Reno City Council votes against a sustainable food future


The majority of our city leaders did not vote to protect the land that will educate our future farmers of Nevada.  The 104 acres at UNR’s Main Station Farm (MSF) is also only about 100 ft away from the state of Nevada’s only currently USDA certified slaughter house facility, Wolf Pack Meats (WPM).  Imagine various types of commercial development such as industrial office parks, convenient stores, and other non-compatible retail entities.  History has shown us that commercial development and meat processing facilities do not co-exist well.  The Great Basin Community Food Cooperative is Nevada’s only grocery retail outlet that stocks and carries grass-fed, organically raised beef, pork, lamb, goat and bison meats from local ranchers.  Many of our ranchers use WPM to process their goods, the future of this activity remains uncertain at best.

The 104 acres at MSF are also some of the most fertile acreage in the city of Reno as it lies directly in the floodplain.  This unique flooding situation has created life promoting micro-ecology and the biomass activity that would take decades to cultivate in other soil regions.  It is such a tragedy to take this asset away from our land grant university as an educational tool that could help students to understand the role that soil health plays in healthy growing and sustainable food systems.

Joel Salatin, the famous farmer of Polyface Farms in the movie Food Inc., visited Reno about a month ago and upon arrival at MSF he commented on what an amazing community asset we had and he urged us to do everything within our power to retain it.  Last night council members Jenny Brekhus and Oscar Delgado carried the torch and aimed for a new and brighter food future for our city.  Unfortunately, Mayor Bob Cashell and council members Sharon Zadra, Neoma Jardon and Dwight Dortch blew the torch out by voting in favor of the UNR PUD to rezone this site for commercial development.  Council woman Hillary Schieve had to abstain for personal relationship issues.

I am disappointed in our city leadership and their recent decision to blatantly ignore the thousands of constituents who have voiced their opposition over the past two years.  Last night we heard passionate testimony from Future Farmers of America, USDA State representatives, the Nevada Farm Bureau and everyone in between.  Ex city council members Jessica Sferrazza and Dave Aiazzi gave brilliant speeches that were followed by some of our area’s best local producers.

I am also very disturbed by how UNR’s president Marc Johnson’s misrepresented the current efforts that the department of agriculture is pursuing in regards to small scale production education.  Several of his comments on record were far from what I understand the truth to be as one of the stakeholders who participated in the last year and a half of meetings with UNR administration and faculty.  I encourage any concerned citizens to watch the final minutes of last night’s city hall meeting (soon to be published on their website).  Mark O’Farrell of Hungry Mother Organics basically stood up and called out Mr. Johnson and the UNR faculty for being disingenuous in their statements and misleading about what is truly happening with the current curriculum and future of agriculture at UNR.

The good news is that nothing is ever over until we decide that it’s over…and let’s face it, we’re Nevadans!  Even with next-to-nothing-chances and a lack of resources, we will rise above and figure it out for ourselves.  The real assets that we have are our people we will continue to build the new vision of our city from the bottom up.

Thank you to everyone who participated, showed support and rallied for this cause.  High fives to all of the local restaurants, businesses and farmers who publicly opposed (Campo, Granite, Sup, Beaujolais, Gino’s Soup, Albaugh Ranch, Lost City Farms, Holley Family Farms, Back 40, GirlFarm, Sodbuster, Churchill Butte, Hungry Mother Organics, and SO MANY MORE!!!).  I feel better just knowing that you all are out there holding your own unique piece of this mystery.

Check out some important info below on SB 255 to protect monies received from the sales of land at UNR’s Main Station Farm…like I said, it’s not over until it’s over. :)

In local food solidarity,

Amber Sallaberry
Co-founder & General Manager
Great Basin Community Food Co-op

Thanks to the Nevada Farm Bureau there is a bill being heard on Monday April 1st at 3:30pm.  SB 255, the bill will require the proceeds and rents from the sale or lease of agricultural research assets to be used only for agricultural education or applied research.  This committee normally holds their committee meetings in Room 2149 of the legislative building in Carson City.  A good turnout of supporters for the proposal will be very helpful in highlighting how important this bill is.

If you can’t attend please write or call!

Chair Senator Joyce Woodhouse
Office Phone: 775-684-1457

Senator Ruben Kiheun
Office Phone:  775-684-1427

Senator Don Gustavson
Office Phone:  775-684-1480

Senator Aaron Ford
Office Phone:  775-684-6502

Senator Barbara Cegavske
Office Phone:  775-684-1445

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