By Lauren Huneycutt

Down a bumpy dirt road,  just past the Bordertown exit  on Highway 395 North of Reno,  Nevada, squealing children interrupt the serenity of the 95.16 acre  Girl Farm.  People who are part of this  farm’s program have a different way of shopping for their  staple groceries.

Eight months  out of the year, they are part of  Wendy Baroli’s Personal Farmer  Program.   These families go to  her farm, take care of the animals  they will eventually eat, pick  vegetables and participate in  farming activities.

“I didn’t know how much I  would love the interaction with  the people coming out here,”  Baroli said.


The brown farmhouse, with its  big deck and waving American  flag, is on high ground overlooking the pastures and animal pens.   Mountains surround the farm,  and the air is fresh — without the  expected farm smell.

Sounds of the Irish Dexter cows,  Jacob sheep, Berkshire pigs and  heritage chickens echo across the  still farm.  All keep busy on their  section of pasture.  The sheep are  free to wander from pasture to  pen because Frankie the Border  Collie watches and herds them.

Though Baroli does the majority of farming on her own, she  gets help from her partner, Jill  Heaton, assistant professor of geology at the University of Nevada,  Reno.

“When I come in screaming at  seven in the morning because all  the pigs got out of their pen, Jill  stays and helps, thank goodness,”  Baroli said. “Even though it’s hard  sometimes, I’m so blessed that I  get to be a full-time farmer.”

Girl Farm is interactive.  There  is no hired labor, only volunteers  who want to see how the farm  works.  Baroli chose the animals knowing she wanted heritage breeds.   This means the animal’s genetics  have not been crossed in any  way — they are pure.

In general  they are stronger, and in Baroli’s  words, they are “survivors.”  “These animals thrive in  extreme temperatures,” Baroli  said.  “They are clean and natural  weed-eaters and foragers.

They  are the type of animal that help  make a small farm profitable.   The marbling of their meat happens naturally when they eat the  grass, and they eat sagebrush;  that’s amazing.”

The women are resourceful  and use their 30-year-old tractor when necessary, grow their  own hay and never pay for their  specialty fertilizer.  “That 300 by 3 foot wall over  there [on the back pasture] is a  worm farm,” Baroli said.

“We use  the worm castings as fertilizer,  and the microbes in the castings  replenish our soil.”  The farm is on a plot of land  that has naturally rich soil and its  own water reservoir.  Established  for $12,000 in 1950, this reservoir  supplies the entire farm.

“I cannot think of any other  farm with something like this,”  Heaton said.  “We don’t have to  worry about the drought in years  like this one or last because the  reservoir constantly collects water when it is available and stores  it until use.  It is self-sufficient.”

Just 30 minutes from their Reno  market, Girl Farm has a convenient location.  It is thriving, and  Baroli has found a unique and  steady way to pay most of the  bills from the farm.


Baroli created what she calls  the Personal Farmer Program.   It is a hands-on program where  families go to the farm every  Sunday during season, take care  of and name the animals, plant  vegetable seeds and harvest  produce.

“When people sign up for this  program, they are successful if  they become a part of the farm,”  Baroli said.  “The kids love it, and  we are really popular with people  who have celiac disease and  other dietary restrictions because  our food is untreated and fresh.”

To be part of the Personal  Farmer Program, there is an  application process.  The fee to  apply is $50, and the questions  mainly ask about the family’s  eating habits.

Lauren Huneycutt /Nevada Sagebrush Girl Farm is one of the only local farms to raise Berkshire pigs. Farmer Wendy Baroli allows the kids who are part of the Personal Farmer Program to name the piglets after they are born.

Girl Farm is one of the only local farms to raise Berkshire pigs. Farmer Wendy Baroli allows the kids who are part of the Personal Farmer Program to name the piglets after they are born. Photo by Lauren Huneycutt / Nevada Sagebrush

“Having a personal farmer is  like having a personal trainer,”  Heaton said.  “The personal  trainer is there to help you, but  you have to do the work to lose  weight.  A personal farmer is the  same thing.  They are there to  help you access better food, you  just have to put in the work too.”

The application asks questions  such as: How often do you eat  greens?  What four vegetables do  you consider your staples? How  often do you eat meat?  What  types?  Do you frequently use  herbs?

“It’s really important to ask  them how they eat,” Baroli said.   “If they are just signing up for  this on a whim, or experimenting with eating healthy, this  program isn’t for them.”  Girl Farm accepts 30 “farm  families” to be a part of the program, nearly 150 people.

After  acceptance into the program  there is a fee of $2,650.  This  income, nearly $80,000, keeps  a portion of Girl Farm’s income  predictable and steady.  “One thing that’s important  about the program is that the  farmer doesn’t have to deliver,”  Heaton said.


“When they have  to deliver or go to farmer’s markets, they are a delivery service,  not a farmer on the farm.  With  the program, the distance between the farmer and consumer  is zero.”

This payment gives the farm  family a choice between a  quarter beef (avg. 65 lbs.), a goat  (50-60 lbs) or two lambs (25-30  lbs each).  On top of that, each  family is guaranteed a quarter  pork (30 lbs), a quarter lamb (8  lbs), the produce mentioned on  their application, including their  herb list, any fruits and berries  that become available, six roasting chickens, one turkey (for  thanksgiving) and a dozen eggs  every week.


Baroli and Heaton  are planning to add classes for  canning, cooking, food preservation and more.  “Farmers used to have customers,” Baroli said.  “We don’t  call them that.  They are farm  families, and they participate.   They weed and help plant.”  Sundays on the farm are  family day.

The families are not  required to come out every Sunday of the month but have the  option to do so.  The Personal  Farmer Program is active eight  months out of the year.  “It’s a beautiful thing to see kids  eating green beans raw quicker  than they can put them in their  bag,” Baroli said.

“They are getting so excited over healthy food  because they are doing the work  to grow and pick it.”  The families can pick as many  vegetables as they have the  patience to harvest, help plant  new produce and pet and name  the newborn animals.  “It’s a far more intimate  relationship with your food,”  Heaton said.

“A lot of the parents  that are part of the program had  farming in their background and  want that experience for their  kids.”  BENEFITS OF A LOCAL  FARM  According to the Organic  Consumer’s Association, small  farms are 200 to 1,000 percent  more productive per square unit  area when compared to mass  production farms.

“There are 36 million tons of  food waste per year,” Baroli said.   “That’s frightening.  We use every inch of this farm, and reuse  and refurbish a lot.”  Girl Farm prides itself on having the healthiest soil, animals  and practices.  “Farm families want to not  only buy local, hormone-free  food that is not genetically  modified, but also participate  in production and harvest,”  Heaton said.

Reno is in the midst of a local  food movement, and buying  locally grown food has been  shown to promote food safety,  help with allergies, preserve  farmland, create community  and improve the local economy.

“Creating a sense of place  and community is so important  to me, and that’s what we are  doing through food; connecting  to the community,” Baroli said.   “People care about our farm,  and we’re teaching people to  care about what goes in their  bodies.  Everybody has to eat.   Food is a good way to connect  to people and a community.  To  feel that sense of place, sense of  home.”

The list of applicants for the  Personal Farmer Program is  growing.  There is now a wait list.  “I never thought I would farm  animals for food, and it’s still  hard because I love and respect  these animals so much,” Baroli  said.

“I can barely kill a spider.   But I’ve come to realize that giving the healthiest food possible  to my community is the most  beneficial thing I’ve ever done  for myself in terms of serving my  community.  I love what I do.”

Lauren Huneycutt can be reached  at