I feel inspired.
I really look forward to January and February. Farmers in Texas work pretty much 24/7, but normally there is some downtime during the winter months. With all the season extension research and development taking place, that is slowly changing, but for now, most large agricultural events happen during the first quarter of the year. Which means that the farmers get to play.
This month we were in Austin, with the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association annual conference. We met some new friends; it was TOFGA's 20th anniversary, and it felt like a big party. The banquet keynote speaker was Jim Hightower, and if you haven't heard him speak, well, you need to. Farmers need an advocate, and they certainly have one in Jim.
We met Dorsey Barger of Hausbar Farms, former owner of East Side Cafe, who is making a difference in her neighborhood and helping to bring urban farming into the mainstream. Dorsey is raising produce, chickens and rabbits, and is getting ready to step into the world of aquaponics with the new system they've installed.
We met Paige Hill of Urban Patchwork Neighborhood Farms. (We sought her out because we heard about her program and were amazed at what she's accomplished). Paige is bringing food and education into neighborhoods by building gardens and CSAs in the neighborhoods they serve. Hyperlocal is going to be the next big thing. I'd really love to see this business model in the Dallas/Fort Worth area - we need more local food and this may be one of the fastest avenues to make that happen.
And we saw many of our old friends. One of the things I've noticed about the farmers I work with - they are always happy help someone just starting out. Brad and Jenny Stufflebeam of Home Sweet Farm in Brenham gave a workshop on starting a small family farm. They have been integral to TOFGA's push for mentoring and networking opportunities for new farmers. Erin Flynn and Skip Connett of Green Gate Farms in Austin have started their New Farm Institute to serve as a new farm incubator. Without farmers like these, we wouldn't be seeing the growth in local agriculture that we are in Texas.
Texas agriculture is a very small community. This is the community that is fighting for your right to have raw milk, farm fresh produce and grass-fed meat produced locally and sustainably. If you aren't looking for it, you probably won't see all the activity, but we'd like to invite you to stop at your local farmers market and say hello. You might find your next meal.