Monday, February 10, 2014

2014 Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assn Conference: The Time Is Now

I'm a board member of the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.  TOFGA is a statewide organization supporting organic and sustainable agriculture, and the farmer is our focus.

Our major undertaking is an annual conference, and I just returned from our 2014 get together in Houston. It's always a fun time with great food, and it's often the only opportunity we have to see some of our friends throughout the state, so we look forward to it for both the educational and social aspects.

This year we noted some changes, which I feel are indicative of a broader change in sustainable agriculture in Texas.

TOFGA is one of the few places you can find people to talk about things like small animal husbandry, backyard livestock, GMOs and how to run a raw milk dairy.  We cover all the usual subjects - specialty crops, composting, farmers' markets, etc., but we also hit the livestock track, which is where I saw the big difference this year.

Usually, we provide the livestock classes and may get 4-5 people in each class.  They appeal to a targeted niche audience, so that's not unusual, but his year we had 15-20 in each class.  And not just grass fed beef production (there were 35 in that class).

Our livestock track covered pastured poultry, pasture-based goat dairy, grass fed beef, high-density grazing, pastured swine and sheep, and raw milk production.  Not your average everyday gardening conference. And there were a lot of folks there to learn.

We brought in some of our heavy hitters to teach:

Jon Taggart of Burgundy Pasture Beef talked about sustainable practices in grass fed beef - he's seeing some changes in the industry that he's not happy about. Grass fed is grass fed - why is there discussion about that?

Stuart and Connie Veldhuizen spoke about raw milk dairy farming, and if you've had some good Texas cheese, you've probably had theirs.  Veldhuizen Cheese has a Redneck Cheddar that is truly amazing, and Stuart has developed a method for building cheese caves using papercrete that is both simple and cost-effective.  And...they bring cheese samples to their workshops, so of course they are well attended!

Betsy Ross of Sustainable Growth Texas discussed soil health and high density grazing.  Ranchers are in effect grass farmers, so they must keep the health of their soil as the highest priority.  She's been working closely with Kim and Laurie at Barking Cat Farm in West Tawakoni, so we are reaping the benefits of her mentorship here in north Texas.

What does that mean for Texas?  Hopefully, more access to meat, eggs and milk from some new small, sustainable farms.  Homegrown food that is native Texan.  I'm all for it.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I like to make resolutions for the New Year.  I feel like it gives me some focus, some direction, even if it only lasts for a week or so (just kidding).

This year we've had a number of changes that are causing me to reevaluate some of the things I do habitually, and I thought I would share them just as an opportunity to get them out there.  Kind of like sending them to the universe to see what it sends back.

Here they are:

1.  Be more open.  You can learn a lot by just listening, and even when you don't agree with what the other person is saying, you may get some insight.

2.  Relax. It may not all get done, but if I don't enjoy it, what's the point?

3.  Spend more time with friends and family.

4.  Finish some of those projects I have packed away (like that quilt that just needs a binding...)

5.  Plant a community garden.  This is my big one for this year, and it's going to take a community to get it done. Check out our blog for progress reports.

6.  Learn how to ferment.  I've done some rudimentary fermenting (carrots and such) but I'm far from being competent.  I'd like to feel more comfortable.

7.  Be less critical.  It's easy to criticize what other people are doing, but not so easy to do it yourself.  I salute those who put themselves out there, whether I agree with them or not.

8.  Worry less.  I'm a worrier.  It drives me crazy, raises my blood pressure, and accomplishes nothing, so I'm over it.  I'll let you know how I do :-)

9.  Try some recipes I've always wanted to make.  I've been pinning to my Pinterest board for more than a year, and there are a number of things on there I've not yet attempted, so bring it on!

There's something about the new year that always seems clean, unsullied and beckoning.  I'm wishing each of you a 2014 that brings you closer to where you really want to be!  Happy New Year!



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Local Meat in Dallas

We are truly blessed in Dallas.  It used to be that you bought a side of beef, stored it in your deep freeze, and it fed you for 6 months to a year, depending on the size of your family.  I bought half a lamb a few years ago, and had to shuffle it to my friends when we spent four days without power due to downed tree.  It wouldn't have been possible to do that with a side of beef.

I see you!

I've purchased local meat from several farmers.  In the Dallas area, there are a number that sell meat at Farmers Markets or provide home delivery, and here are some of my favorites:
Livestock First Ranch 
Rehoboth Ranch
Bar M Ranch
Juha Ranch
Burgundy Pastured Beef

In addition, if you need a special cut quickly, the Local Yocal just off the square in McKinney runs a full service retail butcher shop carrying locally raised beef from Matt Hamilton's Genesis Beef.  They also carry local chicken, pork, lamb, goat, eggs, dairy and honey.  Good stuff.

If I'm picking up at a farmers market, I like to call ahead and preorder.  Farmers like to know they have orders before they get to market, and this helps them make sure they have enough product.  Additionally, some have limited eggs and give priority to orders that include meat, so it's a good idea to get on their list before market day.

Don't be afraid to ask questions.  Every one of these farmers is proud of what they produce, and happy to talk about it with you.  Know your farmer!