Gifts that keep on giving—to both the planet and the recipient

By Sherry Swensk

Gift baskets are always a popular present of choice this time of year, but if you’re searching for a fresh new theme—minus the boxed crackers and other processed foods—or shopping for the vegan in your life, try going straight to the farm for a fresh, healthy gift from nature. Or better yet, bring the farm to you! Bushels loaded with lettuce, snap peas, sweet potatoes, peppers, honey, and crispy apples are just a few of the winter delights that can be delivered right to your door each week, or ready for pick-up at a local farmer’s market or park. And the bonus to a bountiful gift like this is that it keeps giving each week when the crops come in … all year long, or for as long as you like.

I never realized you could find such a variety of delicious veggies, juicy fruits, natural herbs and even edible flowers flourishing in our hard desert dirt. I was thrilled to learn there is an enormous abundance grown with love and harvested with care right here in or close to Las Vegas. Sustainable living on farms and urban gardening are not new ideas, but they’re certainly growing as more farmers markets are popping up for locals who want fresh foods. For the many of us who are too darn busy to make it to the market or would like to have someone else do the picking of the season’s best for us: We’re in luck!

L.O.V.E. on Your Plate serves up a healthy-sized basket of handpicked, organic goodies each week. L.O.V.E. stands for Local Only Vegas Edibles.

“I am the ultimate urban farmer,” proclaims 61-year-old Janet Knight, who grew up on a farm in New York and has been gardening for more than 25 years. She came to Las Vegas in 2005 and began community gardening, but the idea soon blossomed into something much bigger. Spinach, green beans, bok choy, kale and so many more veggies stuff her baskets of delight this season.

Knight puts her hands in the dirt to produce good, fresh food for people of all incomes, and says she truly wants to help Las Vegans embrace a sustainable lifestyle. She feeds her soul by working 1 ½ acres of land between three locations in Las Vegas and Sandy Valley. “I prepare baskets for professional singles, vegans, seniors, families of five, you name it. There are so many people who want fresh food,” she said.

Knight is also a master food preserver, canning and jarring fruits and veggies so that out-of-season foods can be enjoyed all year round. She even teaches her preservation skills to hungry novices like you and me in a once-a-week active adult class. L.O.V.E. baskets cost $60/month, or $15 each week, and hold five to seven seasonal items. For a little extra, you can add farm-fresh eggs, laid with love by her happy hens, or some of her jarred jams. She has several drop-off locations or she’ll bring your basket to the Springs Preserve Farmer’s Market on Thursdays. You can reach Janet by email at bear6260@juno.com or through localharvest.org, search farms in Las Vegas.

You have to get up a little early to enjoy the fruits and veggies of Bountiful Baskets. The food co-op has been around for a while and is big all over the west. Now, more and more locations are sprouting up with Saturday morning pickups at parks throughout Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City. Your personal crop comes with six surprise veggies and six fruits each week; you never know what you’re going to get, but it’s always fresh, in-season food supplied mainly from Kodiak Farms in nearby Arizona.

Tracie Maas is a volunteer area coordinator, who started with Bountiful two years ago while searching for a way to get her family out of their food rut. Maas says it’s definitely promoted healthy eating for her kids who now eat all kinds of fruits and vegetables they would’ve never tried before. “I’d get a canary melon and ask ‘What am I going to do with this?’ Now, I try new recipes and that’s been so fun. Strawberries last up to 10 days instead of getting mushy in three or four when you buy them from the grocery store, because they haven’t been sitting in a warehouse for who knows how long. It’s fresh,” she said.

Maas says the co-op is always searching for volunteers to come out early and help unbox and hand out the goods to the paid customers who are lined up and waiting, sometimes at dawn, for their fresh bounty. The contribution is $16.95 for a basket every other week, $26.95 for organic, and the cutoff to sign up is every Monday. The website gives great info on the co-op and easily guides you through the process: Bring your own empty basket to the park on Saturday morning and get in line. Go to bountifulbaskets.org, then “locations” on the top menu and choose “NV” under states to find your city.

If you’re looking to really invest in Community Supported Agriculture, you can buy a share in a working farm then share in the bounty each week. Meadow Valley Farm, in Moapa, Nev., offers memberships to help grow delicious fresh food and people. Owner, Lindy Omer, along with her husband and two teens, moved to this working farm in 2009. They yield more than bumper crops of broccoli, squash, eggplant, green onions, herbs and sweet bell peppers, to name just a few. They’re also planting the seeds of trust with families who support farming and share in the harvest of hard work and locally grown produce.

“The most important crop we grow is people,” says Omer, “We believe in nurturing families, promoting health and sustaining a balance with nature.” Their farm offers a wide array of freshly grown foods, as well as raw honey from their own beehives, eggs from free-range chickens and farm-raised pigs.

A buy-in is $28 a basket or you can upgrade your bounty and select your own harvest from what’s available for a higher price. They will deliver to your door at home or office; that’s service! Meadow Valley also offers a unique work trade for your farm share earnings; Omer will have you digging in the dirt just four hours a week in trade for your take-home bounty, which also helps strengthen the Community Supported Agriculture relationships they promote. You can find the farm online at meadowvalleycsa.com, by email at meadowvalley@gmail.com, or at the Springs Preserve Farmer’s Market on Thursday mornings.

These are just a few of the many working farms, gardens and co-ops producing abundant, fresh and healthy seasonal foods in Southern Nevada. In a world of hurry and haste, with a supermarket on every corner, it’s nice to know that Community Supported Agriculture is flourishing in urban areas like ours.

For people who want to eat and live healthier, you can put farm-fresh food of the season on the table each week for about the same price as going to the gym. What an affordable holiday present that gives all year long. A sustainable gift of nature’s bounty says, “I care about you, and I care about the planet.”

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