Executive Summary

The purpose of this study was to determine the needs of Douglas County citizens. The results then could serve as educational and programmatic foci in the years to come. This Douglas County Needs Assessment was conducted in conjunction with Carson City/Storey County. The results of this needs assessment will provide a foundation for need-based education, research and outreach strategies for programs and services in Douglas County. University of Nevada, Reno Extension, a unit within the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources, is responsible for and committed to providing these educational programs and services to residents throughout Nevada. It should be noted that while this is a community needs assessment, the identification of a need does not imply Extension should be the agency to address every need, due to lack of expertise and/or staffing.

Extension educational outreach activities are based on issues of importance to citizens that are identified through comprehensive community assessments conducted by Extension faculty, specialists, and staff members. To guide Douglas County Extension’s programming, the six University of Nevada, Reno Extension program areas from the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 549.010 were used as the framework. They include: (1) agriculture, (2) community development, (3) health and nutrition, (4) horticulture, (5) natural resources, and (6) personal and family development. Issues identified in research literature and local media publications, along with a review of the unique characteristics of Douglas County, became the initial step that helped form the foundation of this needs assessment.

A mixed-method assessment strategy comprised of a community survey and key informant interviews was conducted. The survey was active from January 24 to June 19, 2019, and resulted in 156 completed surveys of citizens indicating they lived in Douglas County. Community members were encouraged to access the survey through direct emailing, promotion on social media, articles about the needs assessment in traditional media (i.e. newspaper), with paper copies available to interested persons. Participants were encouraged to forward the survey link to other community members to increase responses. Key informant interviews were conducted between February and July 2019, and included 27 community stakeholders. These key informant interviews provided in-depth community perspectives focused on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) facing Douglas County.

The top needs, as identified through community surveys and face-to-face key informant interviews, were: local foods; preserving agriculture and rural heritage; agricultural literacy and education; small-acreage education; beekeeping/pollinators; growing food; native/drought-tolerant plants; Master Gardener Program; water; wildfire; weeds; and youth programming/activities.

In summary, a variety of program topics were identified as significant needs through analysis of results from both the surveys and interviews, especially concerning agricultural heritage and literacy; small-acreage management; local and home-produced foods; water; and wildfire. This assessment identified a number of significant needs that will guide continuing and future educational and research-based programming. It is anticipated that these results will be useful for community partners and stakeholders as they determine priorities and programming direction for Douglas County.


Douglas County, Nevada, has the fifth largest population in Nevada with 48,000 residents. The seasonal population can exceed 65,000 due to its proximity to Lake Tahoe, Reno, Carson City, and northern California. Douglas County covers approximately 751 square miles and ranges in elevation from 4,625 feet on the valley floor to 9,500 feet at East Peak. Major County employers are leaders in the fields of technology, advanced manufacturing, and research. With the proximity to Lake Tahoe, tourism employs up to 30% of the workforce.

There are several small communities within Douglas County. Genoa is the oldest permanent settlement in Nevada, nestled at the base of the Carson Range of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Mormon Station, the original name of the settlement, was established in 1851 as a trading post. Mormon Station was the first town and a boomtown, not because of mining, but rather agriculture. In 2019, Genoa celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Candy Dance, which attracts thousands of people to the area for the annual art, craft, and candy fair. Minden is north of Gardnerville and hosts numerous events and activities, including a farmer’s market, Bently Distillery, and the Minden Park, which is home to a splash pad, Concerts in the Park, and is a place to celebrate community. Gardnerville, was founded to serve the agricultural population and was once known as “Nevada’s Garden Spot.” It is one of the earliest settled, richest, and most productive of the state’s agricultural regions. Main Street Gardnerville provides numerous plaques posted on buildings throughout the district, providing a historical flavor, including Basque dining. Additionally, Topaz Lake (21 miles from Gardnerville) offers fishing, there is an extensive trails system, and the Pinenut Mountains are home to a band of wild horses (Douglas County: Community Profile, 2019).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2019), the population growth from 2010 to 2019 was 4.1%. Persons under age 18 are 16% of the population, ages 19-64 make up 54.3% of the population, and persons aged 65+ make up 29.7% of the population. Male and female residents are nearly evenly split. Nearly 11% of the population are veterans, and 7.6% are foreign-born. The median home price is $346,500 and the median household income is $62,503.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture reported 100,944 acres of land in farms (ranches) in Douglas County, comprising 255 farms, with the average-sized farm being 396 acres. Both land in farms (acres) and number of farms increased (11% and 42%), from the 2007 survey while the size of the farms decreased 22%. Small-acre farms make up the bulk of farms with approximately 75 farms that are 1-9 acres in size, and 90 farms that are 10-49 acres in size. In the state, Douglas County is ranked 1st for cut Christmas trees, 1st for nursery stock crops, 7th in horses and ponies, 8th in all vegetables harvested, 10th in sheep and lambs, 12th in cattle and calves, and 15th in egg layers. The net cash farm income of operation ($1000: the threshold for reporting profit and loss of net farm income) was -$3720 and the average per farm was -$14,590, meaning that according to the Census of Agriculture, the average farm is not profitable. Women farm operators are 31%, and 98% of farm owners are Caucasian/white. The average age of farmers/ranchers in Douglas County is 63.8. With about 65% of farms in Douglas County being 49 acres or less in size, it is anticipated that needs may be different for these landowners who may be more interested in hobby agriculture, than traditional commercial agriculture.

The following mixed-method needs assessment is organized according to the results from the community survey. Top identified needs from each method of data collection (i.e. survey findings, write-in responses, and interview themes) have been synthesized, and the overall findings from this assessment have been formatted according to the six programmatic areas specified by the Nevada Revised Statutes. This resulted in priority needs for each of the six program areas, which are presented in Chapter 4. Furthermore, existing programs have been identified for several of the top identified needs, to provide a snapshot of what is currently occurring for the identified priorities found here. In conjunction with community stakeholders, it is hoped findings will impact future programming and direction for planning efforts in Douglas County.

Methods and Survey Results

The local Extension Educator is responsible for assessing ongoing community outreach and engagement needs to enhance people’s lives within Douglas County. As part of this process, a formal needs assessment was conducted in 2019. This included a community survey distributed widely to gather information regarding community needs as defined by the six program areas defined by Nevada Revised Statutes: agriculture, community development, health and nutrition, horticulture, natural resources, and personal and family development.


This assessment was developed jointly with Extension staff in Carson City/Storey County with a plan to offer a regional survey to the citizens of these communities. Results were separated by indicated communities for individual analysis. This project received UNR Institutional Review Board approval prior to all data collection. The results reported in this document are from the Douglas County respondents only; Carson City and Storey County results can be found in a separate publication.

Respondents were asked to prioritize the list of needs - high, medium, and low priority - or they could select ‘no knowledge.’ The survey was distributed online through various websites, email, and social media platforms, as well as through the local newspapers. Participants were invited to complete the survey online. Participants also could obtain a paper copy at each of the Extension Offices if they preferred. The survey was anonymous. Respondents were invited to send the link to anyone they believed could assess community needs (Fricker, 2008). Survey respondents were permitted to write in any additional agricultural needs that they felt were important but were not included on the list provided in the survey. Data analysis for the survey was conducted in Qualtrics.

Twenty-seven key-informant (21 males, 6 females) interviews were conducted between February 2019 and July 2019. Interviewees included animal veterinarians, natural resource professionals, community health professionals, family-support service personnel, local news and media relations personnel, town managers, a variety of elected officials, business owners and managers, community art advocates, ranchers/farmers, Master Gardeners, and school district personnel. All interviews were done face-to-face and lasted approximately one hour. During each interview, interviewees were asked to self-identify which NRS area (Agriculture; Community Development; Health and Nutrition; Horticulture; Natural Resources; and/or Personal and Family Development) they best identified with. In a couple of instances this self-identification differed from the category we had originally assigned them to. Each interviewee provided consent prior to the interview and each interview had consistent questioning with a simple SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats) analysis from their perspective as a professional and/or citizen in the community. Notes were taken by hand, and content was organized by language and thematic content. Saturation occurred toward the end of the scheduled interviews, which led us to believe we had captured the most important issues within the county.

All the comments made by the interviewees were assigned to one of the six Extension program areas for key themes and programmatic opportunities. Some of the comments provided by interviewees were applicable to more than one area, so all comments of a similar theme were grouped into one section (i.e. flooding comments went into natural resources, rather than into agriculture; education around agriculture went into agriculture, rather than in personal and family development; and youth programs went into personal and family development rather than into community development). Furthermore, some weaknesses could also be opportunities; and some threats could be weaknesses for programming, outreach, and/or engagement. There may or may not be a complete SWOT section for each of the six areas. Finally, if a comment was mentioned more than once, it is listed once but the number of times it was mentioned follows in parenthesis. See Appendix D for complete key informant data.


The survey link was distributed to citizens of Carson City, Storey, and Douglas Counties. A total of 549 individuals started the survey, but only 306 county residents completed it. The data file was split by community, resulting in 156 completed surveys by Douglas County residents. Most individuals (58%) learned about the survey through a direct link that was sent to them, or forwarded to them, while the others learned through listservs, postings on media websites (e.g., The Record Courier, CarsonNow.com), and postings on social media platforms.

Not all respondents answered all questions, thus the ‘n’ indicates the number of respondents for a question. A total of 107 individuals indicated they were between the ages of 18 and 78 years old. The average age of the survey respondent was 50 years old. Of the 150 respondents who self-reported their race/ethnicity, the majority were White/Caucasian (n=130, 87%), followed by two or more races (n=10, 7%), American Indian/Alaskan Native (n=3, 2%), Hispanic/Latino (n=3, 2%), and Asian (n=1, 1%). Self-reported gender (n=151) was 68% (n=102) female and 32% (n=49) male. On average, respondents reported living in this community for 18 years.

The demographics for Douglas County, according to the U.S. Census, indicate that the average age is 51 years old; and the gender representation is 50% male and 50% female. The Census Bureau also indicates 92% of the county population is White/Caucasian, 2% American Indian/Alaska Native, 1% Black/African American, 2% Asian, 0.2% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 13% Hispanic/Latino, and 3% are two or more races.

Community Needs

Participants were asked to indicate which program area they most closely identify with. The largest percentage of respondents (30%) reported with “Health and Nutrition” either professionally or personally, followed by community development, and agriculture (Figure 2.1).

For the complete needs assessment with figures, graphs and charts, use the link below to download the PDF version.

Chichester, L., Taylor, L., Evans, B., & Russell, K. 2020, Douglas County Needs Assessment, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno, SP-20-15

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