Named as Reno Gazette Journal Citizen of the Year, former Hawthorne resident, Jeff Bryant is working to make Nevada a better place for all – for generations to come.
Bryant grew up in Hawthorne, graduating from Mineral County High School in 1998, a brother to many in a large blended family, he participated in Boy Scouts and worked in state parks systems giving tours and leading hikes.
Leaving Hawthorne, he would venture onto college where he studied to be a teacher but his heart was in conservation work.
The need of conservation work may have come from watching Walker Lake, an ancient lake in Mineral County, decline as its ecosystem became unstable.
His work with Nevada State Parks led him down such avenues as Great Basin Institute and the Conservation Corps and onto AmeriCorps.
“The AmeriCorps piece kind of inspired me and I jumped head-in on trying to create more service opportunities for our youth and the millennials out there, ways for them to get involved and have an impact with the great things that they’re doing,” Bryant told the RGJ.
His commitment to community and sustainability would lead him to Urban Roots, which offers educational programs to students through day camps and school gardens, helping teachers with continuing education by integrating gardening into their classrooms and helping families to grow their own fruits and vegetables through workshops.
Bryant also helped in the building of many hoop-house structures throughout Mineral County that help bring fresh produce to youth and elderly.
“What drives me to work with the kids at this age is that if we can teach them good habits at a very young age, they will continue to build on those habits throughout their lifetime,” Bryant said as he talked to the RGJ. “Over the course of it, they’ll be much more conscious when they’re interacting the food system whether they’re a consumer or they want to be a farmer or a chef or who knows what. Everybody is part of the food system.”
His mother, Renae Billings, couldn’t be prouder of her son. She glows while talking about his accomplishments, some starting in his youth.
“I am very proud of Jeff. He works very hard at what he does and it shows. Then again, I’m proud of all my children,” as she lists where each child is and what they are currently doing in their busy lives.
Bryant doesn’t just stop teaching school children how to eat and grow healthy produce; he also co-funded a second nonprofit, called the Polygrarian Institute, which will focus on a new generation of local farmers and community leaders. From this organization, he hopes to target those 18 and older (and possibly former Urban Roots students) and keep them interested in agriculture.
As many of us go daily to a mundane job, Bryant maintains positivity during the daily grind because he loves what he does.
“As busy as it gets, I always remind myself how lucky I am to get to do something for a living that I’m passionate about,” he said.