Yerington Cooling Facility Shows Agriculture's Expansion - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Yerington Cooling Facility Shows Agriculture's Expansion

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Many people might think of California's Central Valley as a major hub for our fruits and vegetables, but Yerington is expanding its foothold in the produce industry. The small town is home to one of the largest onion farms in America, but farmers also grow about 40 other organic items in the Mason Valley.

Walker River Cooling opened in May, and Governor Brian Sandoval attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new distribution center.

"It's astounding, the amount of produce and product that they push out of here," Sandoval said. "It's not just onions. It's lettuce, it's broccoli, it's cauliflower. It's all of those things and it's happening right here in Nevada."

Walker River Cooling is the first of its kind in Nevada, providing a state of the art facility to cool Yerington's produce to 34-36 degrees. Peri & Sons Farms teamed up with Nunes Company to create the facility.

"We can harvest the crop and get it in here and get the field heat out, which helps shelf life and quality," Tom Nunes, Vice President of Operations for The Nunes Company said.

The cooling facility includes a nearly 13,000 square-foot refrigeration building that can hold anywhere from 12,000 to 16,000 cases of produce.

"Anything from spring mix to spinach to arugula to celery to broccoli to cauliflower," Nunes said. "The list kind of goes on and on."

Together, Peri & Sons Farms and Nevada Fresh Pak are Lyon County's biggest employer. Currently, there are 1,750 seasonal farm workers and 400 full-time employees. Forty people work at Walker River Cooling.

"It's pretty much all the community has right now is agriculture," David Peri, President of Peri & Sons Farms said. "You've got the school district, so you either have a state job or a local job, or it's ag here."

Nevada is seeing a large influx of economic growth, fueled by new technology companies and other businesses moving to the state. Still, agriculture remains a huge economic driver in rural Nevada.

"It's one of our base industries," Sandoval said. "We celebrate all these new companies that are coming in but at the same time, agriculture has always been one of those anchors for our state. Agriculture has been around since statehood and that's something that I want to continue to support, and that's why I'm here today, because I have a profound respect for rural Nevada, for our agricultural industry and I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it successful."

Walker River Cooling treats and ships produce throughout the country and internationally. Peri says Nevada's business-friendly climate and Yerington's location helps farmers in the Silver State. Shipping produce to the east is several hours closer than fruits and vegetables that come from California.

"That's going to give us an advantage to get the end product to the consumer at a more affordable price," Peri said.

It may come as a surprise that so many vegetables grow in the Yerington desert, but Nunes says the climate and elevation is perfect for organic produce. It doesn't have the insect problems that coastal farms have.

"The climate here is unique," Nunes said. "The workforce, the employees, the people who are part of this community have been tremendous. So, it makes for a real successful business venture."

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