In the 1880s, the XIT ranch was the largest range in the world under fence and it all laid in the Texas Panhandle. It’s three million acres sprawled across ten counties in Texas. The state of Texas, the biggest state in the union, used the sale of the ranch to pay for it’s red granite capitol, still the largest state capitol on the North American Continent. The Austin structure still houses the Lone Star state government more than a century later, and is second in size only to the capitol building at Washington, D.C.
The story of the ranch is fascinating and the museum brings history to life. If you don’t get a chance to visit the museum you can read more about that history HERE.
pictured: Colin Thompson, a Community Food Systems Educator for Michigan State University Extension credit: OFRF
As the next Farm Bill approaches, the House Agriculture Committee members are beginning to gather input from farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders. As you may know, several current programmes that contribute to the success of organic agriculture are under threat of elimination as so it is imperative that policy makers hear directly from organic farmers, researchers and organic farming advocates.
There are three upcoming listening sessions in the next week organised by the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
Monday July 31 2017 – 1.00 pm. Texas
Angelo State University,
C.J. Davidson Conference Centre,
1910 Rosemont Drive,
San Angelo, Texas
Saturday, August 5, 2017 – 9:00 a.m. Modesto, California Address to yet to be announced.
If you are hoping to speak at one of the listening sessions, arrive early as the opportunity to speak will be decided on a first come first served basis and speaking time will likely be restricted to approximately 2 minutes.
Recently, at OFRF’s recommendation, Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced H.R. 2436, the Organic Agriculture Research Act (OARA). This historic bipartisan legislation reauthorizes USDA’s flagship organic research program, the Organic Research and Extension Initiative (OREI), and increases its mandatory funding from $20 million to $50 million annually. If passed, the Organic Agriculture Research Act would become part of the 2018 Farm Bill. It is important to show your support now.
If you would like more information about the listening sessions or the issues at stake, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Even after the lamb comes, the ewe continues to strain. Sticky with afterbirth, the ram lamb calls to his mother in quavering tenor, but though she lifts her head in his direction and lets out a low moan of response, her heaving sides won’t let her rise and go to him.
In the compounded darkness of the manger—it’s well after sunset—it’s hard to see what’s happening. The ewe stretches a hind leg in effort, and then again, and again, pushing. She stops her rhythmic movement, breath ragged. Someone shines a light: there is something there, behind her hind legs, on the straw. A second lamb? The thing is dark, darker than the first lamb. A black lamb? But no, it glistens too strangely in the odd glare/shadow contrast of the flashlight.
“I—I think that’s part of her body.” What? “I think those are her organs.”
The stillness breaks. The livestock manager is called. “Prolapse,” “iodine,” “warm water,” “towels.” There is a flurry of activity in service to these words. The rumble of a truck announces the arrival of Josh, the livestock manager, from down the road. He clicks his headlamp on to peer at the lumpen tangle between the prostrate ewe’s legs. “That’s her uterus,” he says, and walks away to call the vet.
He returns shaking his head. The vet can’t come for two hours—there’s another emergency, over the border in Vermont. “I guess I’ll try to put it back, but I’ve never had much luck.”
Josh instructs someone to fetch sugar, someone to fetch a better light, someone to prepare a bottle of colostrum for the new lamb (“He’s huge, look how huge he is! That must be what did it”). He sloshes iodine up to his elbows while two people hold the ewe still. Gingerly, he lifts the uterus from ground, pulling off bits of straw and hay. He pours sugar over it. “The vet says this will make it shrink, so that it will fit,” he tells us. Then in a low mutter, to himself, “This was my favorite sheep.”
After a few moments, he begins trying to push the uterus back into the ewe. But even gritty with sugar, reverse-osmosis starting to drain the fluid, it’s slippery and swollen, bulging any place where Josh’s hands can’t stretch, the task like trying to fit a water ballon into the tap from which it was filled. “She’s pushing against me,” he says. “Her body thinks she’s having a lamb.”
He keeps trying: adding more sugar, repositioning, applying prolonged pressure, but it won’t go. Josh sits back on his heels. There’s nothing to do but wait for the vet. Continue reading →
Rick Haney, gangly and garrulous, paces in front of a congregation of government conservationists, working the room for laughs before he gets to the hard data. The U.S. Department of Agriculture soil scientist points to an aerial photograph of research plots outside his facility in Temple, Texas. “Our drones took this shot,” he says, then shakes his head. “Kidding. We don’t have any drones.”
Forty sets of shoulders jerk in amusement. Paranoia about the federal government is acute in Texas, and Haney’s audience—field educators from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), part of a corps of around six thousand that works directly with farmers nationwide—hail from around the state. They’re used to suspicious scowls from farmers, who are as skeptical of the feds as they are of the outsiders who dwell on the downsides of agriculture. For the most part, the people in this room are both: feds and outsiders.
But what if those downsides—unsustainable farming practices—are also bad for a farmer’s bottom line? It’s the question Haney loves to raise during training sessions like this one, which the NRCS (today’s iteration of the Dust Bowl–era Soil Conservation Service) convenes around the country as part of a soil health campaign launched in 2012. Haney is a star at these events because he brings the imprimatur of science to something many innovative farmers have already discovered: despite what the million-dollar marketing campaigns of agrichemical companies say, farmers can use less fertilizer without reducing yields, saving both money and landscapes.
“Our entire agriculture industry is based on chemical inputs, but soil is not a chemistry set,” Haney explains. “It’s a biological system. We’ve treated it like a chemistry set because the chemistry is easier to measure than the soil biology.”
Watch the video below! Learn more about the exhibit here! Follow the amazing ripple effects of the exhibit, recent press in the Houston Chronicle and NYT, and more of the organizations work on their news page.
Farmshare Austin, is a nonprofit dedicated to providing communities with healthy food by teaching the next generation of organic farmers.
“Using a blend of hands-on in-field training and formal classroom education, students will gain practical knowledge and experience in organic and sustainable growing methods, as well as learning the business and financial planning skills necessary to establish a successful market farm. Students will live and work on a seven acre organic farm in an intensive four and a half month immersion learning experience. Students will receive extensive in-field training in organic vegetable production with mentorship from experienced staff, and will work cooperatively to accomplish daily tasks for a 60 member CSA. Students will be exposed to all aspects of a working farm and will develop in-depth skills through this seasonal program. Daily activities may include bed preparation, planting, weeding, irrigation, harvest, and packing.
Students will also receive 200 hours of formal educational time. Students will participate in bi-weekly classes, along with farm walks, discussions, workshops, and monthly local area farm tours with opportunities to work with and learn from agricultural professionals and expert farmers. Students will benefit from individual attention, small class size, and evaluations for educational and training goals.
We are seeking vibrant, enthusiastic candidates who are committed to participating in an intensive twenty week training program in organic vegetable production. Applicants should have a passion for sustainable agriculture and be prepared to submerse themselves in an inclusive learning community. We strive to select individuals who can contribute a diverse set of skills and knowledge, and are ultimately looking to create a healthy, happy, and active learning community.”
Farmshare Austin’s FarmerStarter program is designed to provide aspiring farmers with the essential skills and training needed to manage a sustainable farming business. Visit their website for more information and apply now!
Episode #8 – Judith McGeary and The Texas Legislative Process
Join TXYFC, as we dive into the Texas legislative process with Judith McGeary, director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA). Judith has been working for years to create and pass legislation that helps promote and support small farms in Texas and beyond. On Episode #8, Judith walks us through, step by step, how the Texas Cottage Law – House Bill 970, put forth by FARFA – was passed into law. From conception of the bill in the farming community, to finding a legislative sponsor, to passing through various committees at the Texas capital, to finally becoming law. It’s a fascinating process, filled with priceless tips on how to make the legislative process work for small farms. Take a listen, and get learned!
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!
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!
urban farm education in Texas! Download the full agenda HERE
Are you interested in starting a small-acreage, sustainable farm? Already started farming, but interested in strengthening your cultivation methods, business plan, network of resources, or sales? Whether just beginning, or looking to expand your existing operation, this program is for you!
STRONG STARTS: Urban Farming 101 will be held this year in July and August, in Austin. Continue reading →
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. Find it here:http://www.texasyoungfarmers.org/episode-4-marysol-valle-and-jeff-wiley-of-fat-frog-farm/
Job Opening – Tomato Packing Crew Position in Austin, TX
Johnson’s Backyard Garden is an organic CSA farm located in Austin, TX. We grow over 30 different types of vegetables year round on 190 acres and sell them through our CSA, at all the Austin farmers markets and to local restaurants and grocery stores in Austin. We are currently hiring for our tomato packing crew. This is a seasonal position with full time hours. We are hiring ASAP. This position will last until the end of the tomato harvest which is typically at the beginning of August in Austin. The hours vary but work usually starts early around daylight and 10-11 hour days are normal. The pay is $9.00/hour plus a weekly share of organic vegetables ($33.00 value) and bonus pay of $1.00 per total hours worked for those completing the full season. Duties include washing, sorting and packing tomatoes at our farm location 10 minutes outside of downtown Austin. We are looking for fast-paced, detail-oriented hard-workers who can work in the heat and maintain a positive attitude. Successful candidates must be dependable and have reliable transportation. Must be able to lift 50 lbs repeatedly and experience driving a forklift is preferred but not required. If interested, please send your resume to email@example.com.
An amazing podcast series from the Texas Young Farmers Coalition! Great listening if you’ve got a rainy day in the greenhouse or some downtime at the end of a long day.
The details: What: A podcast highlighting farmers – both young and old – from across the great state of Texas. Interviews are long-form, so we have the time to
dive deep into growing food, selling food, food politics, and the spiritual side of it all. Very nice listening while farming in the field. When: Monthly Where: http://www.texasyoungfarmers.org/category/podcast/
POSITION: Regional Sales Manager for the Dallas/Houston area Download the full position description HERE
THE COMPANY: Estancia Beef sells the highest quality grass-fed beef on the market and is expanding distribution across the US. Consumer demand for truly natural, grass-fed beef is growing quickly and Estancia leads the category. The beef is sold into the top restaurants in the Western US alongside high quality retailers and specialty accounts. Estancia Beef truly is natural: It is produced without the use of feed-lots, growth-promoting antibiotics or hormones. Grass-fed beef has well-documented health benefits and Estancia sets the gold standard for center of the plate quality. Estancia works with a cooperative of 140 ranches in Uruguay following strict protocols and the company is currently developing complementary US production to supply 50% of company sales. Consumer interests, health trends and global beef pricing are all perfectly positioned for Estancia’s success and we expect to grow to $50 million in sales over the next 5 years.
Sales managers at Estancia build regional businesses by converting new retail and restaurant accounts; additionally the person is responsible for managing them successfully. The manager must work closely with chefs and buyers to ensure customer satisfaction and product fit. The manager must also help develop business through new and existing partnerships like distributors, brokers or affiliate programs. The success and growth of the region sit firmly on their shoulders. Beyond sales and distribution, the manager helps manage local marketing efforts, planned events, distribution and logistics, pricing and all aspects of the regional business.