Producer to Chef
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Producer to Chef program introduces small farms within 120 miles of Las Vegas to high-end Las Vegas restaurants which will pay top dollar for fresh, locally grown agricultural products.
Small farms in Southern Nevada have had difficulty establishing a steady market for their products. At the same time, chefs and restaurateurs in Las Vegas have had to go to great lengths to have fresh produce shipped overnight to their establishments from out of state. The disconnect was an economic issue; with dining and retail sales outpacing gaming revenue in Las Vegas, the increasing demand for good agricultural products was resulting in a great deal of money leaving the Las Vegas market for good. Convincing restaurants to purchase locally grown products not only helped local farmers, it also kept the money within the local economy.
What Has Been Done:
The program began informally in 2006 when UNCE led local chefs and other buyers on tours of the 600-tree UNCE Orchard to show them that high-quality fruits and produce can be grown in the Mojave Desert. The following year, UNCE began educating local producers that products grown in the desert were “valued” by local consumers. The Producer to Chef program emerged in 2008 when a chef was hired on a part-time basis to “link” producers and the high-restaurant and consumer markets.
By 2009, local producers selling locally had grown from 12 to 40. The demand resulted in the creation of a weekly farmers market, Molto Vegas, that allows local consumers as well as chefs to examine and purchase agricultural products in person at a convenient, central location. UNCE experts coach producers on a one-to-one basis about their production areas and their current production practices, with UNCE providing them information on how to improve production based upon research done at the UNCE Orchard. Chefs often meet with individual growers to plan crops and planting schedules to ensure a steady flow of fresh, tasty products. Farmers learn what products are in demand and receive top prices for their products as a result. Prices paid by these consumers for high-quality products produced locally has provided motivation to producers that horticultural production might be profitable.
New local products entering the market included dates, natural grass-fed beef, locally roasted coffee, locally produced herbs, chicken and duck eggs, pistachios and quince. One local orchard sells to local restaurants and a natural foods supermarket, and has converted its orchard to provide UNCE-recommended varieties of peaches, apples, asparagus and onions. Three producers are now acting as food brokers in their production offseason to bring products into Las Vegas restaurants, a natural foods supermarket and the Molto Vegas Farmers Market
University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Utah State University Cooperative Extension
Contact: Holly Gatzke, 775-726-3109
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