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What a Difference a Week Makes!

Good morning from Opal’s Farm! I realize that some Opal’s supporters may not share the same scene I have looking out my office door this morning (thanks to all of you across Texas, the nation, and even the globe! We appreciate you all so much). The sun has just come up and it’s a brilliant Spring morning. Last week’s wintry morning has been replaced with cool Spring mornings. The birds are talking loudly amongst each other, and the trees are beginning to bud in radiant greens, whites, and purples. The projected high temperature for today is ninety degrees (in March)!

Spring planting is moving ahead at breakneck speed. Professor David Cole, Stephanie Schmitz, and the students at Tarrant Count College NW’s Horticulture Department grew four hundred tomato plants and one hundred pepper transplants for the farm this year. The one thing we are unable to have has been a greenhouse (no structures on the floodplain) so we can’t start out tomatoes and peppers on time. Providing our transplants saved the farm hundreds of dollars. They’re also bigger and healthier than those that come from our regular vendors. Hopefully, we will be able to provide tomatoes early this year.

All our tomato and pepper plants are in and trellised thanks to our wonderful volunteers. Melissa, Jamie, and Tony came during the week, and we had two great workdays with the Ridglea Presbyterian Student Ministries and The Hills Church Unity Builders Ministry over the last two weekends.

We skipped market this Saturday so we could pick up, deliver, and plant all our transplants. Don’t worry though. We’ll be back next week with more of the organically grown fresh produce you all look for from Opal’s Farm!

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Betting on Spring

I was sitting on the porch drinking coffee and listening to the sweet songs of the mockingbird that perches on our catalpa tree every Spring. When I got to the Opal’s Farm, I saw the first robins skittering across the newly turned soil. We had what I hope is the last freeze this past Friday night. The lettuces and Tokyo Bekana that was beginning to sprout survived with flying colors. I feel ready to say that Spring has finally sprung here in North Texas. Then again, it is North Texas…

I love when the robins flock to the farm. I enjoy watching them because I know that they know where the worms are and earthworms are one indicator of healthy soil. I pulled some turnips yesterday and saw the mycelium covering their roots. My kids laugh at me about how excited I get to see such things but quite frankly, I don’t care. Healthy soils mean healthy plants. Healthy plants mean wonderful flavor and maximum nutritional value for our customers and those we serve!

This Spring promises to be a pronounced difference from last year. The historic 2021 ice storm and the uncommonly wet May caused dramatic losses to our Spring crops. Everything seems to be on track this year for a successful Spring for Opal’s Farm. Our compost pile is growing (Thank you Carpool Compost!) along with our wood chips for mulch (Thank you J Davis Tree Company!). In fact, we have wood chips available to our community if anyone needs some for their Spring gardens!

We weren’t at Cowtown Farmers Market this week, but we will be there next Saturday. It’s been hit and miss since the first of the year. We didn’t even get to go to market from the first week in January until last week. It was so good to see so many of our regular customers and share Saturday morning with our fellow vendors. We missed you all! We have some of the most awesome folks who share their Saturday mornings with us.

Our Spring Volunteer Sign Up calendar will be updated today. Stacey Harwood, our Volunteer Coordinator, tells me that weekends are beginning to fill up with large groups coming out so be sure and schedule your groups as soon as possible.

We can’t even begin to tell you how excited we are that Spring is finally here. Come and join us as we work the soil, plant Spring crops, and eagerly await the anticipated abundance Opal’s Farm gives us each year!

As always – you can donate to Opal’s Farm at http://www.unityunlimited.org or at our stall at Cowtown Farmers Market. Every dollar you donate to Opal’s Farm is goes to providing a healthy meal to our neighbors. Every dollar you spend at Cowtown Farmers Market helps those with no access to fresh, nutritious produce have a healthy meal and builds our neglected communities!

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We’re Back!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. I took a week to travel to Kentucky and spend the holiday with my family. Stacey Harwood, our Volunteer Coordinator, looked after Opal’s Farm in my absence and did a stellar job. Our Opal’s volunteers and our Grow SE apprentices got plenty of fresh produce to the community.

I spent this afternoon sorting tomatoes – I’m through the first four hundred pounds – and checking the progress of our Fall crops. I can’t wait to see you all at Cowtown Farmers Market this Saturday morning!

I can’t believe we still haven’t had our first freeze here in Fort Worth. The near freeze Thanksgiving night killed off some of the weaker tomato and pepper plants, but the bulk of the plants are still blooming and loaded once again. I never dreamed we’d be bringing fresh tomatoes in December! We’ll also have purple top turnips, bak choi, lettuces, spinach, mustard greens, and winter squash. Come on out and load your baskets!

I also want to remind everyone that Tuesday is the International Day of Giving – Giving Tuesday. The first Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become a time to come together and support local non-profits during the holiday season. It gives us each the chance to practice radical generosity.

The ice storm in February and fifteen inches of rain in May affected our Spring production. We need you more than ever to continue our work bringing fresh, healthy produce to underserved and neglected communities. You can donate through our website, www.unityunlimited.org, through our Opal’s Farm Facebook page, or at Cowtown Farmers Market on Saturday mornings (I know – it’s not Tuesday but…).

Thank you all and Happy Holidays to each of you!

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Happy Early Thanksgiving!

Margaret and I will be leaving in the morning for Kentucky to spend Thanksgiving with my family. Wow! I never dreamed I’d be writing that one. (If you’ve followed my family journey at www.gregoryjoel.com you know why I say that…) Momma told me last night that she hoped Margaret won’t be overwhelmed by the crowd descending on Momma’s house for the holiday (I have a BIG family – never thought I’d say that one either!). Rest assured Momma – Margaret’s ready! I can’t even begin to put into words the joy I’m feeling.

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks getting Opal’s Farm ready for Thanksgiving and my vacation – and I mean “vacation” – haven’t said that one in ten years…). I’ll be unplugging from phones and computers for the next nine days. Stacey Harwood, our Volunteer Coordinator, will be handling everything at the farm. She may be in desperate need of volunteers if we get a freeze warning next week. We have a ton of tomatoes on the vine that we’ll need to pick quickly. Stacey can be reached at opalsvolunteers@gmail.com. Also, please remember that #GivingTuesday, a day of global giving, coming up after the holiday!

We’ll also be taking a break from Cowtown Farmers Market for the next two Saturdays. We’ll be back in force throughout the remainder of the holiday season so come get your fresh, local produce for Christmas!

I won’t be able to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving next week, so I’ll say it today. I hope our friends and family have a great Thanksgiving. I hope this holiday season brings joy and gratitude for the blessings we have received. Sometimes those blessings are disguised by the obstacles that we find along the way. The pandemic and the losses that have accompanied it have been brutal, but like Opal’s Farm, we’re getting past those to find the joy and peace that come from God’s awesome creation.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Love each other a little better and be thankful. Take care!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
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4th Annual Erma C. Johnson Hadley Awards Banquet

I am deeply grateful to be named an Honoree at the 4th Annual Erma C. Johnson Hadley Awards banquet on November 5th, 2021. Ms. Hadley was the first woman and first African American to serve as Chancellor for Tarrant County College. She was instrumental in helping TCC grow and become one of the finest community colleges in the country during her 47 years there. She was an incredible educator and trailblazer.

I am honored to be recognized with my fellow honorees, Commissioner Devan Allen, former Fort Worth City Councilperson and Aids Outreach Center Executive Director, Kelly Allen Gray, and one of my favorite people, Rev. Ryon Price from Broadway Baptist Church. Please join us at the banquet.