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To keep up with the demand for organic products, UNR has launched a program to increase the number of natural farmers

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – The University of Nevada, Reno is launching a program to increase the number of organic farmers in an effort to meet the demand for all-natural products.

Rob Holley and his family have been farmers in northern Nevada for fifty years. When Holley decided to apply for organic certification for his farm in 2011, he said he worked closely with a number of other producers and the Nevada Department of Agriculture, who helped him through the process. He says it was worth it.

“Until you’ve produced food for someone else, it’s hard to explain what a pleasure that is. That’s what I love about farming. Someone can benefit from the fruits of my labor,” Holley said.

Now, Holley is working with UNR’s Desert Farming Initiative to bring his passion to new and existing farmers who want to become organically certified as part of the Grow Organic Nevada program.

“We try to set up producers who are interested in moving to organic production and bring them together with a mentor who has three years of experience in the sector. Not only with the cultivation, but also with the certification process,” says Holley.

Last year alone, Americans spent $64 billion on organic food, and Holley says that number is increasing every year. As the demand for organic products grows, so does the need for farmers.

“There is demand not only on the market, but also on the farmers’ markets. There is also demand from hay growers and livestock producers who produce hay and animals for meat or dairy,” Holley said.

According to the USDA, conventional grocery stores have overtaken natural food stores as the most popular outlet for organic food, with 55.6% of sales in 2021. And certified organic U.S. land for growing crops or livestock has increased from 1.8 million acres in 2000 to 4.9 million hectares. million acres in 2021. But here in Nevada we only have 37 certified organic producers. 12 of these grow produce, while 22 grow hay or grain for livestock, and 3 raise livestock for meat production. Holley hopes this program will change that.

To encourage producers to make the move to organic, the program provides a $500 stipend to those accepted into the program. Those looking for a mentor can request one online.

To encourage producers who are already organically certified to serve as mentors, mentors will receive $3,000 for 40 hours of service, providing one-on-one guidance through the process and sharing their expertise in organic farming, and participating to regional, organic-focused community events. . Those interested in becoming a mentor must have a minimum of three years of direct experience managing organic production and certification, as well as an understanding of the process of becoming certified organic. Producers interested in mentoring can also apply online to become a mentor.

If you have questions or are interested in getting started, Holley says the easiest way to do this is to call his office at 775-784-6556.

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