Re: how to figure out what you can grow, what will work, where you are.
I would do research into the average temperatures, average humidity levels, average rainfall, and average 'soil' (alkaline, etc...) for your plants vs. where you are buying land.
I grew up in a desert in New Mexico, and ended up in a desert in AZ. I have used techniques and plants that worked in NM well, only to find they flopped entirely in AZ. heat levels combined with humidity levels were often a big issue. Either it was too hot or cold for a particular plant, or it was too dry and had too little water, you know? But doing just a little climate research (even if I don't do soil research), has helped a lot in figuring out what will work well, and what may work if I tweak it a little (like growing something near a wall for extra heat can offset a slightly colder climate than the plant was expecting).
Next, I would see what has been, or was, grown by people
who have lived in that area for the last few hundred years. Are there any local tribes where you want to buy, for example? What types of crops they grow is a good clue what will work. The thing to remember is that it may not be foods you are used to eating, you know? What native plants
there are edible or usable? If they grow there already, it's going to be easier to grow on your property.
If you are still looking at Elko, Nevada, there's going to be some desert plants that are going to be out for you, due to temperature, I'm thinking, just looking at the climate data. For example, in the Sonoran desert in AZ, the average winter temps are in the 40's. In Elko, they're in the teens, and you get a few feet of snow, on average. I am on the edge of the Sonoran desert, a little higher up, where the average temp is in the thirties, and even here, I have trouble growing some of the lower desert plants (like moringa, for example). Pomegranate might be problematic, but you might be able to make it work. Most fruit trees that do well in deserts, that I can think of, are going to want warmer temperatures, more water, or both, you know? Higher deserts don't tend to have much in the way of native fruit trees for a reason.
If you check out what grows in some of the higher deserts in New Mexico, based on the temp, at least, that might be useful to find some compatible plants.
But you can probably swing some of the lower water usage fruit trees that can tolerate slightly colder temps (I'm sure there must be some).
The rainfall average is less than 10 inches a year in elko, as well, so that is definitely going to be an issue to consider as well. It can be harvested, from your home and some areas, but there are also some strict rules on irrigation from waterways, or blocking any waterways (even arroyos that only run with water part of the year) so you will have limits on what you can use from it.
re: concern over trees not being on property, and should you worry - kinda of yes, and kind of no. I'd do a check. Was there cattle
grazing there or farming that could explain it? If not, then a lack of trees might indicate something that you could be problematic but you can overcome with some time - like high winds - or it could indicate something that is problematic and you might not be able to overcome, like some insane caliche. There's a famous story of an Baldassare Forestiere in fresno, ca who bought enough
land for growing citrus, but then it turns out to be caliche so deep that he ended up carving out underground
living quarters and gardens, instead (it's admittedly pretty spectacular, but most of us aren't looking for that (http://www.undergroundgardens.com/about
Basically...it's gonna take some research, is all. But doable.
re: major costs you may not necessarily think of - growing things quickly in the desert seems to take either lots of time, or lots of money. Time for things to grow naturally, in the environment you have. Or money to add lots of extra water and/or additions to the soil to get it started and grown more quickly to the point the plant systems start to support themselves more. Maybe there are other ways, but from what I've seen, that's pretty much it. The big greening the desert projects I know of had large amounts of extra water donated or purchased in the beginning to get things started, seedlings instead of seeds, etc... Me, I don't have that and I have just been slowly letting things grow for over 10 years (also slow as I don't have a lot of labor helping), and it's still nowhere near done. So if you don't have a lot of money, just be prepared for it to take longer to get self-sustaining than it would if you weren't in a desert.
Also, heads up - we have some local water and native plant experts here in AZ and they are all predicting less water and higher temperatures in the coming decades for most of the southwest. Estimate I was told was to expect maybe 10 degrees higher, on average, by 2030 around here, and I would assume Nevada would be no different, you know? So I'd factor that in.
Also, water use is high enough in the southwest as a whole, and with many areas lacking any regulations that would actually help curb it, that the water table is going down in many areas, so we are seeing wells dry up. I expect this may be more frequent in the next few decades as well. I would consider water harvesting as a big factor for your water on property, even if you have a well, just in case.
That said - I love the desert. I love living here, and growing things here seems especially rewarding as it's more of a challenge and it feels that much more wonderful when it works. But also - there are limits to what you can do. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that if you want to try doing something in the desert, you really gotta like the desert first, you know? Because you may have a greener and more awesome desert, by the end, but it's still going to BE a desert. And a desert is tough, and hot, and it's one of those places you often either love it or hate it, and you definitely don't want to live somewhere you hate.