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If you’re thinking salad, that’s a start, but healthy decisions (with the planet in mind) begin with how and where you obtain the ingredients.
Photo: Charlie Johnston (all)
Living green is easier and more cost effective than you might think, and you can start with one of our favorite activities: eating. By supporting local farmers, using sustainable materials, and adopting green practices, an increasing number of Nevada food establishments—and individuals—are setting a good example for the community.
Whether you shop at one of Nevada’s farmers’ markets or purchase products from local vendors, buying your food close to home lessens environmental impact by reducing harmful carbon-dioxide emissions, a byproduct of some food transportation. In turn, local businesses benefit when money is kept in the community. Seasonal by definition, local produce keeps consumers connected to the seasons.
A trip to the year-round Friday afternoon Fremont Street farmers’ market, one of three weekly Las Vegas locations, proves that local producers are as plentiful as they are diverse. According to Ginger and Steve Johnson, Southern Nevada farmers who helped organize the first market in 1999, “Make it, bake it, grow it, or sew it” is their theme. Inspired by the sights and smells of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the Johnsons started the Las Vegas version so they would have a place to sell their corn. Today, the markets offer produce grown by six farmers from Nevada and neighboring states. Visitors can also nibble on freshly baked bread, sweet buttered corn, and barbecue.
One market vendor, Edibles by Elyce, offers a pesticide-free line of salsas, spreads, and hummus. Owner Elyce Sassoon goes one step further by using the produce grown by fellow vendors as ingredients in her top sellers, Ali Baba Ghanoush and Avocado Creamy Dippy Spread. Sassoon says that participating in the farmers’ markets allows her to interact with customers, answer questions about her products, and see peoples’ reactions firsthand.
Made-from-scratch brownies and chocolate-chip cookies are customer favorites prepared by another vendor, Sasa Sweets. Owners Joe and Liza Vergara sell their desserts at four weekly locations, including two Henderson farmers’ markets. “Farmers’ markets are the best way for local businesses to connect with the community,” Joe says. “These grass-roots organizations allow us to travel to the customers, instead of the customers coming to us.”
Locally Grown is a special program started by Whole Foods Market to support local businesses, providing them with a unique opportunity to put their products on Whole Foods’ shelves. A Web page dedicated to the program states that each store searches “right outside their front door in every community where they do business” for products that meet the company’s standards. Nevada boasts five Whole Foods locations featuring Locally Grown products such as fresh pasta, all-natural cookies and granola, and barbecue sauce.
In addition, businesses and shoppers can make smarter decisions when it comes to distributing or transporting food or beverages. Carrying bottled water, for instance, has become as commonplace as toting around keys and a wallet. Unfortunately, this habit has a large environmental impact given the energy required to treat the water and fabricate, fill, and transport the bottles. Consumers can opt instead to drink from reusable water bottles and shop with reusable grocery bags. Border Grill restaurant at Mandalay Place sets a good example for the restaurant community by practicing a green alternative to the more commonly used pricey plastic bottles in utilizing a water-purification system.
GROW YOUR OWN
Growing your own produce not only aids the environment, but also your budget and health. A common misconception is that growing crops in Nevada soil is next to impossible, but a visit to Gilcrease Orchard, or one of eight Star Nursery locations (in Southern Nevada), will prove that the opposite is true.
Located in northwest Las Vegas, Gilcrease Orchard covers more than 50 acres containing some 6,000 apple, pear, and peach trees in addition to a variety of vegetables, such as tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, and cucumbers. A working farm since the 1920s, Gilcrease allows customers and their children to experience the farming lifestyle through the Pick Your Own produce program, which is how the majority of their crops are harvested. Afterward, customers can enjoy homemade fresh apple cider, produced in a facility on orchard grounds.
Whether you have space for a large citrus grove or a small herb garden, you can create an “orchard” in your backyard with the help of Star Nursery. Along with an inventory of tools necessary for planting, Star’s locations offer a surprising array of trees that grow well in desert climates, such as dwarf citrus, figs, almonds, pomegranates, apricots, peaches, and pears. Star also offers a comprehensive Web site of “Star Notes” designed to answer a wide variety of local gardening questions.
In addition to using eco-friendly materials such as bamboo, slate, and natural fibers in the décor, Simon Restaurant at Palms Place takes growing locally to a new level with its on-location greenhouse, which features a selection of herbs and micro-greens. Chef Kerry Simon showcases his love of pure and simple flavors in menu items such as Grilled Vegetable Gazpacho, Baby Beet Salad, and Organic Rotisserie Chicken with heirloom tomatoes.
Remember that a lot of these practices can be applied anywhere in Nevada, at least to some degree. Whether you choose to dine out or stay in, to eat locally or cultivate your own, the Silver State offers a bumper crop of options for eco-conscious eating—a trend that this writer hopes will continue to grow.
Las Vegas Farmers’ Markets
Gardens Park, Tues.
Bruce Trent Park, Wed.
Fremont Street, Fri.
All farmers’ markets are from 4-8 p.m. during the summer and 2-6 p.m. during the winter.
Henderson Farmers’ Markets
Water Street, Thurs.