The University of Nevada's University Farm, a working farm used to teach college students about farming and agriculture, is under attack. The University's Board of Regents recently voted to have part of the farm rezoned to a light industrial/commercial site. Unless the City Council or University Regents reverse this decision, the 112-year-old farm could be destroyed by commercial development.
The University of Nevada's College of Agriculture is one of the few colleges in America where students can learn at a working farm on campus. With local, sustainable, urban farms just starting to crop up in cities across America, the country desperately needs collegiate agricultural programs like that which could be offered by University Farm.
As a Reno-based small farmer, I know just how important this farm is to the community. The 1140-acre University Farm is a living piece of history, a hub for agricultural research, and a learning center for America's future generation of farmers. University Farm should be treasured as an invaluable community resource--not destroyed to make way for even more development in Reno.
America already loses more than one acre of farmland to development every minute. Let's not let University Farm become another casualty.
This issue will go before the City Council on December 14, 2011, so it's important to voice support now for conserving all of University Farm. Please sign this petition urging University of Nevada officials and the Reno City Council to protect University Farm.
Local, fresh, healthy food is one of the most important issues concerning everyone from large cities to small rural communities here in Reno, Nevada and across our nation as well as across the globe. People are reconnecting to the vital importance of where their food is grown and more importantly how it is safely and humanely processed. We need your help saving our University-run Farm Station from rezoning and development.
We know that what is happening here in Nevada is happening across the nation. Development pushes out the most important farm land, and hands-on agricultural education in land-grant universities loses its importance. We need the University Farm for research on agriculture that is adaptable and technologically sound, hands-on animal science, educating new farmers on conservation practices that manage water and erosion, learning to operate farm machinery to plant cover crops for soil health, and learning to develop hoop houses to extend seasons. These are education needs that the new, modern farmer will require to adapt to the changing environment. Small farming will invigorate and improve the local food economy.
Here in northern Nevada, we are in a unique circumstance that has fomented a huge, economic change in local food - we have our own small, USDA meat packing plant operated by our University Agriculture College. Local producers are able to have their animals processed, cut, and wrapped for resale with a USDA-certified stamp. It has changed our local farmers' markets and has grown a huge, new interest in local meats and foods through all the new restaurants. Small animal producers can now be profitable because they do not have to finish their animal on a feedlot or ship hundreds of frightened, exhausted, dehydrated animals hundreds of miles to have them humanely processed.
If you are a small producer with specialty meats like goats, your product can reach not only the local consumer, it can be resold at farmers markets, our own Great Basin Co-op, and cross state lines through mail order and direct sales to restaurants who care about innovative local eating.
Food is the basis for all existence. Yet, farmland fails to rank as a priority when development rears its ugly head. Nevada needs the University Farm Station because citizens need open space and land unadulterated by warehouses and commercial business.
Our state like so many others is suffering financially. Unlike other states, we only have state-run higher education. University Nevada Reno is a Land Grant Institution. Established by Federal law, the mission of these institutions as set forth in the Morrill 1862 Act is to focus on the teaching of practical agriculture, science and engineering (though "without excluding ... classical studies"), as a response to the industrial revolution and changing social class.This mission was in contrast to the historic practice of higher education to focus on an abstract Liberal Arts curriculum. Somewhere that mission has been lost on our University officials so much so that they see our farm as a hard asset to be monetized without considering the impact it has on the new economy or the opportunity to create a new and innovative College of Agriculture, now known as CABNR, that could offer an influx of students who want a practical hands on agricultural education, one that they can then become farmers themselves instead of working as managers for the likes of Monsanto or Cargill.
Adaptive, sustainable farming education is changing people's lives. Our Farm Station could lead this education because of the size of our urban university farm. For example, in Michigan, people are finding jobs and hope as urban farms take the lead in stimulating the local economy. They are returning to school to learn a different way to grow things and new ways to manage small animal production.
As with the food movement across this nation, urban farming, sustainable agriculture, school gardens, and in many places former parking lots are becoming small, thriving farms. University Nevada Reno has its own 1100 acre farm and USDA humane meat processing plant, and our current leadership is so shortsighted they wish to sell this jewel of our City for warehousing and commercial development.
Finally, we believe state-owned land belongs to the people. This is not just a local issue, but an issue that affects all food producers and consumers across this nation. We need to protect out food future.
Please help save our University Farm and our USDA meat packing plant from development. The people have spoken, and they wish to keep their farm intact--with zero development--to be used in perpetuity to educate and serve our agriculture and the local food community. An urban farm of this size is vital to the new economic growth of local food and small farmers everywhere. The farm could be the basis of revitalizing an interest in sustainable agriculture, an interest that could be fostered by the University. Perhaps a farmer from our College may feed you or your children one day.
Please protect our local, sustainable food system by saving the University Farm Station from any commercial development.