Monthly Archives: March 2017

It’s National Ag Day!

Here’s a link to the National Ag Day site. And here’s a press release:

 The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) will host National Agriculture Day on March 21, 2017. This will mark the 44th anniversary of National Ag Day which is celebrated in classrooms and communities across the country. The theme for National Ag Day 2017 is “Agriculture: Food For Life.”

On March 21, 2017, ACA will host major events in the nation’s capital including a breakfast event at the National Press Club as well as a Taste of Agriculture Celebration on the Hill. Additionally, the ACA will bring approximately 100 college students to Washington to deliver the message of Ag Day.

These events honor National Agriculture Day and mark a nationwide effort to tell the true story of American agriculture and remind citizens that agriculture is a part of all of us. A number of producers, agricultural associations, corporations, students and government organizations involved in agriculture are expected to participate.

National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America. ACA is a nonpro t organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and ber community, dedicating its efforts to increasing the public’s awareness of agriculture’s role in modern society.

The National Ag Day program encourages every American to:

  • Understand how food and beverage products are produced.
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
  • Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and ber industry.

In addition to the events in Washington, DC on March 21, the ACA will once again feature the Ag Day Essay Contest in addition to an Ag Day Photography Contest. The winning photograph will be part of the 2017 National Ag Day Poster.

Visit for more information on National Ag Day in 2017.

For more information, please contact: Jennifer Pickett, President Agriculture Council of America 11020 King Street, Suite 205 Overland Park, KS (913) 491-1895

Agriculture Council of America Announces 2017 National Ag Day Date & Theme


A Lincoln County Farmer in 1887

Mr. D. Bonelli was a citizen of Rioville in Lincoln County in the 1800’s. He was a farmer and a weather observer. He mentions St. Thomas, which is now under the waters of Lake Mead. This was written in 1887, before Clark County was broken out of Lincoln County:

“I settled here in 1868, first at St. Thomas, 25 miles north of here, where the thermometer would go to 123 in the shade and 156 in the sunshine. This temperature will hatch out eggs left in the cupboards in the houses, if they get an occasional movement, and it will steep tea in the sun and boil eggs in sand exposed to the sunshine, though it will not melt lead.”

“The excessive heat of course limits the range of vegetation, and makes it necessary to grow grain in the Winter. It is sown in October and November and ripens the first of May. Figs are ripe by the middle of May; almonds full grown last of April; grapes ripen the last of June.”

“Snakes, lizards, horntoads and tarantulas take a sort of hibernating spell in the hottest weather for a mouth, and are extra active about February and March, by which time our main forage crop, lucerne or alfalfa, is growing. It is cut by the middle of April, and five additional crops are cut if water be plentiful. The articles mentioned are the main productions that will stand the climate, everything else languishes in the Summer time. I am now getting some esparsette to try, a European forage plant that may do well in this dry, hot climate.”

“This region is sparsely settled, since there are only a few margins of arable land along the streams and transportation facilities are lacking to market the products. Railroads come near enough to spoil the produce market we used to find in mining camps, and not near enough to take off our surplus. If there is nothing found suited to the climate that will pay to export, and no mineral discoveries of value are made, it will only be the question of a few years when the white man must disappear from this region in spite of the many efforts made in the past for its settlement. If anything exists in nature that is valuable for food, clothing or medicine that requires just such a climate, it would be charity to introduce it.”

A Farming Map to Aspire To

If there’s anything better than a well laid out map it’s an farming map. Crop maps are rare and this is a good one.

This map show land near West Sacramento, CA, where I lived recently for fifteen years. I know the area well. And I can recognize most of the crops by sight, but I was pleased to see a farmer tucked in onions. I doubt I’d recognize that. Safflower is beautiful and I miss driving by fields of it.

What I’d be very interested to know is why certain crops are placed in certain fields. Deeper, better soil for some crops? Not so fussy crops like alfalfa for other ground?

This is the Clarksburg AVA, an American Viticultural Area. The main road along the levee on the left side is Jefferson Boulevard. The winding road through the middle is Babel Slough Road.

If my Nevada Agriculture book goes forward I would like to develop some maps like this one. Reading the land is always easier with a map.

Link to full sized map (click here)




What’s Up With Washhoe?

Is commercial fishing the leading agricultural producer in Washoe County? It appears so but I am baffled as to what is being produced and by whom.

According to this Nevada Department of Agriculture file, commercial fishing is the top money maker for ag in Washoe. Also surprising is that beef is number three. The second spot belongs to the greenhouse, nursery, and horticulture trade.

I’ve e-mailed the Department and they say the figures are accurate, part of a larger census taken in 2015. While aquaculture is a growing industry, it would have had to make giant strides in recent years to pass cattle ranching.

And horticulture? I’d think the climate in Washoe is too cold to profitably maintain greenhouses, unless they are, possibly, using geothermal heat.

Let me know if you know more about these two sectors in Washoe County. I am eager to learn. e-mail:

Federal Land Ownership in Nevada by County

A very useful table. From the Research Division, Legislative Counsel Bureau Policy and Program Report, April 2016

County Total Federal Acres Total Acres in County Percent Federal
Carson City 56,290 100,601 56
Churchill 2,704,193 3,216,476 84.1
Clark 4,532,961 5,178,240 87.5
Douglas 249,594 472,673 52.8
Elko 8,102,283 10,959,010 73.9
Esmeralda 2,233,727 2,294,915 97.3
Eureka 2,109,480 2,674,061 78.9
Humboldt 5,090,943 6,211,913 82
Lander 2,985,871 3,525,761 84.7
Lincoln 6,659,056 6,804,678 97.9
Lyon 935,673 1,295,358 72.2
Mineral 2,303,172 2,440,233 94.4
Nye 11,373,325 11,640,101 97.7
Pershing 2,937,154 3,880,754 75.7
Storey 15,978 168,683 9.5
Washoe 3,301,765 4,188,232 78.8
White Pine 5,438,353 5,695,863 95.5
NEVADA 61,029,817 71,082,466 85.9

Source: BLM, Nevada State Office, December 2015.

First Thoughts on The Newlands Project

“The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired in value. Conservation means development as much as it does protection.” Theodore Roosevelt. 1910

I’ve been reading this week about the Newlands and Washoe Projects. It seems easy to vilify Newlands without crediting it for powering the engine that drives several Nevada counties. I understand that governmental entities are now the largest group of water rights holders in the Project, to best insure water for Pyramid Lake and the Lahontan Valley wetlands. But those two uses were simply not considered when water contracts were signed at the turn of the last century.

Federal reclamation law and Nevada water law demanded at that time a water use be beneficial. But what is a beneficial use? Recreation wasn’t considered a beneficial use in 1902. Nor was keeping a tribal fishery alive. Nor was wetland maintenance or remediation. Instead, those beneficial uses of water were recognized over time. This happened as court cases were settled and as people’s knowledge of their cultural and physical environment increased.

In 1902 people considered water flowing into a salty lake like Pyramid as waste. They reasoned that all that water could do was evaporate. Back then, irrigating farmland, watering stock, and supporting the mining industry were clear examples of beneficial uses. Perhaps most importantly, or perhaps cynically, a beneficial use was one that could pay back the Federal government.

“The federal reclamation program was to take this wasting asset and store it for use on family farms where the use was ‘beneficial,’ since it produced a tangible return for the costs of storage and distribution.” (Townley, 1977:141) The desert itself was considered waste, something to be reclaimed in favor of agriculture. Wetlands, too, were deemed wastelands, to be drained and then cultivated. Thinking on this has evolved but a look at the other side of the ledger is in order.

It is assumed that growing food intelligently is not a waste of water.

According to the Nevada Department of Agriculture, Churchill County’s food and agriculture sector contributed $320 million to the county’s economy in 2015. It directly accounted for 965 jobs. Exports were $192 million that year. The county is home to 672 farms and ranches. Churchill County’s total agricultural production output value was $124 million in 2015. Its total food manufacturing output value was $100 million. That’s one county impacted by the Newlands Project.

Lyon County, beneficiary of Newlands Project irrigated areas near Fernley, shows similar impressive figures. In 2015 it had 462 farms and ranches with $174 million in total agricultural output value. Washoe County, utilizing the Truckee River in part, has 479 ranches and farms. Those produced $57.9 million in total agricultural output in 2015. With a total of $1.1 billion in food manufacturing.

Economic success does not excuse environmental damage or the ignoring of tribal rights. Unintended consequences occurred, goals were overstated, money  wasted. But Newlands sought a self sustaining farming community that would benefit everyone, with local food and jobs.  The Washoe Project, which I am just now starting to read about, was a hopeful and positive development to correct many of Newland’s deficiencies. I’ll leave this post with a quote from the International Water Resources Association;

“A clear and present movement exists in the Western United States to move water out of agriculture to urban and municipal uses. A definite impact is occurring on food and fiber production, however, at what point will we prioritize agriculture to ensure sustainable food production without increase reliance on imports. Cooperation and rotation must be considered in lieu of spending resources in court and litigation.”.

Historical photo of Lahontan Dam near Fallon.

Onion Field Near Reno, Nevada (circa 1910)

I’ve found a trove of copyright free, high resolution images depicting Nevada agriculture around the turn of the century. Here’s just one image in low resolution.The sepia appears original to the work.

Although copyright free, there would have to be an acknowledgment of who did the scanning and a donation made to that organization. I will do just that if the book moves forward. Alternatively, I could find the book on the used book market and make the scans myself.



Hay Prices Now and Then

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service says Nevada farmers received $150 a ton for alfalfa hay in January. That’s assuredly a statewide average.

Historian  Robert D. McCracken, writing in A History of Amargosa Valley, Nevada, says when nearby mines were operating in the 1880s, hay farmers earned a hefty return.

In those days Amargosa farmers got four cuttings a year, six tons to the acre, and the hay sold from $70 to $200 a ton. (It may have been native grass hay.)

Adjusted for inflation, that means $1,896 to $5,418.58 a ton in today’s dollars. That was undoubtedly more per ton than most ore being pulled out of the mines.