I’ve been on a personal mission to buy more locally produced food and products, but it’s not cheap and it’s not easy. I can’t always make it the farmer’s market on weekends, and quite honestly, I just don’t always know what’s local on the grocery store shelf. But I recently learned about the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s Buy Nevada program, and I had the opportunity to meet some of its members. Meeting the farmers behind the local produce and meeting the creators of local goods resulted in a bit of an epiphany for me: I can’t save the world, but I can start somewhere. I don’t have the time to drive from farm to farm or shop to shop to stock my entire kitchen with local goods, but I can make small, everyday choices that support my local farmers. So here are a handful of local businesses you can support that will make a difference, however small, it’s still significant.
Who knew there’s a berry farm in Carson Valley? Not me… until this week. Jacobs Family Berry Farm is in Gardnerville very close to Lampe Park. The farm specializes in several varieties of raspberries and blackberries, as well as honey and berry products. (It’s also a GORGEOUS wedding venue!) The farm doesn’t sell at farmers markets simply because it can’t compete with the larger berry producers from California. Berries are $8/pint, so they’re not grocery-store cheap but they’re still affordable. The farm is beautiful, and a great weekend excursion with kids. You can walk around the grounds and see the berries on the vines, learn about the different varieties, and go home with a pint or two of locally grown berries.
Wine shouldn’t be a hard sell. We all love it, we all drink it (right? or is that just me?). And both our northern Nevada wineries make delicious, readily available wines that you can find at just about any supermarket. They’re affordable ($14 for the Churchill Vineyards Riesling, and $14 for the Tahoe Ridge Chardonnay, for example), and by supporting our local wineries, you’re supporting a burgeoning industry whose success will only benefit our state. Forgive my soapbox a bit, but Nevada’s economy needs to diversify. We have a similar climate and terrain to eastern Washington’s, which supports a thriving wine industry. We are already producing award-winning wines, so let’s celebrate those victories and help our winemakers expand and bring in more tax revenue – you know, those dollars that support our schools and services and infrastructure. If this topic interest you and you want to learn more about the movers and shakers who are working to develop a viable wine industry in Nevada, check out Nevada Vines and Wines, a nonprofit organization that partners with the University of Nevada to research and develop desert-hardy grapes and produce wines.
Churchill Vineyards has spent several years experimenting with distilled spirits and has just completed construction on a large distillery at its winery. Watch for the Frey label on vodka, whiskey, and other spirits. Likewise, Tahoe Ridge has expanded to feature olive oils and balsamic vinegar in its tasting room. Oh my goodness, the wild mushroom/sage oil is heaven! Stop by the tasting room in Minden and sample everything from chocolate balsamic vinegar to chipotle olive oil. On Saturdays, the winery hosts a short olive oil demonstration with lunch and wine for only $20.
Since we’re in the toasting spirit now, let’s talk about Seven Troughs. This is a small distillery currently operating out of a warehouse in Sparks and producing – forgive my French – damn good moonshine and rum. And here’s the really cool part: You can buy a personalized mini-barrel and even help make the whiskey and take home your own barrel of whiskey. The distillery isn’t bottling its Nevada bourbon whiskey yet, so this is the only way you can get it. Oh yeah, did I mention that all the ingredients are nearly entirely sourced locally? Seven Troughs gets its rye from Churchill Vineyards, actually. And the corn is all Fallon-grown! This is a Nevada product from start to finish, and the finish is oh so tasty! Bonus idea: They do bachelor parties and other special events!
All organic. All non-GMO. All Fair Trade. And all Nevadan. Ok, so no, we don’t grow tea in Nevada, but Davidson’s Tea is a Nevada family business that imports, blends, packages, and distributes tea, all from its Sparks warehouse. You can find Davidson’s at local grocery stores, and it’s comparable in price to other high-quality brands. Sure, Celestial Seasonings is good, but you could spend a little bit more to support a local family and buying Davidson’s. Easy.
The best way to support your local farmers is simply to join the co-op, or at least shop there. Membership is $20/year, and members get special sales and privileges, but non-members are welcome to shop at the store in downtown Reno. The co-op buys from more than 75 local and regional farms, so by shopping at the co-op, you’re supporting all those farmers that you don’t have time to visit individually. I personally love shopping at Lattin Farms’ produce stand in Fallon, for example, but I don’t have the time or gas budget to drive out to Fallon every week. But I can get my Churchill wine, Lattin melons, Davidson’s Tea, and Alpine Ranch beef all in one place. The money I spend is staying here in our community. That’s a pretty tasty investment!
Another great way to support your local farmers is to eat at restaurants that buy from them. Planning a romantic dinner out with the hubs? Try Bricks in Reno – they buy locally and even featured Jacobs Family berries in a dessert recently! Have a business lunch coming up? Make reservations at CAMPO or Heritage, both in downtown Reno and both belonging to Mark Estee, quite possibly the godfather of farm-to-fork in Reno (shout out to Charlie Abowd, the godfather of farm-to-fork in Carson City!).
Supporting local businesses and local products makes a real difference to those businesses. And it doesn’t have to take a lot of effort on our part. I’m committing to shopping at the Great Basin Co-op at least once a month. I go to Reno often enough that I can manage to swing by the co-op once a month so at least a portion of my family’s food is local. And I might just tell my husband that, for the good of our economy and ultimately our children (think of the children!), he MUST take me out to dinner at CAMPO tonight. It’s our social responsibility, right?
What local businesses do you like to support? What farms, ranches, or goods do you just love that are right here in northern Nevada? I’d love to hear them!
Full disclosure: My day job is to promote Nevada, and the opportunity to visit these local farms, restaurants, and attractions came about through a tour I conducted as part of my job. I did not plan to write about it because it’s just my job, but I was so inspired by what I learned, that I couldn’t keep it to myself. This blog post was not sponsored and is my honest opinion about our local businesses.