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Horticulture Programs

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

Printable Program Impact

Contact: Holly Gatzke, 775-726-3109

Horticulture Programs

Programs Program Information

Carson City Community Garden

The Community Garden began in 2001 and allows community members who don’t have room for a vegetable garden to rent a 4-by-16-foot garden bed for $20 a season at a 25-bed garden complex on Beverly Drive east of the cemetery. The price includes water, soil preparation, some seeds and fertilizer.

Community Beautification through Horticulture

Desert Green, Commercial Water Conservation Training

Desert Green is in its eleventh year and is designed to educate commercial clientele in the Green Industry as well as others who have an interest in water conservation issues. A committee representing the industry implements the training. Desert Green is chaired by one industry representative and one UNCE representative. The program is presented once a year, with 36 classes taught in a two-day period. A committee of industry representative reviews evaluations from the previous year to decide future educational direction and topics. During the evaluation process, the program is reviewed, modified and revised according to the needs of the clientele. As part of the marketing of this program, two articles citing the importance of Desert Green appear in regional trade publications.

Food for Thoughts, School Garden

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Food for Thoughts program was established in 2004 and built on the school gardens program. It offers children an alternative site for learning, promotes awareness of the desert environment, demonstrates the geographic sources of their food and encourages healthy eating and activities.

Green Industry Training Programs of Northern Nevada

Green Industry Training (GIT) and Green Industry Continuing Education Series (GICES) are cost- and time-efficient approaches to serving the Green Industries of northern Nevada, including nursery workers, landscapers, arborists, irrigation and lawn care professionals. The Green Industry Training program begins in late winter with eight three-hour sessions of entry-level training for new industry workers, for those desiring to work in the industry and for existing industry professionals desiring a skills "tune-up." After "basic training," industry members are invited to monthly continuing education opportunities — one hour per month over the noon hour — to hone and improve their skills.

Grow Your Own, Nevada

Grow Your Own, Nevada is a statewide University of Nevada Cooperative Extension program designed to help people discover the secrets to gardening in our high-desert climate. The program includes eight two-hour weekly sessions. Classes are held live in Reno in the spring, summer and fall, and are provided by video conference to Cooperative Extension offices across the state.

Healing gardens in Las Vegas

A new elementary school opens every month in Las Vegas, with pupils from many cultural and economic backgrounds. University of Nevada Cooperative Extension school gardens, community gardens and healing gardens essentially become outdoor classrooms and also build community spirit.

Master Gardeners in Nevada

Master Gardeners provide free, research-based horticulture information to Nevadans. They are volunteers who learn advanced plant science skills from at least 50 hours of classroom instruction by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension (UNCE) professionals. After training, Master Gardeners volunteer a minimum of at least 50 hours a year to pass along their newly acquired knowledge through the media, talks and workshops. They answer phone calls, send out informational materials and develop community gardens.

Nevada Desert Bioscape

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Desert Bioscape program takes a holistic approach to conserving natural resources in an urban setting. The goal of this program is to teach homeowners and commercial clientele to conserve water and energy, reduce pesticide and chemical fertilizer use, and promote wildlife habitat in a sustainable manner. Components include wildlife and conservation landscaping, constructed home wetlands for water recycling, a research project to find and determine water-efficient plants for the southern Nevada area and a research project to determine the use and benefit of natural organic mulches in the Mojave Desert.

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.

Research Center & Demonstration Orchard

The Research Center and Demonstration Orchard has been a cooperative effort between University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and University of Nevada, Las Vegas for over 20 years. The main emphasis has always been on water conservation in the Mojave Desert. From the very beginning, deciduous fruit trees, wine and table grapes, and various kinds of vegetables have been grown and tested for their ability to survive and produce under desert conditions.

The Greenhouse Project

The Carson City Greenhouse Project was conceptualized in November 2008 in partnership between UNCE; the Carson City Cultural Commission; The Greenhouse Project Committee, a grassroots, community organization; the Carson City School District; Nevada State Parks; and numerous volunteers. The Greenhouse Project serves as a teaching facility for hands on programs at the Carson City High School. Students help to cultivate and distribute vegetables and herbs for culinary classes and community food banks. Additional flower baskets are grown to beautify downtown Carson City.

Weed Warriors Invasive Weed Training

The Weed Warriors Invasive Weed Training Program is held several times a year, usually in late winter or spring. This eight-hour, two-day introductory-level training introduces participants to the principles of Integrated Weed Management and focuses on improving ability to identify noxious weeds of local importance. A small fee is charged for program materials, and the class can be videoconferenced to other locations upon request. Each year, several dozen people go through the training and become certified Weed Warriors. Pesticide applicators receive six Continuing Education Credits for attending this course. Each year in May during a community event in the Truckee Meadows, Weed Warrior volunteers help rid parks and riverfront areas of invasive thistles.