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For more than 14 years, I have pursued organic horticulture and
sustainable agriculture, while my wife has studied nutrition with
a vision of serving in Central America. After selling our decade-old
nursery business three years ago, I worked as farm operations manager/instructor
for World Hunger Relief (www.worldhungerrelief.org)
in Elm Mott, Texas. That work, along with an article I read in 1999
by Martin Price of Echo International (www.echonet.org),
entitled “Small Farm Resource Development Center,” defined
for our family our vision--to develop a model for sustainable small
family farms to do field research, demonstrating and encouraging
others in techniques that will support small farms, promoting biological
diversity, proper land stewardship, and holistic community development.
At that time we thought we would still be working in Central America.
As time progressed at World Hunger Relief, the greatest joy was
spent educating interns (who had no agriculture experience); organizing
public events and school tours; and seeing people’s eyes open
up to understanding where their food comes from, and how small farms
are disappearing across America because of urban sprawl, the rise
of land prices, and a general disinterest in young people to stay
on the farm (the average farmer now being over 86, or so I have
heard). Families would come to the farm wanting to learn how to
vermicompost, raise chickens, and plant a simple garden (we educated
a lot of folks at our organic retail nursery for 10 years on how
to backyard garden). Growing one’s own food has become a lost
art, with a whole generation or two removed from the farm.
I began to realize that the need was here, domestically, more than
I ever realized, and that our family is uniquely qualified to help.
Following a two-year search, we have secured 22 acres in the earliest
settled part of Texas and are restoring an old farmhouse on the
property to be a future farm store/education center. We’re
developing a 1/2-acre demonstration garden featuring more than 70
varieties of heirloom, open-pollinated vegetables, we have technically
consulted five other local farmers beginning their small farms (and
discussing the possibility of starting a small-farm co-op), and
we have introduced alpine dairy goats, heritage chickens, ducks
and geese to our program this spring.
We are looking to introduce a multi-species grazing system incorporating
goats, Katahdin sheep and Dexter cattle in the future. We are depending
upon agritourism--our county is no. 2 in the state for tourism--and
the farmer’s markets (more than an hour away). This year will
be a big trial period for our farm, as we are determined to do it
without incurring debt. Our intention is to be a model small-family
farm, offering workshops and demonstrations to encourage and educate
others to develop a successful family farm enterprise along with
providing quality food for our local community, reaching as far
as Houston. South central Texas is finally coming along, and we
are hope to help educate and encourage others in this local food