Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Urban Farms Are Good for East Austin June 27, 2013

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!

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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.

Photo: Thanks for coming Govalle Elementary. Now eat your veggies!

Photo: Special delivery! Sweet notes from Govalle Elementary School.

Idea Allen Elementary Garden Club on the farm.

Photo: IDEA Allen Elementary School Garden Club visited the farm this week. Next generation coming on strong...

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)

Photo: Had such a great time at our Neighborhood Kids Farm Camp Saturday! We live in the best neighborhood in Austin!

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.

Shakespeare on the Farm Fall 2011

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.

 

19 Responses to “Urban Farms Are Good for East Austin”

  1. David Says:

    Thanks for your words and your efforts! You are a true and inspiring figure.

  2. Eleanor Ricci Says:

    Communities all over the world should be doing what they are doing in East Austin! THIS is how to change the world! Pay Attention! – eleanor

  3. Carl Crownover Says:

    GOOD, WELL WRITTEN POST!

  4. Sweet baby awesomeness. ‘Nuff said.

  5. Joe (Govalle Resident) Says:

    I am a homeowner that lives on the same block as one of the urban farms, Hausbar Farms, and very close to the other farms. These farms are indeed good for our community. They perform important educational outreach for neighborhood children. The farms are models of sustainability, land stewardship and function as important cultural hubs. Critics should tour the farms, familiarize themselves with their educational efforts and talk to citizens excited about their contributions to the community. The farmstands are frequented by residents of the neighborhood and reflect its diversity.

    We should not be legislating how these farms provide outreach. Capping the limit of tours or farm visits to two a month is a bad idea. If anything we should encouraging these farms to open their gates to the community as much as possible. I have heard that parking for farm events is a concern. As a neighbor I have never been inconvenienced by traffic or people parking in the neighborhood. The events and farmstands have limited hours. The amount of cars is comparable to church service or a graduation party. Urban farms are good for east Austin. Let’s strike a balance of interests and continue to move forward as a community.

  6. ellen rozman Says:

    Great article pointing out some, but certainly not all, of the wonderful enrichment opportunities East Urban Farms add to our community. They are truly planting the seeds of our future through their education, events and support of Austin. Thanks for writing and sharing this post!

  7. Well done! I don’t think any of this is so much about change as it is about normalizing.

  8. Pamela Jo Says:

    Great post. My brother linked to your blog on his Facebook page. I only wish I lived in Austin so I could visit and help support the farms. I believe fresh organically grown produce should be available for everyone. These farms are working to make that happen. It seems like some people don’t want us to be self-reliant and will do anything to stop those who are leading the way. Keep up the the good fight.

  9. Caroline Says:

    My 3 year old twins and I often visit Boggy Creek Farm and we live very close to all these farms. In a neighborhood that is so urban, the farms provide a stark contrast to the life that we would be left without them. They are a valuable asset to all of the neighbors, as they provide a place for us to practice community. For the neighbors of the farm, it is easy to teach nutrition and sustainability to our children. We have examples at our familiar and welcoming urban farms in the neighborhood.

  10. Rose Says:

    As Susana and many against the Urban Farm Ordinance have tried to reiterate, it is NOT an issue AGAINST urban farms. The problem is the attempt to rezone single family zoned land into commercial mixed use land. If the single family zoned land is turned into commercial mixed use, this allows ANYONE to come and use this land as commercial mixed use, not JUST the urban farms. The problem is NOT against urban farms. It is against setting up ALL of east Austin to be lost to the hands of greedy developers in the name of “urban farms.”

    The indigenous people of east Austin that urban farms “help” will no longer be here in a few years if the single family zoned land is turned into commercial mixed use land. It will simply allow the further gentrification of east Austin which means one day only those with “privilege” will be able to enjoy the fruits of the urban farms.

    THAT is why PODER is against the urban farm ordinance. They are NOT against urban farms. They are against REZONING and GENTRIFICATION.

    • Thank you for your comment Rose. Unfortunately, there is lots of misinformation being spread about this issue, in an effort to strike fear in the heart of residents. There is NO REZONING proposed. Urban farms are and have been allowed in all zones, including SF3. The Urban Farm Code Update that has passed the Sustainable Food Policy Board and the Planning Commission, after nearly a year of work, merely updates the existing Code to better define Urban Farms and add limitations to what they can and cannot do. I reiterate, THERE IS NO REZONING proposed, and no one is turning any land into Commercial Mixed Use. If those that are against the farms continue to try to restrict what they can do, we will lose our precious resource and they will be forced to shut down and sell their land. That’s when you can expect commercial developers to swoop in and start building condos. If you’d like to read the issues in full, please go to http://www.austinurbanfarms.org. Thanks again.


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