Grab some fall goods at The Radish Hotel, a millennial-run backyard urban farm in Sparks

Evan Haddad
Reno Gazette Journal
The Leon family started small when they created The Radish Hotel. Now, the backyard of their Sparks home has transformed into a mini ecosystem buzzing — and clucking — with life.

Three years ago, Crystal and Carlos Leon launched an urban farm in the backyard of their new Sparks home. 

They started small, supplementing store-bought groceries with produce of their own and using eggs from the three chickens that came with the property. Now, the backyard has transformed into a mini ecosystem buzzing — and clucking — with life. 

Welcome to The Radish Hotel.

There are over a dozen chickens; bees for honey; and a seasonal variety of vegetables: kale, chard, rhubarb, mustard, tomatoes, peppers, squash, and cauliflower. 

"If it's edible, we're going to introduce it," Crystal Leon told the RGJ.

Crystal Leon, co-owner of The Radish Hotel, discussing how she cultivates her own sunflower seeds.

Like many farmers, the Leons sell their produce at local famers markets in spring and summer. But the Leons are also part of a new generation of millennial farmers who are helping to chart the course of local food, using tech-savvy marketing skills to maximize consumer access to their goods.

The Leons sell many products via their website. The buying experience is akin to ordering takeout from a restaurant. There's an extensive list of items that website visitors can buy online and pick up at The Radish Hotel (the Leons' home). The Leons also host semi-regular pop-up farm stands when they're not taking goods to market. 

Kale, chard and other veggies growing behind the Leon's backyard shed.

In addition to single items, the Leons offer homemade granola, lip balm and The Radish Hotel Farm Box — a $65 combination box of the farm's latest harvest and three homemade pantry items, such as green-tomato chutney or spicy plum sauce.

Mystery and subscription boxes are one of the latest online shopping trends among younger generations, and the Leons aren't missing out on it. Crystal Leon also plans to launch an educational online food series called "What do we do with it?"

The Leons have been farming for almost two decades. In partnership with a nonprofit, they taught urban agriculture in the Bay Area. They moved to Reno so that Carlos Leon, a first-generation Colombian-American who was born and raised in Reno, could spend more time with his parents.

Crystal Leon quit her job as an after-school programmer in spring 2020 after COVID-19 shuttered schools. The pandemic, she said, helped her leap to farming full-time. 

"That was always the goal," Crystal Leon said. "We did lots of market research and made notes on pricing." 

The Radish Hotel in Sparks. In addition to single items, the urban farm offers homemade granola, lip balm and The Radish Hotel Farm Box — a $65 combination box of the farm's latest harvest and three homemade pantry items, such as green-tomato chutney or spicy plum sauce.

The Leons are licensed to grow through the Nevada Department of Agriculture and are a certified Food Cottage operation through the Nevada Department of Health. The latter allows The Radish Hotel to sell jams, granolas, and other packaged goods made on site.

Sustainability and self-reliance are at the core of The Radish Hotel ethos. As Crystal Leon says, "the future of food is much smaller" than we might think it is — more neighborly and less dependent on big chains and corporations.

The Leons don't believe in pesticides or herbicides; they battle bugs with a concoction of soap, vegetable oil, water and pepper. When the sunflowers have yielded their seeds, the family grills and eats the plants' heads. Spent grains are used as chicken feed. At the end of the growing season, the chickens are unleashed to gobble down the leftover stalks and leaves on the farm.

There seems to be just one thing in the Leon's backyard Eden that isn't eaten or used completely. 

The chickens.

You can check out a menu of The Radish Hotel's menu here or follow them on Instagram for pictures of their produce. 

Follow Evan Haddad for timely, relevant and compelling reporting on food, drinks and city life in Reno. Please consider supporting his work by subscribing to RGJ for news about Northern Nevada that you won't find anywhere else.