My bioregion has a lot of growth opportunities and has made great strides within our local foodshed. The biggest sustainable access that anyone can have in relation to their local foodshed is to grow their own produce, like the veggies we grew (shown above) from our organic garden! The Sustainable Food Center has been a key player in transforming our community. They have advocated change, helped impoverished communities have access to healthier food choices, provided resources and education, and launched necessary services. They are available at some of the Austin farmers markets in some impoverished areas and have potential growth opportunities to branch out to other neighborhoods. The Capital Area Food Bank recovers a lot of food from many restaurants and farms and distributes it to poor communities throughout this region (Texas 2014).
There are several organic farms in Austin, some of which have been around for quite some time. Tecolote is an organic family farm a few miles from my home in Manor, which has been the longest CSA distributor in Texas (Kramer 2014). Their engagement in the food movement is through their contributions in living sustainably, local restaurant/co-op distribution, farmers markets in different counties, the slow food movement, and biointensive/sustainable/civic agriculture. These are some of the things I learned from this incredible farm by volunteering and working for them. As a CSA shareholder or farmers market shopper you will be pleased to have access to specialty smoked peppers from David’s famous outdoor wood smoker and other unique heirloom varieties that are boom-tastic! Chat about your next dish at the market with Katie!
Green Gate is an organic family farm about ten miles from my house that focuses on civic/sustainable agriculture, CSA distributions, some restaurant wholesale, meat/honey/dairy shares on-site from other farms, host to a bee colony from an offsite beekeeper to share the pollination benefits, promote community development and education through their New Farm Institute (Flynn 2014). I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work and volunteer for Green Gate! Learning from Farmer Chip and Farmer Erin is a unique and magical experience. Something that you don’t want to miss! Help support them in building their NFI infrastructure and site. Donate!
These two farms are very similar, especially since they are strong family farms, yet their focus is somewhat different. While Tecolote focuses on their direct market reach through face to face networking, Green Gate focuses on educating the community on food ethics. Not to sound exhaustive, I’m trying to simplify. They both represent farm gate to food plate, instil historical character at their farms and equally share traction in their fields. Green Gate has integrated permaculture design at their farm sites and they are open to the public to learn, offer children’s farm camp programs, and alternative educational curriculum opportunities to local schools. They are the only organic farm in Austin that focuses on this. Green Gate provides additional SNAP benefits from the government by doubling the voucher from $10 to $20 per day for produce when used on the farm (Banks, 2011).
There is a crucial demand in any city or town for people and children to have access to learning about where their food comes from. That ignites interest which can lead to change. Not all organizations who are involved in the foodshed allow others to learn from them through first hand experience. Although you can volunteer at several of the organic farms within this bioregion, that doesn’t mean that people are begging to do so, especially if they don’t care about the food movement or know why it’s important.
Urban Roots in Austin is another organic farm with a civic/sustainable agricultural drive that teaches struggling teens a better way of living. This includes preparing food, field work, advocating change, and they team up with other local businesses to fundraise and raise community awareness for their mission. They stand out as leaders in their field in this arena and use their community engagements at the market, SXSW and other festival exposure, farm dinners, CSA, and fundraising events to propel their grassroots movement. Urban Roots attacks food security issues by providing produce to poor communities. Support their social movement, community impact, and farm! They are the funnest farm to volunteer for! Volunteer!
Although not all of the local organic farms have a mindset to transform lives through educational opportunities teaching volunteers or community members, they do in their face to face interaction at farmers markets, website exposure, grassroots involvement and CSA distribution. The need for expanding SNAP benefit access at all the farms and providing mobile access to local, fresh foods in different impoverished neighborhoods is imperative to closing the gap between different populations who may be missing out on the local food system, necessary sustainable food transitions and food security.
For more information about volunteering at a local Austin or Manor farm please review my Green Thumb-Texas Directory page. Or talk to your local farmer at your nearest food hub! Building new relationships through Community Supported Agriculture is a great place to start! Find a local CSA farmshare near you!
Banks, Karen. Central Texas Food Shed Assessment. Central Texas Food Shed Assessment, Austin: Sustainable Food Center, 2011.
Flynn, Erin. New Farm Institute. 2014. http://newfarminstitute.org/ (accessed December 22, 2014).
Kraemer, Katie, interview by Kristin Kay Schultz. Tecolote Organic Family Farm (November 14, 2014).