about refrigeration, store the squash in a cool dark place, it will keep for up to three months. You’ll know it’s past its prime if it starts to get soft. You’ll want to throw those out.

Still need inspiration? Check out the NevadaGrown cookbook for some ideas. It’s time to give winter squash a place on your dinner plate and not just the dinner table.




Corn Maze Mania

By at September 21, 2016 | 8:21 pm | 0 Comment


The seasons are changing, the cool mornings and warm afternoons signal fall is on the way, and with it comes some favorite fall traditions: pumpkin patches and corn mazes.

Corn mazes are relatively new to the United States. The first known American corn maze was built in 1993 in Annville, Pennsylvania. The first in Nevada was built in 1998 at Lattin Farms in Fallon. The mazes are considered American interpretations of the ancient labyrinths.

For most people, navigating the twists and turns is a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening, but for many farmers, mazes are serious business, often providing additional income after the growing season ends, as well as educating urban dwellers about agriculture and farming.

Specialty maze companies are often hired to help farmers design and build these modern day labyrinths.  First, a design is chosen, and some can be quite elaborate. Mazes have been made into the shapes of Scooby Doo, the galaxy and even Johnny Cash.

After the design, the seeds are planted, usually in June, and that’s no small feat. A dense maze requires 36 thousand seeds per acre, planted in grids, as opposed to traditional rows. With most mazes covering a few acres that number adds up. Once the seeds sprout and the seedlings are several inches tall, the maze pattern is marked and the path is cut, usually by mowing the unwanted seedlings. The remaining stalks are allowed to grow, often reaching 10 feet tall.  When the maze closes for the season, the corn is harvested and used for livestock feed, and the process begins all over again.

This year the infamous Great Pumpkin may actually rise out of the pumpkin patch. Two Northern Nevada farms have been chosen to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”.  Lattin Farms in Fallon and Lazy P Farm in Winnemucca will feature custom designed mazes commemorating the beloved Peanuts characters.


The fall festivities at Lattin Farms begin September 23 with the opening of the corn maze, and the farm will host a   special moonlight maze on October 15 during the full moon. Other activities include a pumpkin patch, hayrides, a kid’s corner and more. For hours and more information go to

Lazy P Farm in Winnemucca will debut this year’s corn maze on October 1, along with a pumpkin patch. The farm also offers a flash light corn maze during the evenings. While that isn’t designed to scare you the Farmer’s Harvest Barn of Terror is sure to give you the chills. Enter if you dare beginning October 15. You can find all the information at

Other corn mazes and pumpkin patches across Nevada sure to delight you:



At Andelin Family Farm in Sparks, the corn maze and pumpkin patch will open on September 24. This year’s maze features a USA theme. For those wanting a more frightening experience, the Corn Creepers Haunt and new this year, Zombie Paintball Apocalypse are sure to haunt. For more information go to

Corley Ranch in Gardnerville opens its Fall Festival every weekend in October. Visitors can enjoy the pumpkin patch, train rides, miniature golf and other family friendly activities. More information is available here:

Renner Farms in Smith will open a corn maze and pumpkin patch on September 29. It will be open seven days a week through October 31. Information and location can be found at

For Southern Nevadans, the pumpkin patch at Gilcrease Orchard in Las Vegas is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from September 26 through October 31.  More details are available at

For a complete list of farm events, visit


Mad about Melons

By at August 22, 2016 | 11:35 am | 0 Comment

Heart of GoldThis time of year we’re all mad about melons. In Nevada, the fruit is at its peak harvest right now. While farmers markets and produce aisles are packed with Casabas, honeydews and Crenshaws, here in Nevada, the Heart of Gold steals the show. The melon is an heirloom in the cantaloupe family, and one Nevada town even holds a festival in its honor. More on that later, but first, some history.

The cantaloupe was named after the town of Cantalupo, near Tivoli, Italy, a summer residence of the Pope. It’s thought that the melons originated in India and the Middle East. Christopher Columbus brought the first cantaloupe seeds to America on his second voyage in 1494.

Roland Morill, a Michigan farmer developed the Heart of Gold variety when he crossed the Osage melon with the Netted Gem melon in 1890. He was granted a trademark for it in 1914.

Homesteaders planted cantaloupes in the early 1900s and according to the Fallon Convention and Tourism Authority, O.J. Vannoy was first to grow the Heart of Gold in the Fallon area. They became abundant in the 20s and 30s.

chris holloman - girls with lattin farms melonsRick Lattin of Lattin Family Farms is quite familiar with the history of the Hearts of Gold. His family started growing the melons in the 50s. He says the area’s higher altitude gives Nevada-grown Heart of Gold melons better flavor.  His farm is one of just 12 Nevada family farms growing the crop today. While loved for their sweet juicy flavor, the fruit has a shelf life of just a few days, so shipping is difficult. As new varieties of hybrid cantaloupes have developed, the demand for the Heart of Gold has faded.  Hybrid varieties have a longer shelf life and still retain a sweet, juicy flavor.

While still a “boutique” crop, Heart of Gold melons are seeing a resurgence in popularity. The local food movement may be a big reason as organizations such as NevadaGrown work to educate people on where their food comes from, and eating seasonally and locally. You can also grow your own, as seeds are readily available.

Wrapped MelonThis month you’ll find Heart of Gold melons showing up at your local farmers markets. Be sure to take one home. You can enjoy the tasty fruit just as it is, or wrapped with prosciutto and drizzled with balsamic vinegar or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can find more ideas in the NevadaGrown cookbook NevadaGrown: A Year in Local Food.

cantaloupeAnd back to that festival. The Fallon Cantaloupe Festival takes place over the Labor Day weekend. The event celebrates the areas rich agriculture and history. Find out more at


5 Things We Love About Edible Flowers

By at June 3, 2015 | 11:58 am | 0 Comment

Photo credit

Edible flowers make for the perfect garnish when you’re trying to add a touch of vibrancy to an ordinary dish. The range of flowers is surprising—some taste floral while others are surprisingly spicy. Have fun sampling the fare and mixing varieties to elevate any recipe. Here are a few reasons why we think you should start incorporating edible flowers to dishes.

Photo credit Chef’s Garden

1. Add a pop of color

The bright colors add a bit of excitement to a familiar dish. Surprise guests with a salad that incorporates purple and pink hues.

Photo credit Miso Bakes

2. Candied flowers

Flower petals can be crystalized and incorporated into sweet dishes like cakes and cookies. Try using pansies or violets for a sweet and elegant addition.

Photo credit Meg Thompson

3. Freeze them into ice cubes or popsicles

Add the colors of spring to ice cubes or popsicles by freezing fresh whole flowers. This is the perfect solution to jazz up a glass of water or add a touch of whimsy to a classic frozen treat.

Photo credit

4. Nutritional value

Many edible flowers such as nasturtium, daylily and dandelion contain vitamin C.  To get your daily dose, try adding nasturtium or dandelions to a salad.


Photo credit Winnie Abramson

5. Old school preserves

Use a mortar and pestle and a 1:2 ratio of fresh flowers to sugar for a classic preserve. Rose or lavender varieties are great choices for a sweet spread.   Check out your local farmers markets or ask your favorite farmers for NevadaGrown edible flowers. If you’re able to find this colorful treat, be sure to purchase it on the spot because this seasonal delicacy can be a rare find. Or try looking at Meadow Valley Farm in Moapa, north of Las Vegas, to get your flower fix. The farm also offers CSA Baskets with fresh produce options that sometimes include fresh edible flowers.

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NevadaGrown is a nonprofit Nevada corporation whose mission is to foster the success of sustainable agriculture and to encourage healthy eating for Nevada's communities through education, support and promotion.

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