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Growing the next crop: Lattin Farms

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Christopher Smith

Rick Lattin, owner of Lattin Farms.

FALLON--The 12-year-old girl stood in the middle of the burgeoning pumpkin patch, mesmerized. “How long did it take you guys to haul all these pumpkins here?” she asked. She was even more stunned at the farm manager’s answer: “We didn’t haul them. We grew them right here!”

Don Keele, farm manager of Lattin Farms, likes to tell that story. It’s good for a laugh, but it also captures the mission of Lattin Farms – that is, the part of the mission beyond growing wholesome organic produce such as sweet, juicy Hearts of Gold cantaloupe or thick, lustrous spinach. Just as important as that is educating young people about the origin of their breakfast, lunch and dinner.

A "hoop house" at Lattin Farms that grows spinach, lettuce, turnips and more.“One thing that people haven’t stopped doing over the centuries is eating food,” says Rick Lattin, owner of Lattin Farms. “But the farm model has been so revolutionized over the past 50 to 60 years, that kids have no idea where their food comes from. That’s why part of our focus is teaching kids the importance of agriculture.”

Rick Lattin is a fifth-generation farmer whose family has been growing crops in the Lahontan Valley since 1909. His particular operating model is simultaneously old-school and modern. Lattin Farms sells its produce on site and at local farmers’ markets, but has also adopted the community-supported agriculture model, selling subscriptions to weekly baskets from the farm. They have 250 clients and growing. It suggests to Lattin that people in more urbanized areas are starting to wake up to an awareness of what’s on their plate and how it got there. “In the last 10 to 15 years, there’s been a kind of back-to-the-future of farming, a movement to connect people in the cities with the people who grow their food.”

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Lattin, a retired state worker who took up the family tradition of farming less for profit than a sense of purpose, takes part in that mission. The 400-acre, drip-irrigated farm in Fallon attests to that in a number of ways, mostly in how many sections of the farm resemble a sort of back-country Chuck E. Cheese, with corn mazes, hay bale go-kart tracks and even a contraption called a goat walk that allows kids to turn a crank, which in turn transports food pellets up a platform to entice the farm’s goats to make the climb. He also participates in Harvest Hosts, a program that lets traveling RVers to stay on local farms. Such practices are about more than rural hospitality; they encourage city-dwellers to learn about what’s growing in the smaller farms that dot America’s backyard. 

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