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DONATE!  The Texas Center for Local Food is leading a partnership of Texas organizations to provide emergency relief to sustainable and organic family famers as they deal with this horrid situation. We are partnering with Barnraiser on this national campaign.  Please donate today. We aim to raise $40,000 in 30 days to grant $500 each to 80 Texas sustainable and organic family famers adversely impacted by Hurricane Harvey.  Ends October 1 at midnight.

Farmer & ranchers:  Send your pics and stories for us to share with the public to AskMe@TexasLocalFood.org.  Good to show pics of damage with you and/or animals in the photo.  We’re here for you and will get the word out.  APPLY for aid here from the Texas Farmer-Rancher Harvey Relief Fund.

Farmer Disaster relief strategies and very useful information page at TOFGA.

We are working with partners across the state to establish a Disaster Relief Fund for Texas sustainable and organic family farmers.  We know many of you need help and please stay tuned as we post updates.  We are also working with partners who are developing a single page resource guide for recovery assistance.  The MAIN THING to know right now is to document your losses;  get a small notebook and write down dates and losses;  take pictures as you go.  Hang in there and stay in touch!

3rd graders holdings carrots and he is dressed in orange and has red hair!

Our first produce delivery under Elgin’s USDA Farm-to-School grant was completed on May 9th by Bekki Calloway of Skinny Lane Farm.  Clearing the paperwork hurdle to become an official vendor for the Elgin ISD kitchen taken care of – she provided 60 lbs of carrots and onions making sure to include her funniest-looking ones! 

The kids had a blast sorting through her produce.  Many students began chomping on the fresh carrots, and many wanted to take a carrot with them “for later” so throughout the day, students could be seen in the halls with fluffy carrot greens sticking out of their back pockets.  

Even the administration got in on the super crunchy action, with the entire school board munching fresh local carrots at a recent meeting. 

We will soon have more farms registered to participate in our farm-to-school operation and we hope to incorporate more and more local foods into our schools every year.  We consider the students’ enthusiasm to be a fabulous omen for our continuing work.  

Here’s (left to right) Bekki Callaway of Skinny Lane Farm, Elizabeth Guajardo the EISD Child Nutrition Director, and Lupita Martin the EISD Farm to School Project Manager getting in on the carrot action.

happy school district child nutrition employees and local farmer holding carrots

You’ve probably heard of South by Southwest and I’ll bet you think of music.  Yep, lots of music for sure.  But did you know that before the music fest begins, there is the SXSW Interactive (and Film too)?  Interactive is packed with innovative perspectives on the use of tech in our world and I’ve been told that it’s actually the largest of the 3 SXSW Festivals.  For me, Interactive is a chance to dive into the out of the box world and get my head into new ways to solve the problems we face as farmers, rural communities, and food system changers.  What does tech have to do with it?  It’s not just tech – it’s ways of thinking – taking our questions and problems and looking to other industries for ideas, answers and solutions.

In these next few posts, I’ll write my impressions and share what I’ve learned.  As with any conference and certainly any investment of time and money, it’s a good idea to know what you want to get out of it.

Our queries going to into SXSW-I 2017:

  1. Know Your Farmer.  Are there ways we can employ tech to make it easier for thousands of people to know their farmer?  We know that when folks spend time on a farm they have a stronger connection to their food.  We know that connection to our food is a critical step in owning our own health and leads to improving our food system.   Recent advances in virtual reality technology (VR) may make it possible to conduct remote farms tours.  Could people experience a farm remotely using VR?  What about online interactive video (Skype, Nom)?   What are the possibilities and costs here?
  2. What new tech is available to make cooking easier, faster for middle class families?
  3. Storytelling is key to engaging people with their food and farmers and ranchers.  How can we better storytellers?  How can we facilitate farmers/ranchers being good storytellers?  How do we know if our stories are heard and are effective?
  4. For the Elgin Local Food Center (ELF Center), what tech is available for equipment and business education for food businesses?
  5.  Are there specific revenue streams for the ELF Center that we haven’t already considered?

Tomorrow, I’ll start looking for answers.. and I’ll surely find new questions too.

Sue Beckwith represented the Texas Center for Local Food at the Grow Local South Texas Producers’ Conference on Feb. 2.  The day long conference organized by past TOFGA Board member, Aislynn Campbell and the Grow South Texas team, was packed with excellent speakers and panel dicussions.

The focus was on wholesale buying and panels included HEB, Natural Grocer, and the Corpus Christi school district.  The idea for the wholesale focus was to begin educating south Texas growers about the opportunities and challenges of the wholesale market channel.   Check out the annotated agenda and links to South Texas resources here.  Sue made lots of good connections and will follow up with folks interested in the work we’re doing with USDA Food LINC and value-added processing,

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