News

sunset view of Corpus Christi Bay

We were honored to present on the topic of collaboration at the South Texas Producers conference in Corpus Christi. The conference was double the size of last year’s and that’s a testament to the dedication of the farmers, ranchers, view of market showing open air setting with plenty of lightand healthy food activists in South Texas.  Hats off to the folks of GROW Local STX for their hard work creating such a well-organized conference event.

While there, we visited the Corpus Christi Farmers Market in one of the most beautiful market settings we’ve seen.  The market is in the downtown Art Center where the market is scheduled to coincide with gallery openings, art classes, and family activities.  The vibe is easy and smooth and the selection of vegetables, even in winter, was dang good.

And who can argue with that view?  [Thank you to Debbie Noble for these lovely pics!]

Sue Beckwith in Iowa snow January 2018

What was I thinking going to Iowa in January?  It was minus 3 degrees!  I attended the Iowa State University Community Food Program annual showcase event for community projects.  The room was packed with folks from across the state sharing their projects from Farm-to-School to commercial kitchens.  The roads were covered in snow and honestly I thought the event would be cancelled.  But no; those Iowans are tough folks.  The Texas Center for Local Food will be trying out the Iowa program in Texas with a pilot training in Spring 2018.  More on this soon.  Join us to get our newsletter or check back here later this year.

The Community Food Program in Iowa works with rural communities and urban neighborhoods to help teams of folks develop local food projects that will create jobs, support family farmers, and enhance community vitality.  The Iowa program includes a one-day training to be a Local Food Leader and an option to participate in the 2-year community economic development program.

 

As we finish up our Harvey Emergency Relief Fund work, here is an update on our accomplishments.  First let me say – Hooray to our partners and amazing donors!  We really kicked it and did a fabulous job.  It was the work of each of our partners, supporters and friends that brought in national attention and made our campaign a success!   The farmers are so grateful. 

Together we got this done and we helped a lot of farmers.  We hope you will remember these farmers as the new year begins and hold them in your hearts. as many continue to continue to work toward recovery.

Did you know that our fundraiser was supported by Acres U.S.A., Cascadian Farms, and Epic bars?  Plus support from the National Young Farmers Coalition, National Farmers Market Coalition, FarmShare Austin, Farmhouse Delivery, Grow North Texas, and the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.   Please check out this radio interview featuring Four String Farm of Rockport:  interview with the Heritage Radio Network (a neat radio show that I hadn’t heard of before.)

We raised a total of $14,866 from 128 backers.  We had 26 applicants for the $500 grant.  We awarded 23 grants of $500 each for a total of $11,500.  Of the 3 we did not award, 1 was a duplicate, 1 is completely conventional farming, and the third never got back to us to confirm their income.  In addition to the $500 grants to 26 farms, we donated $1,000 to the Texas Farmers’ Market farmer emergency fund, paid $1,141 in credit card processing fees, and paid $446 to the Growers Alliance of Central Texas for fiscal sponsorship.  This leaves a balance of about $800 and we have reached out to the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardners Association to contribute to their long term Harvey relief work.
Partners:  Growers Alliance of Central Texas, Texas Farmers Markets, Sustainable Food Center, GROW Local South Texas, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Texas Organic Farmers and Gardners Association, Central Texas Young Farmers Coalition, and Barnraiser!

The Elgin school district (Elgin ISD) is one of only a dozen districts to receive recognition for ground-breaking programs in a special edition of Texas School Business magazine.  This article highlights this outstanding recognition of Elgin ISD’s Farm-to-School program by the Texas Association of School Administrators.  

Partnership with the City of Elgin is key to this success.  As Drs. Duron and Perez point out in the article, the Elgin ISD Farm-to-School program is not just a stand alone program.  Rather it is a key part of Elgin’s collaborative approach to building a strong local economy and healthy populace based on a local food and agriculture.  Our planned Elgin Local Food Center (ELF) will provide the teaching kitchen to teach students and their families about buying and preparing locally grown healthy food.  The ELF is an integral part of bringing lessons learned at school into Elgin homes, while creating jobs in our community.  

Here is the article in the Texas School Business magazine (pg 12-14).

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.