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Let’s Talk: Agriculture in Texas!

by Stephanie Phelan
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agriculture landscape

In honor of upcoming National Ag Day – March 23rd, 2021, TexasRealFood would like to take a look at the local initiatives happening in the Lone Star State. The Agriculture Council of America originally started the National Ag Day program in 1973. You can read here how it’s led to sustainable food production today. And also why it’s crucial to celebrate now, more than ever.

Ways to Get Involved in Local Food Production

1) Become a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) member

CSA stands for “community supported agriculture”. Which is a commitment in which members pay a lump sum upfront to secure a weekly box of produce, also known as a “share” from a local farm. And this goes throughout the farming season. In Texas, we have many farms that produce for local residents and sell at farmers markets found in the TexasRealFood directory. And there’s also a CSA specific list, nationwide, found here.

Unfortunately, the February winter storm in Texas left a lasting impact on the state’s farming communities. Many local farmers suffered devastating losses when freezing temperatures killed acres of crops. These farms need our support! From local gardens to a large share of the Rio Grande Valley’s citrus farms, the storm took a heavy toll statewide. You can read this Texas Tribune article, where they visit Johnson’s Backyard Garden, an organic farm near Austin, that sustained a 90% crop loss during the storm. It will take weeks before they can harvest again. But the owner, Brenton Johnson, is staying hopeful as he and his team work tirelessly to replant and make up for the million dollar crop loss. 

JBG community share programJBG Organics is one of the larger farms part of the Texas CSA program. We can give immediate support by attending sales and purchasing what is already harvested, direct funding to what they’re doing for crop recovery. You can consider signing up for a farm membership here. You choose how many shares (or boxes) you would like and pay upfront. These shares are available for pick up or delivery weekly, and offer a variety of food in season! You can even add-on coffee and eggs. Shares start at $22 per box for community pickup, or $27 for home delivery. And you can choose a minimum of four shares to start! 

This is a great way to support local farms and directly be involved with the community, and if you cook a lot (like I do!) – you can still purchase local produce at the markets. This just streamlines the process and shows your support for the local food movement. 

2) Shop Locally AND attend planting events & sales

JBG plantingWe all are trying to shop local these days. But it’s time we learn about what is local!

What’s in season?

What can I plant that will thrive? 

What can I plant that’s native, but not found at the store? 

What’s some food our area has lost touch with?

These are all questions that people are becoming curious about. Because we want to get back to our roots, and discover the wide variety of fruits and vegetables NOT found at the grocery store. Because there’s so many more varieties! You can read more about food variety and regenerative agriculture design here. 

Events like Johnson’s Backyard Garden 2021 Transplant Sale help encourage people to visit the farm where their seedlings we’re sprouted. Transplants from the JBG Greenhouses are sold every Saturday from now until the end of April, or until they sell out.

When: Saturdays! Feb 28-end of April (9am-1pm)

Where: 4008 River Road, Garfield, 78612

As the season of gardening & seed sharing is rapidly approaching, consider learning more about what is truly native to our area. So you can create an efficient gardening design to help your unique and native harvest! You’d even be surprised how many of us can become “small space gardeners” with the use of hydroponic or vertical designs!

3) Encourage & Support Local Food Suppliers

lone star beer and tacosThere are a lot of small businesses out there in the hospitality industry, aiming to serve local residents amazing food. In fact, many of us spend a lot of time in areas where food is prepared. Hospitals, Schools, Business Centers, Shopping Malls, etc. We try and eat from home as much as possible, especially these days. But if you’re eating breakfast & lunch at work, or out to dinner and wonder if the ingredients are locally sourced – do a little research! If you’re a frequent visitor & feeling advantageous – you could drop a few names of local farms offering wholesale produce to anyone in charge of food inventory. Never hurts to ask or just get the seed planted in someone else’s mind. 

You can also use the Farmhouse Directory – an online directory bringing fresh farm produce directly to your door!

4) Attend Virtual Events to Gain Insight & Perspective

The pandemic turned me into an Eventbrite enthusiast. Zoom meetings, FB Live, and Youtube Live events are helping us get involved, learn the facts, and let our opinions be heard!  Here are some upcoming events you can attend, from the comfort of your own home:

woman picking lavender

5) Don’t Forget about ALL the crops in Agriculture!

Holistic Herbs

Many times, we often forget about all of the crops used to produce our medicinal herbs, tea & coffee, clothing, textiles, etc. It’s important to remember there are still farmers working hard in these industries as well to harvest these crops for us!

Cultivate Holistic Supply in Texas has 17+ years growing edible, medicinal & native plants in the Central Texas region. And their team is working hard to supply homesteading materials, plants and any other materials needed to start your project. 

Clothing Crops 

Cotton is the leading cash crop Texas, with the total economic impact far into the billions. That’s why the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative is so important. As we transition more towards alternatives such as the Texas Industrial Hemp Program in Texas, keep an eye on the news, relevant updates, and the ingredients that make up your clothing and textiles!

TexasRealFood hopes this article and others posted for National Ag Day help you better understand how & why you should celebrate this important day! Share your local farms and businesses you support through social media @TexasRealFood

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