Credit Where Credit is Due Part 2: Reno and Northern Nevada’s Locally Grown Goodness

Written and Photograpy by Jake Conlee

Buy Nevada at Great Basin Community Food Co Op

Buy Nevada at Great Basin Community Food Co Op

The entire purpose of the agri-tour sounded like a no-brainer, the relationship between the food we eat at some select local eateries, and the local (and not so local) farms supplying them the many products they offer. I could have never imagined the scope of how this orchestra of nature, hard work, ingenuity, logistics, shipping and coordination would be, once in motion. It is a beautiful thing; the farmers speak highly of the stores, outlets, and restaurants, and the farmers are regarded as industry heroes. Kind of the way things should be, it’s romantic, evocative, timeless and sustainable, it IS a no-brainer. But it’s harder to implement on a large scale than you might think.

Our first day of the agri-tour, we rumbled out of Reno in a beast of a Chevy Van, thanks to our friends at the Nevada Commission on Tourism (NCoT), southward towards the Carson Valley. The sun was bright and it was just the beginning of a day that would be a revelation to me. But at the time, I had no idea of the people, places and things that we were about to see over the next 10 hours. My hosts and supporting cast of media villains were two delightful women from NCoT, a very knowledgeable and fun pair from the Nevada Dept of Agriculture (NDA), Edible Reno-Tahoe magazine’s publishers who are very well vested in all things food, wine and communities involving Reno, Yelp’s Community Manager for Reno, who is equally as well known and extremely helpful for local businesses. I was definitely in very good company.

 

Doesn't get fresher than that.

Doesn’t get fresher than that.

Our tour began at Jacobs Family Berry Farm, nestled in a quiet corner, in the middle of Gardnerville. When we pulled off onto a dusty track, we approached a small collection of hoop houses and rows of blackberry and raspberry vines. A large open barn sits at the back of the property and a glimmering chandelier hangs proudly above a wood beamed floor. Out front, a meticulously restored farm house nestled amongst the trees and gardens stands as sentinel in the center of the berry farm. Less than a mile from the major thoroughfares, you would never know it, as the peace and quiet are captivating. Greeted by Jack, purveyor of berries and spectacular host and a beautiful bunch of blackberries and raspberries picked straight from the vines and into our mouths. As we munched on Jaclyn Raspberries and Triple Crown Blackberries, we went over the history of the farm and homestead, and the history and passion for the berries. Did you know??? There are 160 different varieties of raspberries? I didn’t, and if you can find them, eat a Jaclyn Raspberry and Natchez Blackberry, they are epiphany in the form of a berry. Just incredible.

Local honey is great for seasonal allergies

Local honey is great for seasonal allergies

As we walked around Jacobs Family Berry Farm, Jack’s passion for the farm is written in the soil itself. He speaks of the weddings he hosts at the farm, which is a perfect setting for a wedding, he also talks of the hands on learning process of growing, tending and caring for all of his berry plants. There are also a collection of beehives near the “crane” at the far end of the farm. These honeybees pollinate on the berry farm, so you can just imagine how sweet and fragrant that the honey harvested from a berry farm can be. We walk through the large hoop house, which he tells us was built by the hands of his grandson and a 14 year old neighbor, and this is where I encountered my favorite berry of all time, the Natchez Blackberry. A football of a berry, it is sweet, tart and when biting into the berry, you are rewarded with a mouthful of juicy and seedless blackberry juice. I want one right now. If you are in the Carson Valley and would like to escape, go give Jack at Jacobs Family Berry Farm a visit, you will not be sorry that you did.

Chocolate Shoppe in Gardnerville, amazing chocolatiers and amazing people

Chocolate Shoppe in Gardnerville, amazing chocolatiers and amazing people

Who doesn’t love chocolate? I mean, yes, there are some of you out there that don’t like it, but for the most part, people can’t say chocolate without conjuring some sort of emotion which is transformative and nostalgic. Our next stop was a spot in Gardnerville that seemed to be a favorite among our group, let me begin by saying all of the places that I am visiting I have never even heard of, so no preconceived notions on my end. The Chocolate Shoppe in Gardnerville is one of those hidden gems that must be uncovered to be believed. Handmade chocolates, fudge and toffee, overcome your senses from the moment you walk inside the door, the smell of fresh chocolate and sweets, the brightly colored and arranged gift bags, the samples of various goodies make it seem like a holiday, even in the middle of summer. Brought to you by the careful and caring hands of proprietors Lynn and Harvey, The Chocolate Shoppe in a long-standing mainstay that provides the Carson Valley with handmade and extremely high quality sweets. Just around the corner from Jacobs Berry Farm, combine a visit with the berry farm with a visit to the Chocolate Shoppe and it will be an undeniably sweet day.

Churchill Vineyards and Frey Family Ranch

Churchill Vineyards and Frey Family Ranch

As we headed out of the Carson Valley, I knew that we were on our way out to Fallon visiting a local vineyard and farm, still with no idea about the amazing people, places and products I was about to experience. First, after a long drive out on US 50 we turned off onto a tree lined driveway that leads to the 1,200 acres Churchill Vineyard. Colby Frey was our gracious host and history guide. Churchill Vineyard is an incredible oasis of corn, wheat, rye, barley and grapevines packed tightly in a beautiful plot in the middle of a seemingly arid valley. Going over the history of the farm that dates well into the 1800’s, Colby is continuing a Frey family tradition as the fifth-generation farmer on this particular piece of fertile earth. The atmosphere of history, tradition and hard work, is only trumped by the absolutely gorgeous well kept ranch which promoted sustainability on many different levels. His family has owned this ranch since 1944 and now in it’s current incantation, it is a functional, award winning vineyard and winemaker which grows the majority of their own grapes, and I hope that I am not divulging too much information about speaking of the distillery which is currently under construction. I have never seen a still before like the one at the Frey Family ranch. The gorgeous copper still stands front and center within the distillery and is definitely something that the Frey family is very proud to showcase. With production capabilities, not only can they make their own Whiskey and Bourbon, but they have the equipment to make Gin and Vodka as well. All done here in Nevada. In the next article, I will talk about the wonderful wines and fragrant bourbon that has been maturing for five years. Just a spectacular example of Nevada’s pride and the Frey families’ commitment to tradition and contributing back into the local and statewide economy and farming community.

IMG_20140812_170015Our final stop on the tour is the locally beloved and regionally renowned Lattin Farms. Providing beautiful and refreshing produce to Fallon and the surrounding areas, Lattin Farms is a place not to be missed when on a visit out to the area. Lattin Farms is ideal for families, especially when harvest season kicks off in fall. Massive pumpkin patch, an area to feed goats, chickens and bunnies, a 5 acre cornmaze with over a mile of trails, and various events throughout the fall, make this a great stop for those with little ones, and a great opportunity for them to learn about the farm and the produce they offer. Their cornmaze is one of the most magnificent examples of a carefully designed and intricate that I have ever seen and it definitely a must see to believe. Combine the fascinating history of the farm and the family itself, with the gorgeous produce and products made and grown at the farm, there can be a full day spent, and a chance to sample some of the finest melons that you have ever imagined to taste. The yellow watermelon and the snow leopard melons are some of the sweetest, juiciest and delicious melons that you could ever imagine to eat. Try one of the many fruits and products they make here at Lattin Farms and it will be a visit to remember.

After leaving Lattin Farms and heading our way back into Reno, it was hard for me to wrap my mind about the world that I have just witnessed over the past several hours. I reflected on the people, places and produce that I have just seen, tasted, smelled and touched. This was a day that would be a life changing and conception altering day in regard to Nevada. There is an abundance of things that most of us in Las Vegas have no idea about. To know there are not only farms, but dozens of farms and dozens of families continuing on the tradition of generations past, and bearing the flag of Nevada’s agriculture industry proudly. For all of us, I hope that the popularity takes off for these farms and we see more and more of their products in what we eat and purchase in Nevada. I hate to be all romance novel, but I can’t speak enough of the love and passion that goes into this industry. Buy Nevada. It’s a real thing.

www.jacobsberries.com

www.sweetimagesltd.com

www.churchillvineyards.com

www.lattinfarms.com

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