The Sparks brewery hosted its inaugural Great Basin Brewing Company Farmers Market Thursday outside its restaurant on Victorian Avenue. Knowing that the Nevada growing season is in its prime in September, owners Tom and Bonda Young said they are looking to support local farmers who are facing a limited market.
“Nevada farmers have a short growing season and all their produce comes in about now and through the end of September. We are always advocates of extending farmers’ markets into September and making them Nevada-only markets to showcase the great things Nevada harvesters can do,” Tom said.
The Great Basin Farmers Market featured Nevada farmers from Hidden Valley, Fallon, Yerington and Dayton, offering fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese products and honey. In offering only local vendors at the market, the Youngs’ plan is not to upstage or emulate the popular Sparks Farmer’s Market held on Victorian Square during August.
“We’re not looking to bring back the old farmers’ market. I think a lot of people are thinking that, but that's not where we are headed,” Bonda said. “We love that farmers’ market, but it’s done and ours will never be the same. We’re not looking to reinvent that.”
Tom and Bonda acknowledged the immense amount of events happening in downtown Sparks during the summer and hope their small farmers’ market can prove a point for the city of Sparks.
“It should bring a lot of pride in Nevada and certainly showcase that there is a lot of diversity of events (downtown),” Tom said. “I think beer is an incredibly good elixir for conversation. People come down here and have a few beers, meet some friends or new people and pretty soon they're heading home with some healthy vegetables.”
“It’s really about keeping it local,” Bonda said. “It means keeping the money in the local economy. It provides jobs and keeps a continuous circle.”
Ann Louhela, executive director of NevadaGrown, organized and contacted farmers to populate Great Basin’s market. Louhela said the idea of keeping local farmers afloat is nothing new to Great Basin Brewery.
“I tell people all the time Great Basin Brewery was buying from local farms before it ever became the fashion,” Louhela said. “They have hops and barley that are grown locally and the honey vendor here provides honey for their beer. If you look at Tom and the way he runs his business, he is always doing events for non-profit (organizations). I think when you talk about supporting local businesses (Tom) is the epitome of it. That is the heart and soul of what he does.”
Louhela has been coordinating farmers’ markets in Nevada for more than 10 years and said it is a misconception that Nevada farms cannot produce high-quality foods in a seemingly barren environment.
“People think that we’re a desert and that we just can’t grow things in Nevada, but if you look around I think it shows it is absolutely amazing what we can grow here.”
Hidden Valley Honey has been connected with Great Basin Brewery for several years since its inception in 1997. Chris Foster, owner of the company, said the extraction of their honey is all done at their home in Hidden Valley and that the “local movement” brings a camaraderie among farmers.
“The farmers that I meet, for obvious reasons, their livelihood depends upon people patronizing local farmers,” he said. “The farming community is full of really wonderful people and we have met a lot of really nice people over the years.”
Foster, and his wife Karen, will place a hive of bees in a display case at their table each week at the market. Chris said it is a great way for children to learn about bees and have some fun while their parents pick out some honey products.
The Fosters said they will be at Great Basin’s Farmers Market every Thursday in September, which runs into the end of their harvesting season. Chris said the amount of people who were attending the inaugural event made the rest of the month seem promising and that the environment has changed from when he and Karen attended the market held in front of John Ascuaga’s Nugget.
“We are curious to see how it goes. So far the foot traffic down here has been pretty good considering the time of day it is (about 5 p.m.),” Chris said. “I think that sales used to be much higher when we were in front of the Nugget, but I think that being able to bring in more parents and children is great.”
The Great Basin Farmers Market is open every Thursday in September beginning at 4:30 p.m. outside of Great Basin Brewery at 846 Victorian Ave. in Sparks.