Agriculture is one of Nevada's most important industries, contributing significantly to the economies of rural communities and the state as a whole. Supporting nearly 1,000 jobs on and off the farm, Nevada agriculture generates more than half a billion dollars annually and over $100 million annually in exports.
Nevada agriculture is directed primarily toward range livestock production. Nevada's ranches are few in number, but they rank third in the nation in size, averaging 3,500 acres. Cattle and calves are the leading agricultural industry and cow-calf operations predominate with a few stocker operators and feedlots. The larger cattle and sheep ranches are in the northern half of the state.
Growing food indoors on a commercial scale is also becoming an increasingly popular farming choice in Nevada due to the state’s desert climate. Not only does this industry promote job creation and additional state revenue, but it also helps make Nevada more food independent by allowing the state to increase local food production. Nevada’s strong research capabilities and business-friendly environment make it the ideal place for indoor agriculture companies looking to capitalize on the exciting technologies in the hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic fields.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and Seedstock, with the help of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) and the Desert Research Institute (DRI), will host an Indoor Agriculture Conference in Las Vegas on April 24, 2013. The conference is open anyone interested in indoor agriculture in Nevada, including farmers, customers, financiers, researchers and political leaders.
Dairy, too, has emerged as an important industry segment. The greatest number of dairy operations are in northern Nevada, but the largest dairies are in the South.
Despite Nevada's arid climate, excellent crops are produced where land can be irrigated. Alfalfa hay is the leading cash crop of the state. Much of the hay is sold to dairy operations in surrounding states. Significant quantities of alfalfa cubes and compressed bales are also exported overseas each year. Alfalfa seed is another substantial crop.
Food crops produced in Nevada include potatoes, barley, winter and spring wheat, corn, oats, onions, garlic and honey. Smaller acreages of mint, fruits and vegetables are grown throughout the state, including organic produce such Nevada-grown apples, pistachios, salad greens, artichokes and other vegetables, herbs, chilies and root crops grown for local chefs and farmers’ markets.
Agriculture in Nevada is also seeing significant new investments in high-desert farming, using hoop-style houses, solar and geothermal heat, and Nevada’s natural abundance of daily sunshine to extend growing seasons and create local food sources.