Budding farmers get a boost from Farm2Food program


Courtesy/Yashila Sanchez

Crystal León works in the kale bed at the Radish Hotel garden in Sparks.

Mon, Nov 20, 2023 (2 a.m.)

Crystal León has been on the Nevada farming scene for six years and runs the Radish Hotel—a micro farm and urban growing space in Sparks, where chickens, beekeeping, educational programs and other farm and apothecary products abound.

León recently started selling her own packaged spices and granola, both products that she has been able to sell not just at her farm but also online and at farmers markets because of the Nevada Farm2Food Program, which supports women farmers and entrepreneurs and helps them market their products.

“I found it to be really helpful,” said León, who said she’s also been able to partner with organizations like the Northern Nevada Food Bank because of Farm2Food. “I was able to get answers to questions that I didn’t even know I should be asking, because there’s so many experts that they compiled together to make this program possible—and I thought it was awesome.”

Farm2Food, which is made possible in Nevada through the state’s Department of Agriculture (NDA) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture Foundation (NASDA), lasts for 15 weeks in online and virtual modules, and connects participants to various experts and resources to create or enhance their product.

The program earlier this month kicked off its third cohort—a dozen women offering various “value-added” products, which NDA agricultural literacy coordinator Shelley Pope defined as products like jam made from homegrown strawberries, or salsa from farmed jalapeños and onions.

“Our growing season in Nevada is relatively short,” Pope said. “So, with a value-added product—such as the one that these women are making—it allows our women farmers to be able to sell the product for the length of the product shelf life, which then they can further increase their own economic stability.”

Pope called Farm2Food a “business accelerator” and “workforce development” program that specifically focuses on growing business operations and strategies for its participants, to ultimately increase their chances of success. It also supports diversifying agriculture and agricultural products in Nevada, she said.

“In general, agriculture isn’t a very fast-growing industry—although, since the pandemic, we’ve seen a little bit of growth,” Pope said. “But this program helps support that economic development for female farmers.”

Women are still not taken seriously across the board in the agricultural industry, which León said could be attributed to a host of factors—including, perhaps, that they are historically newer at it.

“Because of this stumbling block across the farming industry, it really does help to have someone advocating for women in this area, and using grant funds and systems to prop women farmers and business owners up,” she said. “Because things take longer.”

The program took a lot of time and guesswork out of launching her product, because it simultaneously connected her with different entities that she would have otherwise had to go through one at a time, León said.

Additionally, practical lessons like how to label and market the product were extremely helpful, she said, and helped make her granola and spices competitive in their market.

“It’s not just helpful but necessary to have the Nevada Department of Agriculture and … everyone involved, who are willing to come up and support women in these endeavors, and sort of level the playing field,” León said. “It’s helpful to have someone who is seen, to be able to say, ‘Hey, look at this. Look at what are these folks are doing.’ ”

Pope said the program has been received extremely positively, and that women from past cohorts are returning this year to launch newer products.

She added that she hopes the program can continue with the necessary funding and grow accordingly.

“I think there are an incredible amount of women, business owners and farmers in the state of Nevada,” León said. “And I am just excited that the women Farm2Food accelerator will allow them all to be seen. We’re very fortunate to be doing this work in this state.”

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This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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