Sara Thomas and her husband David started small urban farming three or four years ago in their front yard in Fernley growing herbs, cantaloupes, watermelons, pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and a variety of berries. This year, the No BS Farm was chosen to participate in the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s Women's Farm2Food Accelerator program.
The No BS Farm was one of ten farms selected to participate in the program, where Thomas will be perfecting her pasta sauce. “Through the accelerator program, I want to learn the best ways to make the sauce fresh, from the farm-fresh, with just harvested ingredients made right into the sauce. I couldn't even believe that I got picked for the program - I was overjoyed. I had seen the program on the NDA's Facebook page. I thought it was awesome, and that I would love to learn how to grow from making something that my family enjoys to producing something that everyone can enjoy.”
Thomas said she had previously worked for the City of Fernley, but gave that up for the farming life and spending more time with her children, “to take a different path in life and get out of the rush-rush of the corporate world. Farming is a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and is my passion now. I have three children, and they love farming too. But I think they eat more than they pick sometimes, dirt and all.” They also have ten Rhode Island Red chickens on the farm, providing fresh eggs daily.
Farming brings back fond memories for Thomas, who said her maternal grandmother was an avid gardener and canner, and from whom she got her farming passion. “Canning jams was the first thing I learned to do, because it was easy. Now I make six or seven different flavors – blackberry, raspberry, strawberries, peach, plum, and mixed berry. This summer I made pluot jam as we had an abundance of those from California at our farmers market, and that was big hit. I try to use anything fresh that I can get.” Any leftover fruit that she has will be made into a jam, and she's always thinking of new flavors to make. She is currently experimenting with a fresh apple pie jam.
Thomas would like to expand her farm to include radishes, lettuce varieties, and fruit trees. “We're trying to cram as mush as we can into our tiny quarter-acre lot to provide a variety of offerings. So, we may not have abundance, but will have variety. I would love to grow the farm to where we can offer farm boxes in Fernley by collaborating with other local farmers. This summer we really focused on the Fernley Farmers Market, and when the last person that was running the market stopped, we pushed to keep it going because we didn't want Fernley to miss out on having a farmers market. That in turn pushed us to do more with our small farm so that we could offer more to Fernley.”
According to the NDA website, “Research shows that value-added production, the act of processing raw agricultural goods into finished products such as food or beverage products, can increase farmers’ profitability, increase shelf stability of products, expand the market season, increase farm visibility, and allow them to enter new markets.”
“The women selected come from all over the state, producing a variety of specialty crops used to make products such as jams, dried culinary herbs, mushroom jerky, hot sauce and wine,” said NDA Director Jennifer Ott. “This program will support these women running small businesses to grow their operations, develop new business strategies and increase their chance of success.”
Also per the NDA website, in addition to the No BS Farm, the other Nevada women selected are Stacy Fisk of Fisk Farm Herbs in Fallon, Cortney Bloome of Rural Health and Nutrition Initiative in Dayton, Teri and Megan Harasha of Jazi’s Greens of Carson City, Lyndsey T. Langsdale of Reno Food Systems in Reno, Crystal Leon of The Radish Hotel in Sparks, Leslie Lotspeich of the Lotspeich Family Farm in Deeth (Elko County), Eva Sara Luna of Desert Moon Farms LLC in North Las Vegas, Evelynn Thompson of Zoot Poultry Company in Spring Creek, and Betsy L. Whipple of River Ranch Vineyard in Hiko (Tonopah Basin). The 10 Nevada women will join others from Oregon and Washington for the 15-week online program. There is no cost to the Nevada women, as the funding is being made available through the state's Specialty Crop Block Grant program.