UNR’s Desert Farming Initiative launches melons campaign | nnbw.com

UNR’s Desert Farming Initiative launches melons campaign

Special to the NNBW

Desert Farming Initiative (DFI), part of the University of Nevada, Reno, has launched the Nevada Melons campaign to encourage economic development in the state’s agricultural industry. By targeting a single product with a longtime history of production in Nevada, DFI hopes to spotlight regional agriculture, and therefore increase sales for state farmers.

Playing with Nevada’s reputation for being vice-friendly, the campaign’s slogan is that the multitude of melons produced in the state are “Sinfully Sweet.” All melons grown in the state are included within the campaign, such as watermelon, Crenshaw, casaba, honeydew and cantaloupe, including the “Sarah’s Choice” and “Hearts of Gold” varietals.

The Nevada Melon campaign will launch in northern Nevada initially, then expand statewide in 2018, with the goal of drawing national attention, as production and the growing season permit. Nevada melons will have vibrant stickers affixed to them in grocery stores, where available, with a full list of distribution points found on their website.

Today, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Americans consume about 27 pounds of melon per year. In a study published in 2006 by the Agricultural Issues Center University of California, the total production value of just U.S. watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydews was $703 million. Eventually seeking to position melons as the official state fruit, DFI is hoping to encourage industry growth for the dozens of Nevada melon farmers, along with economic growth for the state. “Growing melons in Nevada’s climate ensures that every single time you get a sweet, delicious melon,” states Desert Farming Initiative Project Director Jennifer Ott. “Our goal with the melon campaign is to bring attention to the rich agricultural industry and history in the state, and melons’ crucial role in our food and health.”

As a basis of comparison, another state that invested in an agricultural campaign, Idaho with its potatoes, saw “$3.4 billion dollars in sales of potatoes and potato products,” according to a study published by the University of Idaho in 2007.

Nevada’s desert climate and soil is conducive to growing melons, and its melon-growing history goes back to the indigenous Native Americans, followed by the crop’s consumption by Mormon settlers, Basque sheepherders and Comstock Lode miners.

Events designed to further bring attention to Nevada melons will take place into autumn, including the Fallon Cantaloupe Festival Aug. 24-27, melons served in Washoe County Schools the week of Sept. 4, a Desert Farming Initiative-hosted farm-to-fork fundraising dinner on Sept. 23.