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The Edible Desert: An inventory of land suitable for urban agriculture & its economic potential in lower Washoe County, Nevada
AuthorAnderton-Folmer, Haley K.
AdvisorHeaton, Jill S.
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This study utilized geographic information systems (GIS) software to identify and map vacant parcels of land where the establishment of urban market gardens and small-scale farms would most likely be viable, and then estimated potential crop yields and gross sales based on available land resources. Of the 100,618 parcels (62,098 acres) within the study area, 14 percent (4,603 parcels, 8,612 acres) were water-metered, vacant, and met the study's minimum suitability requirements. Based on average yields for fourteen regionally appropriate crops and local produce prices for organic goods in 2012, gross yields and sales were calculated. The findings suggest that urban growers in the Reno-Sparks-Washoe County study area could generate between $88,000 and $272,000 per acre, a range based on conventional and biointensive crop management methods, respectively. If 10 percent (861 acres) of all suitable vacant lands were cultivated, an estimated $76 million to $234 million could be generated through sales of an estimated yield of 29 to 86 million pounds of produce. These figures were based on the assumptions that land would be at least 60 percent cultivated; that season extension infrastructure such as row covers, polyethylene-film covered hoop-house structures, or traditional greenhouses would be utilized to ensure three full growing seasons if necessary; and that 60 percent of all produce would be sold directly to consumers at organic retail prices. Costs of labor, establishment, and production were not considered due to extreme variability of site requirements and growing methods. The results highlight the importance of urban agriculture to our community's economy and food security, and its needs for greater public awareness and political and programmatic support.