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October 20, 2014

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Clark County Commission:

Commissioners express support for proposed ‘urban farm’

Image

Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press

Hydroponics, a method of growing plants in water instead of soil, can bring farming into the urban areas where consumers are concentrated.

Desert Breeze Park

If backers of a proposed urban farm can find enough funding, Clark County commissioners said today they’d work to make sure the project found a home.

Commissioners responded enthusiastically to a presentation today during their meeting from James Garza, head of the nonprofit agency that wants to start growing fresh fruits and vegetables in one of the valley’s urban neighborhoods.

A portion of the food grown at the hydroponic farm would be sold to finance operations of the Eastern Nevada Food Bank, which is developing the project, but the rest would be given to the Clark Count School District, food banks and other nonprofits agencies. The farm also would provide educational opportunities for students to work in a greenhouse setting, said Garza, chairman of the Eastern Nevada Food Bank.

Beyond the growing facilities — windowless, one-story painted metal sheds — Garza also wants to build a public market for small businesses and a hybrid community center and office space to house the farm’s administrative staff.

The initial proposal calls for the project to be built on up to 50 acres of undeveloped land at the southern end of Desert Breeze Park, near Flamingo and Cimarron roads.

That location could present a challenge though, due to legal encumbrances limiting what the county can do with the land. It also is unclear whether the county could lease or sell the space for less than market value.

Despite the obstacle, commissioners widely expressed support for the idea and seemed confident that a suitable location could be found if the project secures the estimated $1 million in startup funding it needs.

Garza hopes to secure that money in the form of federal grants and is applying for access to a $1.3 billion pool of funding from 10 federal agencies. Commissioners agreed to draft a letter of support for the project and will vote on its approval at their March 4 meeting.

“There’s other places. If we accept (urban farming) in the county, then any of us would have no problems working on where another backup plan could be, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said.

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