News

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 Jules Assata

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.

How long has it taken me to write my blog piece? Longer than I intended, that’s for sure. While I can name plenty of good reasons it took so long, the underlying truth is that I’ve struggled to articulate my experience… or even grasp my take-away from the intensive anti-racism training.

I’ve attended anti-racism training before, several times, including an in-person, weeklong intensive from NCCJ back in the mid-90’s. I’ve explored my racism and white privilege ad nauseum and am stunned each time another example comes to my attention because, as I am (sometimes reluctantly) aware, I will never be finished excavating the layers and nuances of the racism and privilege I have lived my entire life being served by.

So what did I get out of this particular training? Well…. this time I really ‘got’ the notion of white supremacy… as something other than those awful, skinhead, neo nazi, violent haters. What was different this time? Was the phrase newly inserted into NCCJ’s training, or worked into the experience more effectively, or was I just ready to hear it, to open the door to more awareness? Because I absolutely do NOT want to see myself in the context of that phrase and the images of people and beliefs that appall me. And yet ever since that training, especially one activity, one question, I have been seeing white supremacy everywhere.

We were once again sent into paired conversation in our breakout Zoom rooms, this time with the question “What would it look like to live in a world without white supremacy?” I was increasingly excited as I considered the endless possibilities of a world almost unimaginably different from the absence of white supremacy. If people of color~ particularly dark-skinned people and the descendents of slaves~ were not systematically subjugated to the control and benefit of light-skinned people~ particularly those of european descent or close enough to pass as the owning caste… if all those oppressed people had access to the same resources and opportunities as the oppressing caste… Wow! Everything we know in life could be different~ our homes and communities and work places, and types of work and play, our art and music and languages and ways to express ourselves and connect, our teaching and learning, our health and wellness, our environment and connection to it… it just started flowing and was beautiful. When I tried to articulate my wonder to my partner, I realized I sounded like a fantasy novel, so far removed from ‘reality’ these possibilities were. And the door opened wide and I began to see.

White supremacy is the water we live in like fish in a tank. As a white person, I am so perfectly bred to the fishbowl~ and do very well living in it~ that I literally could not imagine another setting… until I was asked to. Grateful am I for an active imagination and some broadening experiences in other places, among other people and cultures both from within and beyond my country’s borders… and I love and read fantasy novels… otherwise I think my responses to the question would have fallen along the lines of “it would fair” or “there would be equality”. 

White supremacy shapes every aspect of our lives… all of our lives… all of the time, in every setting… and in ways that are so much a part of everyday life they may be invisible, even to the majority who do not benefit from the way life has been set up. As a female, lesbian, non-Christian there are ways I most definitely do not benefit and must work to pass well enough to be relatively safe and secure, even if always a bit insecure and at risk. Dark-skinned? No way to pass, therefore safety and security is never  fully achieved, no matter how much money or education or type of job or place to live. Not in this fish bowl. So that is a lousy, unjust, crappy outcome from white supremacy. 

Crappy also is the way our communities are built and organized, the way our education is organized and the poor outcomes for the vast majority, the treatment of as many ‘others’ as the controlling caste (primarily wealthy, white, Christian, straight males) can contrive, the state of our planet~ our Mother Earth~ and yes, our food system. How much better might it be without white supremacy? No one can say for sure, but it couldn’t be worse. I would love to be alive to see what will happen when we evolve beyond.

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.

by Carolina Mueller

The Texas Center for Local Food invited Carolina Mueller to share her impressions of the training in support of our collective work to create anti-racist food systems in Texas. We are grateful for her willingness to share. Carolina is a food systems practitioner, part-time farmer and full-time graduate student at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Carolina is the volunteer President of the Central Texas Young Farmers Coalition. Over the past decade, Carolina has worked in a number of positions all along the food chain. Her work in food spans from the big-picture national policies down to the personal experiences of individuals and communities.

In August 2020, I had the pleasure of attending the Uprooting Racism in the Food System training organized by Soul Fire Farm. I would like to share some of my experiences and takeaways from this training in the hopes that it contributes to the formation of a collective learning community that explores the effects of race, class and power in food. Food Justice and equity are phrases that many of us have been thinking and talking about recently as we consider how to fix our very violent food system. Two questions that I keep asking myself are: 1) what is equity really and truly in food systems and 2) how are we embodying it in our work? Sprinkled throughout, you will see more questions that I ask myself and ask you. The Soul Fire Farm training helped me get closer to answering these questions through historical education, poetry, personal reflection in addition to sharing tools and action items.

The training began by setting expectations that we would not expect to solve anything in these three hours. I appreciated the acknowledgment that centuries of harm won’t be solved in just one training. This was followed by calling in our ancestors, someone who came before us who we carry in our lives and work. For me it was my paternal grandmother, Ingeborg Keller, who passed when I was just a baby but is my closest familial connection to food production. The summoning of over 130 other names was such a powerful place to start and to acknowledge that the past is present. It also awakened in me the desire to dig more deeply into how those who lived before me have gotten me to where I am now. Who came before you that you want to learn more about? How does their life, personality or values connect to you?

Next, we moved on to a brief but important history lesson to contextualize how our (not broken, functioning just as it was built to) food system came to be. I learned about the Discovery Doctrine and The Tuskegee Institute Movable School established by Booker T. Washington. The Discovery Doctrine is the idea that European monarchies have a right to colonize and claim land in the name of spreading christianity. This notion, upheld by Justice John Marshall in the Supreme Court in 1823 (spoiler alert: Marshall owned land that he would have lost claims to without this decision) is the toxic sludge from which our current food system emerged. This is just one example of our messed up history, but we didn’t only focus on what was wrong with our history. Another big focus of what we learned was the notion of Indigenous and Black joy, resistance and resilience against the system of White Supremacy, like the Tuskegee Institute Movable School. I was in awe that those kidnapped and enslaved had the foresight, imagination and hope to braid seeds into hair, bringing with them the potential to plant a new future. If we let ourselves dream and imagine, what kind of food system could we create?

One of the tools that we were provided was a rubric to evaluate to what extent our organizations are complicit with the culture of White supremacy. Having worked in food nonprofits my whole career, this rubric really illuminated just how far the Central Texas food and farming community has to go. We could all benefit from this kind of critical introspection, and I urge our predominantly White nonprofit community to consider this training and apply the rubric to their work. Then, after finding opportunities for growth, making those shifts in leadership, power and vision. Who is allowed to be seen as a leader? How does current leadership make power or take power in our community?  Equity is more than a buzzword that organizations can drop into a mission statement or a job title; in order to have any meaning at all, it must be anchored in the desire to radically upend how we structure our work. That work will need to happen inside of us, inside of our organizations and inside of our larger communities.

Whether you are acting as an individual, a farm or an organization, here are some action items from Soul Fire Farm that you can explore, reflect on and manifest. Below are the action items that stood out most to me.

  • Reparations: person-to-person reparations
  • Policy: Fairness for Farmworkers (HR 40) and Breathe Act
  • Rematriation: Returning land
  • Solidarity shares: CSA sliding scale option
  • Divest/invest: supporting farms, businesses, organizations, institutions advancing food justice
  • Create good jobs and hire equitably

Before contacting Soul Fire Farm, learn about their work. Register for their Uprooting Racism training. Support the work of Soul Fire Farm.

by Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton

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.

My name is Alejandra Rodriguez Boughton, I’m originally from Monterrey, Mexico, but I’ve called Austin home for the past 12 years. I’m the owner and operator of LA FLACA–an urban farm in southwest Austin that grows global ingredients through sustainable practices for local restaurants. In a previous life, I worked as a corporate banker but I was unsatisfied with corporate life, so I eventually found a purpose in sustainable agriculture, and more recently food justice. 

Both in my time in business and food, I’ve witnessed and experienced pervasive, systematic racism. Many times I’ve been ill-equipped to properly respond to racist incidents in a constructive manner so I’m very grateful for the scholarship I received from the Texas Center for Local Food to attend NCCJ – The National Conference for Community & Justice week-long anti-racism workshop under the expert guidance of Nyaunu Stevens and Kris Wraight.

This training is so worthwhile for anyone looking to be a more effective anti-racist, no matter the color of your skin. From providing an eye-opening history lesson to creating a safe space for hard conversations with a focus on action, community, and healing. It was a transformative experience–now that you know better, you have to do better. I cannot recommend it enough! 

Big thanks to Sue Beckwith from Texas Center for Local Food for getting together a diverse group of professionals in the food industry to take this anti-racist training. Also to the funders of this scholarship the San Antonio Food Policy Board (Leslie Provence, Robert Maggiani), and the St. David’s Foundation. I cannot stress enough the value of this training as we work together to build a more equitable food system and would be grateful for any similar future opportunities.

#localfood #community #antiracism #antiracisteducation #leadership #foodjustice

From our friends at The Counter, this excellent overview of the history of Black farmers and current actions to dismantle racism in our food system.

Farmers market managers take note and count on us at the Texas Center for Local Food to support your shift to a more diverse customer base. “… the recent movement in the U.S. to promote healthier and more sustainable eating by supporting local farmers’ markets among other things was overwhelmingly white. So though there has been a boom in farmers’ markets in recent years — they grew by 76% from 2008 to 2014, and another 6% since then, according to the USDA — they typically serve affluent white populations and too often have erected barriers that discourage farmers and other vendors of color.

Black farmers’ markets work to “redesign the food system”

As our country reckons with our historic systemic and systematic racism, I want to share these links to posts by Chris Newman and Joel Salatin, both farmers in Virginia. I was out a bunch in late 2019 so I missed these at the time they were published.

Some of the comments on Instagram are so sad and just show us how we have a long way to go.. but we are moving forward. Here are the articles I read recently and there are more on the Twitter feeds.

Change begins with each of us. Change in the food system starts with each of us doing our own personal work. For those readers interested in learning more about what you can do to create an anti-racist food system in Texas, please consider the training offer by NCCJ, the National Conference on Community and Justice. The Texas Center for Local Food is honored to be sponsoring nine (9) attendees to the NCCP Anti-Racism training in 2020. Each will be posting a blog entry and we’ll share those here.


Small Family Farms Aren’t the Answer by Chris Newman, a 2020 Castenea Fellow on Heated at Medium

Whining and Entitlement, by Joel Salatin of Polyface farm Instagram feed  https://www.instagram.com/p/CDKI4SBFqfb/