The CD of Southern Nevada created the Zion Garden Park Agriculture Assistance Program to address natural resource conservation at the community level and enabled community members to successfully grow produce in Las Vegas’ desert climate. Located in a low-income, low-access region and surrounded by the highest food insecurity rates in the Las Vegas Valley, the program addressed issues such as healthy soils, backyard conservation, planting, irrigation and pest management as well as nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals. The program featured three distinct components.
Another key element to the program’s success included a partnership with West Career and Technical Academy (West CTA), a local CTE high school with a licensed nursery. West CTA donated over 1,000 locally-grown seedlings to the program as well as provided technical support. The students worked with a group of disabled young adults to plant the seedlings as part of one of their mentoring programs.An abundance of community support and donations contributed to the success and growth of the Zion Garden Park Program. Dozens of organizations donated products and services to bring many elements of the program to completion. One unique contribution to the program was the virtual 3D model of the demonstration garden donated by State Renewable Energy. This model allowed the garden to be designed and referenced from a PC, smart phone or tablet and also provided flexibility and mobility for accessing the garden when obtaining additional consultations and special expertise.
In addition to community partnerships, the program is located in the City of North Las Vegas Choice Neighborhood Revitalization Area and received numerous donations from the City of North Las Vegas including a wrought-iron fence and permeable pathway surrounding the one-acre garden as well as a large covered patio.
The Zion Garden Park Program has won three awards over the last year. It received the 2016 “Conservation Excellence in Agriculture” award from the Nevada Association of Conservation Districts last November, which was the first time the award had been given to an urban agriculture project. The project also received the 2017 “Sustainable Community” award from Green Chips in March, and the 2017 “Transformers” award from the U.S. Green Building Council and Green Alliance in April for being a maker of change in the community.
The program has been highlighted in numerous online and printed publications over the last year, including the USDA NRCS website, the Nevada Division of Forestry’s Livestock and Agriculture Journal, and both the NACD’s eResource and The Resource publications.
Community partners want to continue to move forward with the development of Phase II for the Zion Garden Park Program. Initial plans to develop an entire urban agriculture center around the Zion Garden Park are being discussed. Also, community members want to continue with the gardening and nutrition education classes that were provided through Cooperative Extension.
The program has continued to be promoted even after the close of the grant cycle. NACD highlighted the Zion Garden Park Program in their summer 2017 edition of The Resource and, in August, USDA NRCS published a national story on the Zion Garden Park Program as part of their Friday’s on the Farm series.
In addition to the continued publicity, the project director has given presentations on the program at the “Partners for a Healthier Nevada” quarterly meeting and a local sustainability conference, Desert Green. The program was also highlighted at the 2017 Southern Nevada Urban Agriculture and Food Sustainability Forum.