Community Development

The Texas Center for Local Food is launching a series of community meetings this fall about Making Money for Your Farm! 

The series will explore marketing and sales topics by and for Texas farmers and ranchers. Meetings are an opportunity to learn from, connect, and ask questions of other Texas producers while building community connections and learning how to grow your farm business. Registration is FREE and required in advance via Zoom.

Register today and please share with other farmers – experienced, new, and aspiring alike!

🍴 How to Break into Restaurant Sales — Wednesday, September 6th — 6:00 – 7:30pm

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZErcO2vrjMoG9a-26BE0DIUQw8WiHCydJIO 

For the first event on September 6, Texas farmers and chefs discuss what you need to do as a farmer to sell to restaurants and what to keep in mind when you’re building your relationship with chefs. Featuring Finegan Ferreboeuf of Steelbow Farm, Chelsea Fadda of Pecan Square Cafe, Marcella Juarez of Palo Blanco Farm & Ranch and Nadia Casaperalta of South Texas College’s Culinary Department. Bring your questions, share with your network, and register today!

🥕 Best Practices for Selling at Farmers Markets — Wednesday, October 4th — 6:00 – 7:30pm

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0rceyopjIsGNGU7yEdobREz-fKgupYtpb5 

Are you interested in selling at farmers markets, or making improvements to your current setup? Join the Texas Center for Local Food for the second event of their Making Money for Your Farm series on October 4th from 6:00pm – 7:30pm!

Hear from two experienced farmers market vendors – Kay Bell with Passion Garden Farm and Chisa Brigham at HAD Land Farms – about what they’ve learned and how they maximize their profitability at market. They’ll discuss best practices for display, sales, and logistics, and leave plenty of time for discussion and questions. Register today & please share!


📈 Harvest & Sales Tracking Tools — Wednesday, November 1st — 6:00 – 7:30pm

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZEsduGuqTkiHtXbdwHR11PdcvpswrWXxGQ8

So you’re selling your products but you don’t have a great system in place to keep track of it all… come learn from two Texas producers and educators – Shakera Raygoza of Sentli Regenerative Center and Terra Preta Farm, and Michelle Akindiya of Farmshare Austin – what it looks like to track harvests and sales across different market channels. They’ll share and explain their farm harvest and sales tracking systems, and how they utilize services like Square and Quickbooks. We’ll leave plenty of time for discussion, and we’ll send you home with customizable tracking spreadsheet templates.

Title screen that shows the title of the presentation, Money Left on the Table: How Increased Food Access Benefits Farmers and a photograph of a farmer selling produce.
Promotional poster for Small Food Producers conference that shows a photograph of people sitting at tables and taking notes attentively. There are also images of produce adorning the image.

The Texas Center for Local Food (TCLF) was recently invited to attend and speak at the Small Food Producers Conference hosted by Grow Local South Texas in Corpus Christi. This comprehensive event was designed to offer educational presentations catering specifically to the needs of small farms, ranches, cottage food businesses, and homesteaders. The conference agenda featured a diverse range of sessions and presentations, addressing topics from urban conservation to soil health and small business growth, providing a comprehensive and enriching experience for small food producers. This particular event aligned with TCLF’s goal to provide knowledge and resources to small food producers and was a valuable opportunity to listen to the needs and challenges of our audience.

This year, TCLF chose to present on the importance of accepting SNAP at farmers markets and the outcomes of our project, “A Fresh Look at Your Farmers Market.” SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as Food Stamps), is a food allowance given to shoppers on a monthly basis. It is the nation’s most successful anti-hunger program and is a powerful stimulus when used with local food businesses. The Fresh Look project has two goals: to increase the number of farmers markets that accept SNAP and to increase SNAP sales at markets already accepting SNAP, thereby increasing the amount of money going directly to producers’ pockets. The second year of this project is almost wrapped up, so we were happy to present positive outcomes to the project, including providing one-on-one technical assistance to 37 Fresh Look partner sites and saving our partners over $15,000 in signs and social marketing promotion.

The event that stood out to us most wasn’t a presentation; it was a lunchtime town hall-style discussion. This discussion aimed to understand the challenges and obstacles that food producers encounter when selling at farmers’ markets. As one farmer pointed out, “We grow, harvest, clean, package, and drive to the market ourselves. It’s hard enough just to make it to the market in time.” Wearing multiple hats – from entrepreneur to ecologist and marketer – is the reality for small food producers. Many of them expressed a shared aspiration: building a consistent customer base to sustain their operations and to contribute to Texas’ food supply. Farmers are the cornerstone of TCLF’s work, and we were honored to be present in that discussion. It allowed us to contemplate how we can further connect farmers with resources and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.


After the event ended, one food producer caught up with us in the parking lot to talk more about accepting SNAP. “We’re so thankful,” she said. “This program has been great not just for us, but for our local community, too.” As we continue to collaborate and build bridges within the Texas food system, events like these reaffirm our commitment to supporting local food producers.

Title screen that shows the title of the presentation, Money Left on the Table: How Increased Food Access Benefits Farmers and a photograph of a farmer selling produce.

The Texas Center for Local Food team joined our peers at the Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association conference in Georgetown, TX. We hosted the 1st annual Texas Network of Farmers Markets Meet Up, led 4 TXFED.org sessions in person, facilitated a Farmers Discussing Farmers Market panel, and distributed information at our booth. It was a great experience to meet with our current collaborators, network with potential partners, and better understand the needs of food producers and market organizers we serve. Our time at the conference has further motivated our mission to create more market opportunities for local food producers & offer technical support to increase the exchange of food & money within Texas.

This is our list of our bests for 2020.. we begin this blog post on Dec 7 and will add to it as we approach year end..

Best Report: The Food system: Concentration & Its Impacts by a respected group of authors including our own Douglas Constance from Sam Houston State University. Report presentation video.

Best Books we read: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas. Gratitude to the National Good Food Leadership Network book club for including this book. Grain by Grain, another winner by Elizabeth Carlisle with Bob Quinn takes the reader through the long process to establish sound, durable businesses based on values of nutrition and retention of footways that are good for people and planet.

Best Virtual Conference: Mission Capital Data Institute Conference. The combination of pre-recorded 15m sessions coupled with 45m live sessions was a lively experience. This is one of the few conferences where I went back and viewed recordings of sessions I’d missed. The main benefit was the relevant topics including How to Make An Infographic and How to Use Pivot Tables in Excel. The agenda was laid out clearly and it was pretty easy find sessions. I found myself rushing a bit from session to session – not that different from in person life. -SB

Best New Way to Think About Food System VisionFood System Vision Prize Themes from OpenIDEO When we look at our work from different perspectives, we see more open doors to creating the new food system we want. (1) Traditional Wisdom & Practices (2) Community-informed Policy (3) Hyper-localization (4) Human-first Technology.

Best Indicators of a Shift in Academic Thinking About Food Systems – National Academy of Sciences workshop “Healthy People, Healthy Planet: Building a More Sustainable, Resilient, Equitable, and Nourishing Food System – A Workshop“, July 2020. The introduction by Dr. Patrick Stover, Dean Texas A&M AgriLife describes changed expectations of our food systems shifting to a more systemic analysis focused on long term health and environmental impact. Dr. Stover draws on the 2015 report, “A Framework For Assessing Impacts of the Food System” as the basis for this shift in expectations. Dr. Ricardo Salvador of the Union of Concerned Scientists walks through one example (among many) of COVID-19 among meat packing plant workers to demonstrate that scientists cannot legitimately address food as system without considering work welfare. Watch the videos here. Stover Salvador

Best New Government Resource – The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Transportation and Marketing Program webinars and resource listings during COVID-19 have been excellent resources, highlighting outstanding COVID responses for us all to leverage across the nation. The website design highlights sharing of the multitude of local food resources offered and gathered by this critical front line agency.

Local Food As Economic DevelopmentWorking Landscapes video. Food processing for schools and rural communities in Warren County, North Carolina. Worth a watch for economic development professionals! they used in depth participatory process called “Community Voice“.


by Kacey Hansen, MPH, Program Manager, UT Dell Medical School, Dept. of Population Health, Division of Community Engagement and Health Equity

This is part of a series of posts from participants in the Texas Local Food Anti-Racism training by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Together we are creating an anti-racist food system in Texas.

It was the start of day two of the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) Anti-racism Training.  After a brief review of the previous day, zoom breakout rooms launched. I can still picture it…9 squares with nine smiles on nine BIPOC (black/indigenous/people of color) faces in one zoom room.   

The Texas Center for Local Food took scholarship applications during the summer (2020) to provide a small cohort of Central Texans the opportunity to attend an anti-racism training.  The Center’s leadership understood that where food is grown, who grows it, stores, distributes, and prepares it is part of a larger and older story, which includes structural racism.  I come to my work as a public health researcher who has implemented several projects over my 20-year career, primarily centered on food – “go, slow and whoa” foods; fast and slow food; how food effects blood sugar; cancer prevention foods; food pantries, “food deserts”; and now drive-thru food pick-ups and produce delivery.  I am also a trained pastry chef and sit on the Austin/Travis County Food Policy Board. Significantly, I self-identify as Black/African American.

Like most of us, our office transitioned to virtual meeting spaces like Zoom and Teams in March due to the pandemic.  Every weekday from 8am – 5pm, for the past 6 months prior to the training, I had been in at least three meetings a day using this platform.  I am sure you are familiar with the drill: click a link; a room opens to people in squares; scroll to see who all attended; notice no one is smiling; aware that I may be the only black person attending (…that last part may not be part of your drill).   The training day started with the normal drill. I knew who all would be there, as it was day two, but this day was different.  I was in zoom exclusively with people of color.  Immediately, I felt like I belonged. I felt safe.  I did not want to leave the zoom room and the people in the other eight squares may have felt similarly, as the eight smiles emerged.

Maybe you do not “see” color and you believe all people are the same.  We talked about this and how nice it sounds, but how dismissive that phrase is. Why dismissive? …Others see my color and you probably do too.  By ignoring it, one dismisses the real experiences of people of color, experiences that are unique to those who do not benefit from the social construct, called race.  I am not treated the same as a person who is lighter skinned and/or identifies themselves as white.  

One other training topic was culture.  Attire, hair, speech, tone, volume, cleanliness, time, and food were included on the short list of things determined by one’s culture.  I, as an African-American woman, must think about this short list daily in order to traverse the “right” or later declared “white” culture.  As a person of color in a “white” culture, I experience micro-aggressions, like being told: 1) what foods cannot be heated in the microwave at work that are part of my culture, due to the smell, or 2) “I thought you were white”, when meeting in person after an initial phone conversation.  The intent with sharing my experiences during the training were not to shame people but to increase awareness or reveal blind spots.  If we say slavery is a “thing of the past”, but some still benefit from it, talking about those benefits and deficits, as well as the bias and privilege can change hearts and minds.  Those individual changes can improve the way we work, play, live and pray together.

Attending the Anti-Racism training was difficult for me.  It is hard talking about personal prejudice and racism. Equally, I felt vulnerable talking about how I navigate everyday life with people who do not share my experiences.  Though I contributed as a person of color, I witnessed newfound awareness and the start of changed minds.  These courageous conversations, whether one-on-one or group discussions are necessary.  If we narrow in on food, think about the type/quality, origin, quantity, and preparation methods you prefer.  Everyone needs food. Few grow it, but most buy it and many do not have enough of it.  Further, when we look at who is growing, packaging, distributing or selling food, a familiar story is revealed.  It is not an accident that white people in the US own more land, businesses, and capital when compared to people of color.  And I know those making the decisions around food do not look like those nine faces in those nine squares, sharing the same race or lived experiences around race as BIPOC in the United States.  We must do more than have conversations to achieve equity, but little will change if we do not start with the conversations.  One question I asked during the training, which I will continue to ask moving forward is, “Are those who are at the table, thinking about those who aren’t at the table and how their decisions as non-BIPOC will impact those who are BIPOC?”  Being anti-racist is not just not being racist; it is about dismantling racism in boardrooms, research labs, on farms and at your dinner table.  

by Holly Park

This is part of a series of posts from participants in the Texas Local Food Anti-Racism training by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Together we are creating an anti-racist food system in Texas.

Racism. I wrote it. You read it. It is a nasty reality that we live with but to fix it we can’t be afraid to talk about it. So say it again. Racism.

The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) Anti-Racism training sponsored by the Texas Center for Local Food was an invaluable opportunity to start tough conversations, and learn how to continue them productively. Our trainers at the NCCJ sessions guided us towards truths I have a hard time seeing as a white person benefiting from the systemically racist culture and systems that currently rule America. Equally as important, this training also gave us the toolkit we need to further explore our own privilege (white and POC) and to productively combat the pervasive and thriving white supremacy in the world.

At the very beginning of the training, the leaders clearly defined rules to ensure everyone felt comfortable and understood how to be respectful of each other. In a safe place, for everyone from every background, we discussed what racism is and what it means. We covered some of the historical roots of racism, what exactly systemic racism looks like, the real world impact of racist policies, and some lived experiences of racism. We separated into a POC identifying group and a white identifying group to discuss any feelings and thoughts we had but weren’t comfortable sharing with the larger group. We also discussed why it was important to separate and give that space to everyone. Even though we are in this together and racism affects everyone, it does not affect us equally or in the same ways. Most importantly there were no stupid questions, no shaming, and no judgement. Best of all we were given resources to continue education ourselves and advocating for equitability. 

My most treasured takeaways from the training are things I wish I could share with everyone on the planet. They are concepts that seem so simple, but when patiently explained to me, mean so much.

  • Impact and intent are two (sometimes very) different things
    • What you say and what you mean are not always the same thing, even if you don’t know it. In the context of someone else’s life the words you choose will hit someone else in a way you may not intend, but is still very real. For example, you may think telling someone you are “colorblind” will signal to them you do not feel racist. However, you are signaling you would rather not think about race or racism. And while that may be easy for you, it is not a choice for many. “Colorblindness” erases the history of inequitable race relations as well as people’s current lived experience. So while you may intend to be “colorblind” as a way to not be racist, the real impact is you are perpetuating racist attitudes and propping up systemic racism by ignoring the problem or glossing over it. Just remember, not meaning to hurt someone doesn’t make the pain go away. 
  • What you don’t know can hurt you and the people around you
    • Continuing with the example of “colorblindness”, you may not know that it is a dog whistle for racism. But saying it, even if you want to use it in a different way, is still racist. You may not know better, but that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt someone. Another example is a company policy about acceptable hair styles. Policies about “professional hair” can discriminate against anyone with non-white hair. If an African-American woman wants to work in an office, she may not feel comfortable, or worse may not be hired, if she has Afro-textured hair and chooses to wear it naturally or in braids. While you may think a policy is about good hygiene and a neat appearance, not recognizing how ethno-centric and exclusive the policy is doesn’t change the damage it does.
  • It’s not anyone else’s job to educate you
    • You may still not understand why “colorblindness” or specific dress codes are racist and hurtful. Google it. It is not the job of any POC you may know or meet, not anyone’s job, to ensure you understand. Racism is a stressful and emotional topic. It can literally be life or death for some people. There are lots of public resources like websites, podcasts, books, articles, and more where people have chosen to speak up about systemic racism, personal lived experiences, and everything in between. As a human being it is on you to walk your own journey of compassion, empathy, and understanding. I encourage you to educate yourself for your piece of mind, for your own personal growth, for the people around you, and for the people you don’t know that are being hurt and killed by racism every single day. 

We were asked towards the end of the training to imagine what the world would be like if there was no more racism. What the exercise highlighted is that not only is that world beautiful, it doesn’t have to be fictional. How do we stop racism? We talk about it.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in the small town of Elgin, Texas, the Texas Center for Local Food (TCLF) teamed up with The Common Market Texas, and Elgin Independent School District (ISD) to distribute Farm Fresh Veggie Boxes to families in this town of 10,000 with a child poverty rate of 19%.  With grant funds not yet available, the Texas Center for Local Food sold boxes to those who could afford them and used those funds to donate boxes to children with diet-related illness through the Family Health Center at Elgin ISD. Beginning on March 24, 2020 the 11-week program provided 1,665 boxes of Texas-grown fresh vegetables to 486 families.  With an outpouring of compassion for community, over two dozen volunteers joined in and many folks who purchased boxes delivered them to neighbors in need.  One buyer bought an extra box each week for their dog sitter who was now out of work. Other groups of neighbors took turns buying a box for a family on their block. 

Staff of Elgin ISD’s ACE (Texas Afterschool Centers of Education; Texas Education Agency) and USDA-funded Farm-to-School program expanded the Veggie Box program to engage families in home cooking of these fresh Texas veggies.  Students and their families cooked meals together each week and shared their marvelous creations on the Elgin ISD ACE Facebook page.  Peer-to-peer learning and engagement was a big hit.  Elgin ISD distributed 485 boxes to families in just 3 weeks.  https://www.facebook.com/ELGINISDACE

Elgin student wearing chef's hat with the beautiful she made

 

In the summer of 2020, inspired in part by the Elgin ISD program, the Austin Independent School District kicked off its partnership with The Common Market Texas.  Funded by the Susan and Michael Dell Foundation, the project delivered over 9,000 boxes of Farm Fresh boxes to Austin students and their families. “With school closures, we leaned on our mission to support our school communities during these difficult months,” said Margaret Smith, Director at The Common Market Texas. “We are thrilled to partner with Austin ISD through our Farm Fresh Box program to increase healthy food access for children and families so they are ready to learn and grow. These farm to school partnership support Texas farmers, providing an important outlet during a time of great disruption in the supply chain.” 


In October, 2020 the Texas Center for Local Food received funding from the St. David’s Foundation to restart the Farm Fresh Veggie Box program with Elgin ISD’s ACE and Farm-to-School programs.  “Elgin families are deeply engaged in cooking together; students and adults love the freshness of these Texas-grown vegetables.  We are thrilled to be part of this effective collaboration,” said Caroline Johnston, Director of Elgin ISD’s ACE program and a member of the Farm-to-School team. Elgin student making zucchini pancakes


“Our collaborative, community response to this pandemic demonstrates the deep commitment of Austin ISD and Elgin ISD to Farm-to-School in Texas. Change begins with youth and families.  These engaging programs are exactly what we need to be doing to improve students’ health, and in turn increase their ability to learn while expanding economic opportunities for our Texas farms. It’s a win-win-win.” said Sue Beckwith, Executive Director of the Texas Center for Local Food.

The Common Market Texas is a nonprofit aggregator and distributor of local farm foods.  Their mission is to connect the good food from sustainable family farms to communities.  For over 12 years, The Common Market has worked with farmers and ranchers across the country to connect them to new markets including schools, hospitals, universities, and other community institutions and are proud to serve Texas farmers and communities since 2018. Website: www.thecommonmarket.org

The Texas Center for Local Food is a non-profit organization providing education, research, and technical assistance to create regional food systems in Texas that support prosperous family farms, healthy Texans and vibrant rural economies.  TexasLocalFood.org

Elgin student eating a fresh carrot and making a happy face
For more information, contact Margaret Smith, The Common Market Texas
margaret@thecommonmarket.org or Sue Beckwith, Texas Center for Local Food sueb@TexasLocalFood.org

This post is a living list of resources. Please use the comments below to add your resources and we’ll add them into the permanent post as we go.

Reading list from GoodReads

Training from the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ).

Community-Engaged Research Course is a class offered in 2019 as a pilot by Huston-Tillotson University to advance equity and data activism in central Texas. This topic is related to data collection and evaluation.

While not a direct resource, this meeting guide will help support meetings where all feel welcome, heard and valued. (Scroll down past their calendar). This guide is courtesy of Iowa State University via the Farm-Based Education Network.

The Case for Reparations, The Atlantic, June 2014

Identifying and Countering White Supremacy Culture in Food Systems, from the Duke World Food Policy Center, Sept, 2020. Excellent overview of white supremacy in food systems and clear direction for food policy organizations to follow – Now. — Sent by Errol Schweizer.

by Adam Orman

This is part of a series of posts from participants in the Texas Local Food Anti-Racism training by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ). Together we are creating an anti-racist food system in Texas. This post is by Adam Orman, General Manager and Owner of L’Oca d’Oro restaurant in Austin, Texas and founding member of Good Work Austin.

I have been in the restaurant industry for over 20 years.  I have advocated for restaurants to support their local economies, reduce waste, increase food access to communities in need.  My restaurant does not pay $2.13/hr and shares a mandatory service charge with all of our employees to create greater equity inside our walls.  In the last four years, we became members of a national restaurant labor organization that advocates for higher wages and educates about the racist history of tipping, the racist patterns of tipping and the connection between the tipped minimum wage and sexual harassment.  We are at the far progressive end of our industry but it is only now that anti-racist training is something that independent owners are talking about seriously.  Those who are less progressive are only now talking about overcoming implicit bias without treading in the swamp of wage inequity and theft, sexual harassment and the exlpoitation of undocumented workers.

I needed this training and our industry desperately needs this training and for more in our industry to be able to speak this language.  I learned better definitions for things as simple as race, prejudice and discrimination and more nuanced, complete definitions of white supremacy and white privilege.  I left better equipped to have sensitive conversations with our staff about why we’re going to pursue a different more inclusive model.  We have a toolkit from One Fair Wage to help us implement more equitable systems, have sought out combo virtual/in person trainings for our staff and Good Work Austin now that I see their value and have begun negotiations with OFW to hold online trainings for an Austin restaurant cohort of restaurant owners in the beginning of 2021. 

I am grateful for being pushed to greater action and hopeful that GWA and L’Oca d’Oro can effectively proselytize, change the way Austin’s restaurant’s go about their business and serve as examples of businesses that must do more for our communities instead of only being concerned about how much we can extract from them.  Thank you for this invaluable opportunity.