When I got in my car yesterday morning, to head to work, I heard Susanna Almanza, from PODER, a group against urban farms in East Austin, on the radio talking about how people with “disposable income” are moving to East Austin to start farms that take up space that could be used for affordable housing. During the course of the day, I heard several different snippets, one in particular that the farms sell produce that East Austinites cannot afford. The group has also alleged that some unnamed farm, refused to provide seedlings to someone because they “couldn’t profit” from giving them away. They are being portrayed as profit driven commercial entities who do not support their East Austin Community. I feel compelled to respond to this with some actual facts. Maybe they just don’t know all of the good that the farms do?
I am long time supporter of the Sustainable Food Center, and supporter and new Board Member of the Green Corn Project, both organizations that work with low income people from all over Austin, but certainly East Austin.
Boggy Creek Farm, has hosted the Green Corn Project’s main fundraiser, for 14 years. This October 27th will be the 15th year that Boggy Creek opens up the farm to host our Fall Festival. This is the one major fund raising opportunity for Green Corn Project, whose mission is to install gardens at no cost, for low income people (school and churches) who would otherwise have no access to organic food. Green Corn Project has installed hundreds of gardens in East Austin over the years, taught recipients how to maintain them, provided compost, seeds and seedlings and we couldn’t carry out that mission without the generosity of Boggy Creek Farm. (Picture below is from Metz Elementary Garden) The farm gives tours to any school that asks, and has hosted free camps for neighborhood children over the years.
School Tour. Last month they did four in one day!
Springdale Farm frequently hosts events for and benefiting non-profits, including the Sustainable Food Center , which operates 4 local farmer’s markets in Austin, including one in East Austin, teaches low income families how to seek out healthier food, grow it and cook it in ways that work for their individual families. The SFC also teaches gardening and installs gardens. Most recently, Springdale hosted Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, for a pop-up picnic which was free to the public, and accepted donations for the Sustainable Food Center. Nearly $500 was raised for the SFC. Springdale hosts school tours for whomever asks, at no cost, to teach children where food comes from and has worked a lot with Idea Allen Elementary, its nearest neighbor. (Idea Allen lends Springdale its parking lot behind the farm, so that events on the farm have little to no impact on the neighborhood.) Most recently, Govalle Elementary School, in East Austin, came to the farm for a tour, and sent these thank you notes. Community is among the most important missions of each of the East Austin Urban Farms.
Idea Allen Elementary Garden Club on the farm.
Hausbar Farm, just this year donated eggs to Govalle Elementary so that they could hatch their own chicks. This Spring, Hausbar hosted 3 Govalle Elementary pre-k classes on the farm. The kids were able to walked down the street to their neighborhood farm to see where food comes from. The farm hosted a small group of high schoolers from Austin Can Academy, and taught them about sustainable farming. Dorsey, one of Hausbar’s owners, went to UT’s East 6th Street Elementary School for a couple of visits to donate seeds and time to talk to their garden club and prepare their beds for planting. Hausbar hosted a free neighborhood camp this spring so that everyone in the neighborhood could enjoy the farm. Every chance the get, they host Urban Roots youth who come and enjoy getting to know where eggs come from (since they don’t have hens at their farm) and getting to know just what the heck donkeys have to do with farming. They recently hosted a bus-load of Walnut Creek school, Elementary School Garden Club members. Last week we had a fantastic group from kids and adults from Communities In Schools come spend the morning with us. 2 weeks ago Hausbar had a summer camp that included paying campers, but neighborhood campers were invited to attend free of charge. (photo from Spring camp which was free)
Rain Lily Farm hosts an annual arts series, free to everyone in the neighborhood, called Shakespeare on the Farm. People come to the farm, (many walk from their homes nearby,) sit on blankets and enjoy the works of William Shakespeare, performed on the farm.
The contributions to the East Austin (and greater Austin) communities by these farms is invaluable and way to vast for me to include even a fraction of what they do. They are good neighbors and I would gladly have any one them it my neighborhood, next to my house. They are each a shining example of how we all should be treating the Earth, using organic methods in their farming, collecting rainwater and composting. I could go on listing all the good things these farms have done and continue to do, but it would be laborious, and too long to read.
The City currently is working on amendments to the Urban Farm Code, which, as written is somewhat vague. I have been attending the Board/counsel meetings to keep informed and show support for the farms. Currently, the suggested amendments to the existing Urban Farm Code, limit events on the farms and would require special event permits for most events. Farms don’t generate enough income from selling produce, to support continued farming. Events are essential. Farmers are not politicians, and aren’t accustomed to public speaking and political activism. They could use our help spreading news of their good works and you can help by signing up as a supporter at http://www.austinurbanfarms.org. The site also lists other ways you can help support our local farms.