Here it is! Episode #7 features A+S Farm, based out of Moulton, TX. Shaun and Amy Jones raise heritage Gulf Coast Sheep for meat, utilizing an intensive pasture management system called “Mob Grazing”. We dive into the details on this, as well as the nitty gritty of moving from an urban setting to a rural one, with tips on how to get out into the country as painlessly as possible. They are making it happen super legit style – much to learn from these trailblazers!
Well then! A special episode of This Is The Farm! We air a farmer panel discussion recorded LIVE at Green Gate Farms in Austin, TX. We discuss what local food distribution currently looks like in Central Texas, and how we can improve upon it. The panel line up includes:
On Episode #5, we talk with Brad Stufflebeam of Home Sweet Farm out of Brenham, TX. Home Sweet Farm is unique, in that they not only own and operate a highly diversified farm – fruits, veggies, and animals – but work cooperatively with other farmers in the area to help distribute their goods through Home Sweet Farm’s CSA (300+ strong) and retail storefront. Brad is truly a jack of all trades, with lots of practical advice, tips, and stories to share. Real talk!
Marysol Valle and Jeff Wiley of Fat Frog Farm enlighten us with their wisdom on this installment of This Is The Farm. Marysol and Jeff have extensive experience growing fruits and vegetables, as well as raising cattle. They’ve been through many trials and tribulations, and bring light to many of the successes and problems they’ve encountered on their various farming adventures. Starting farms from scratch, investing in infrastructure, speculating on how policy can encourage more new and young farmers, tips on how to grow better fruits and veggies, and so much more. Serious Knowledge.
A week before the fundraiser, Lorig and I were sweating hard about low ticket sales. As it turns out, the day before the event demand for tickets went wild-crazy, and we sold out in a flurry. It was such a relief to see that people in Central Texas care so deeply about young farmers and the future of agriculture, that they’ll lay down their hard-earned cash to help support it. Not only did they get to support TXYFC and Cardo’s Farm Project, but they got some delicious food, drink, a farm tour, and an excellent farm panel discussion! Everyone’s a winner!
The warm, golden evening laid the groundwork for an ultra-sweet event. We started things off with Farmers Skip and Erin of Green Gate Farms showing off their beautiful farm. They concentrated on their pig production, showcasing their larger Hampshire mix breed that impressed everyone with their sheer size – mammoth creatures! Later on, we got to hang out with their Guinea Hogs – a rare heritage breed that produces tasty meat, as well as ample fat, which they process into lard for their customers.
After Lorig and I rambled about how rad TXYFC is, we dived right into the farmer panel discussion – and what a panel it was. Everyone on the panel generously contributed food to the event – Skip and Erin of Green Gate Farms, Katie Pitre of Tecolote Farm, Amy Greer of Winter’s Family Beef, Renee Miller-Rangel of RRR Farm, and Marie DeNoon of Cardo’s Farm Project. Also, a huge shout out to Madrono Ranch for their donation of tasty bison. Lorig asked the panel exactly one question, and the panel flew with it for 30+ minutes, addressing important issues such as: Defining what ‘Local’ is; How we strengthen the Local movement; Defining what a CSA really is; How consumers can support local farms; and much, much more. It was inspiring to see such respected farmers from our own backyard address these issues, drawing off of their years of experience and expertise. Also, everyone on the panel knew each other in one way or another, so the dynamic was electric yet casual – many laughs abound.
Chef Tony Grasso of Split Rail Ales / Field and Fare took the stage, introducing the menu to the guests. Everyone then proceeded to gorge themselves on the awesome food, buffet style, and consume tasty drink. Here’s what the menu looked like:
I, personally, met so many amazing farmers / food folk – and we can’t thank you all enough for coming out to the event. I hope everyone else got to meet some cool folks, as well.
We’re looking forward to stretching each and every penny raised at this event to help support young farmers and local communities. We’ll be purchasing workshop time with Cardo’s Farm Project to help connect young farmers in the Denton, TX community, as well as establish a North Texas Young Farmer Coalition. This will happen down the line in the fall, although we’ll be providing Cardo’s with the payment for this event up front, now, so they can use this cash to help grow their farming operation now – when they need it most. The rest of the funds from this event will go towards paying farmers in the Central Texas area to help educate and support local young farmers. This might include: Paying farmers for farm tours and workshops, as well as organizing crop mobs and paying farmers for their time, but we’re open to putting funds towards other areas such as advocacy or events at farm conferences around the state. We mentioned this at the fundraiser, but I’d like to reiterate: We pay ourselves absolutely nothing. Every penny from this fundraiser will go back into the farming community.
We’re moving forward with great optimism into 2013. And, how could we not after such a beautiful showing of support from our friends and neighbors?
We interview Tim Miller of Millberg Farm. Located in Kyle, TX. Tim utilizes ultra intense cultivation practices on his 5 acre plot of land, and shares his deep and varied knowledge with us liberally. He practices sustainability on social, economic, and environmental levels – really and actually! He’s also a really good seed saver. And a good teacher. And is filled with enthusiasm. And has lots of practical tips!
Join us for TXYFC’s first fundraiser! 1st Annual Texas Young Farmer Coalition Fundraiser! Huzzah! Excellent local food donated by Winters Family Beef, RRR Farm, Green Gate Farms, and Tecolote Farm will be cooked into a delicious gourmet farm dinner served at beautiful Green Gate Farms! Friday, April 12. Hand crafted brew and cider from Split Rail Ales. Food, music, farm-photo booth, and plenty of folks to kick it with. All proceeds will go to TXYFC and the young farm owners over at Cardos Farm Project.
Join Amanda Austin of Cardos Farm Project and your host, Evan Driscoll, for the first installment of This Is The Farm, a monthly podcast. We talk about starting her farm, running said farm, and planning ahead for the future. Education workshops are also on the bill. Amanda knows what’s the what for sure, so please commit your ears for 20 minutes or so.
My first thought walking up the driveway, through a gate, and onto the grounds of HausBar Farm was, “Those carrots are blowing my mind.” These were also, literally, my parting words to Dorsey Barger, the owner of this lovely East Austin urban farm, as I walked out that same gate an hour later. This bed of carrots was an absolute forest of lush green tops. Dare I not even disturb them by culling one unlucky carrot from the bed to get a root specimen. The message was clear: We are delicious, probably some interesting color(?), and just the right largeness. Carrot Top aside, the other fruits and vegetables looked delectable, healthy, and highly diversified. Everything from fall tomatoes and okra, to the more unexpected Moroheiya greens and sweet potato (also grown primarily for its greens).
HausBar Farm is very much an urban farm. It’s roughly two acres, and about 3 miles from Downtown Austin. On said two acres, they have set in place a whole host of systems that produce:
- Fruits and Vegetables
- Meat Chickens / Ducks
- Chicken / Duck Eggs (Duck eggs will begin to come on in the near future)
- Meat Rabbits
- A Lovely Bed and Breakfast
- Two Sweet Looking Mules
- Compost / Vermi-Compost
- Tilapia (Beginning In The Near Future)
- Hydroponics (Beginning In The Near Future)
- Classes / Tours / Education
- And Probably Some Other Things I’m Missing
If this farm were run by, say, me, I would be doing all these things in a very half-assed sort of way, but not Dorsey. Each of these systems are maintained to a high degree of detail, and it shows. The farm is very pretty! Here’s evidence of that:
HausBar produces fruits and vegetables 365 days a year. Cultivated soil on the land is relatively small – maybe 1/3 of an acre? But because all the work is done by hand (not even a rototiller), they seem to get a lot of food out of what soil is cultivated. The hoops in the picture, above, help extend the growing season in the spring using row cover and in the summer / fall by using shade cloth. The hoops looked to be made out of 10′ PVC pipe, and were maybe schedule 40? Low tunnels like these seem to be a good way to extend the growing season on the cheap, rather than investing in high tunnels, which might run you a few or many thousands of dollars. I’ve seen low tunnels work on farms up to an acre, but even at that size, it seems to be a handful (lots of materials to manage!). HausBar seems to be workin’ it super proper, though.
Seeing a meat bird operation up close is always an interesting experience. There are so many variables in bird production, and it’s fun to pick a farmer’s brain and see why they do what they do. What type of bedding do you use, and why? Why have the brooder here, and the adolescent birds over there? How do you protect the birds? What materials are used to build the structures? How do you process them? What feed and why? Etc, etc, etc. Dorsey was extremely open with her knowledge, and she was more than willing to thoroughly answer all our questions in detail. Here’s some chicken photos:
Above, Dorsey shows us the brooder she’s designed.
These will be the first duck egg producers at HausBar.
All chickens produced here are also slaughtered onsite. They have a small processing area on site, which is very cool/rare. Processing meat (ie. killing them) is always a weird, touchy subject when it comes to regulations. With chickens, though, it’s relatively more lax, as you can produce 10,000 birds and not have an onsite USDA inspector. I didn’t inquire further about the requirements for the processing area, but I’m sure this would have been interesting to touch on.
Dorsey is the first to admit that her rabbit operation has had more failures than successes. She’s had bad luck with hawks, securing structures, and flooding. This is a very successfully cute rabbit, though:
It was inspiring to see Dorsey persevere in the face of past failures. She’s clearly blazing a trail as she continues to experiment with new structures (one uses an old satellite dish, and looks oh so rad), and how these structures interact with each other. The rabbit brooder below is a lot like some of the chicken tractors I’ve seen, but for adorable bunnies. Honestly, there are so many nuances to rabbit produciton, I don’t think I can really dive into it here. There’s a lot to it.
ALSO: Do you know why HausBar has an extremely difficult time with rabbit production? Because they want rabbits to spend their lives on the ground, in the grass. This was something I was personally very interested in, as I’ve looked for information on this in the past and found next to nothing on the subject. (Almost all rabbits that are produced for meat spend their entire lives in a pretty small, suspended cage [all the ones I've seen aren't chicken-battery style. They have space to move around, for sure, but they just don't get their feet in the soil / grass]). Dorsey found very little on this subject, as well, but is just plodding ahead anyhow, learning through trial and error. I’m very excited to see how this operation evolves. Right now, the rabbits run around the property semi-willy-nilly, to which my mind instantly turned to a U-Hunt operation. Am I right?
Alright, more good stuff. They’ve recently completed their new gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous house. Here’s what it looks like:
My phone/camera thing ran out of batteries, or else I would have taken some shots of the sweet pool they have out back. Not only will it be a sweet pool, it will be part of an aqua/hydroponic loop they’re creating. The pool water is pumped into an aquaponic area, which will produce tilapia. This water (and all the nutrients that the fish pump into it) will drain into a hydroponic area, where they can produce vegetable crops. This is then pumped and steralized by lights (I’m short on details here), and then pumped back into the pool, closing the water loop. All very, very cool stuff.
I’ve failed to mention thus far that this property used to be a crack den (really and actually). As such, it was an unhealthy blight to the community. Now the community has this super amazing resource! Huzzah!
There was more, lots more, like the bed and breakfast they are opening very soon, the outdoor cooking facility (for classes and events), other cool structures, etc. But, I think you get the point.
“Those carrots are blowing my mind.” And then I left.