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Airman initiative sprouts base garden in Reno

Airman 1st Class Kristine Wiley, right, works on the Nevada Air National Guard Base community garden with University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Pamela Van Hoozer on July 8, 2015. Wiley, with approval from base leadership, started work this summer on creating a community garden that now houses 10 raised and three ground plant beds just west of the base firehouse. Photo by Nevada Air Guard Tech Sgt. Emerson Marcus.

Airman 1st Class Kristine Wiley, right, works on the Nevada Air National Guard Base community garden with University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Pamela Van Hoozer on July 8, 2015. Wiley, with approval from base leadership, started work this summer on creating a community garden that now houses 10 raised and three ground plant beds just west of the base firehouse. Photo by Nevada Air Guard Tech Sgt. Emerson Marcus.

RENO -- It's not quite enchanted.

And it's certainly less of a secret than many gardens, especially with recent attention from an Air Force video production firm.

In two months, though, the community garden at the Nevada Air National Guard Base in Reno has sprouted herbs, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, corn, peas, peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, lavender, basil, sage -- and some initiative from lower enlisted Airmen on the base.

"I wanted to start (a community garden) on base because we are here all the time anyway," Airman 1st Class Kristine Wiley said.

"It's a work in progress."

That "work in progress" recently got the attention of a video crew with "Ready Airman," an official production of the Air National Guard Community Action Information Board that produces videos and online media content focused on Air Guardsmen. A video crew from Colorado visited the Reno base in July to produce a video on the garden. While they didn't definitively say it was the only base garden in the nation, they did say it was the only one they had discovered.

The allotment sits just west of the base firehouse with 10 raised plant beds, three ground beds and other gardening materials.

Wiley said she proposed the plan for the garden similarly to preparing a resume package for a job. She researched items needed and best procedures before presenting to leadership.

The base provided the project with a budget of $1,000 and obtained a volunteer master gardener from the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension.

"We just got so much help in the community," Wiley said.

Pamela Van Hoozer, a master gardener with UNR Cooperative Extension, has worked on the garden with Wiley and other Nevada Guard Airmen.

"Having the community garden here at the Nevada Air National Guard base is a perfect fit because we are always looking for people motivated and excited about gardening," Hoozer said. "It's (the Nevada Air National Guard) a wonderful and receptive organization."

Additionally, UNR Cooperative Extension will work with base Airmen to trim the property's several fruit trees with hopes they resume fruiting apples, apricots and peaches, Wiley said. The trees have stopped fruiting in recent years, she said.

Several Airmen on base are participating, including Col. Karl Stark, the commander of the 152nd Airlift Wing. Stark lauded Wiley's persistence in convincing leadership on the creation of the garden and said that while the 152nd Airlift Wing continues to get younger, it's important for leaders to be receptive to new ideas.

"As the Air National Guard changes, we as leaders are bound to grow leaders, to grow Airmen," Stark said. "Here, (with the community garden) what we are trying to do is get out of the box a little bit and figure out how we do that with today's Airmen."

He added: "This is a really interesting project. In the Air Force we talk about being 'fit to fight' and use other buzz words. But this is reality -- showing that you don't have to eat processed food out of a box. Something as simple as this can mean multiple positive things to an individual's health."

For more information on the base community garden, or if you want to get involved, contact Airman 1st Class Kristine Wiley at Kristine.J.Wiley.mil@mail.mil or 775-354-7901.