For more than 50 years, Rick and B. Ann Lattin operated Lattin Farms in Fallon, a 400-acre farm that started in 1909. But this year, the Lattins, both in their late 70s, laid down their tools, leased their land, and stepped back from agricultural production.
Their retirement marks the end of an era for the Fallon agricultural community. It also highlights a larger trend in Nevada agriculture — the state’s farmers are aging without a steady stream of young farmers stepping in to replace them, and the number of small-to-medium-sized growers is declining. Compounding the problem, farmland in the state — as in much of the West — is being developed into industrial spaces and housing.
According to those in the industry, recent incidents like the pandemic that crippled the supply chain and left grocery stores with barren shelves show that the state needs more, not less, growers. Nevada’s farmers and ranchers had an economic output of nearly $788 million in 2020, but little of that stayed in the state. Nationally, a 2003 study by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture found that conventionally grown food travels an average of 1,500 miles before it is purchased.
Transporting food that far creates a sizable environmental footprint and also weakens the state’s food security instead of building a resilient, in-state system.
But small family farms, once a staple of farmer markets, roadside produce stands, and suppliers of co-ops, are becoming a dying breed. And fewer people are stepping in to fill their shoes.
“As legacy producers retire, our nation needs the next generation of producers to take on the important business of providing food, feed, fuel, and fiber for a growing population,” said Amber Sallaberry, co-founder of The Great Basin Community Food Co-op in Reno.