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The First Annual Young Women’s Leadership Academy Day at Opal’s Farm

It’s been a fantastic week down on the farm! We found out we had another truckload of tomatoes waiting for us at TCC NW campus, the new sections of the farm are plowed, and cover crops are in. We are trying some new planting methods suggested by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) that may help us with weed control and crop yields for the coming year. We’re even trying new cover crops to battle our nemesis – the dastardly Johnson Grass!

Yesterday, we had an awesome volunteer workday with the students and parents from the Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA). The response from all the students and parents was overwhelming. We had 201 people sign up for the workday! We couldn’t believe it. We’ve never had such an outpouring of support from our community!

To be honest, we weren’t sure we could handle that many volunteers at one time, but the kids, parents, and grandparents made it easy for us and really (I mean really!) got an amazing amount of seed planted, weeding accomplished, and furrows covered in wood chips for the coming Spring crops!

We all decided that this was the first annual YMLA Day at Opal’s Farm. It will be an annual event for us all! I’m already looking forward to next year!

Ms. Opal came by later in the morning and that was the icing on the cake for the day. She was able to spend time speaking with many of the young ladies, families, and staff and get pictures with them as well. We were so pleased that Ms. Opal came by. We knew she had a busy schedule this past weekend, but she wanted to make sure that everyone at YWLA knew how much we appreciated them.

The YWLA helped us plant enough to easily provide 15- 20 thousand meals when all is harvested. Moreover, they completed 4-6 weeks of work in a two-hour shift. The huge number of folks and their commitment to service made for an amazing day and a huge leap for Opal’s Farm.

I spoke with so many of the young ladies, the adults, and staff about what the farm is all about and I’m overwhelmed by the number of folks coming back to volunteer on their own. I applaud the YWLA for bringing us so many great young people with hearts for service and the community. They are preparing our young ladies to be the leaders for Fort Worth’s future, and we commend them for their incredible work. There aren’t words to express our gratitude to you all.

I would also like to thank our Volunteer Coordinator, Stacey Harwood, and our regular volunteers that are here each week. They came to help show everyone what needed to be done and how to go about it. We couldn’t do what we do without you – Melissa, Jamie, Brandon, Elizabeth, and Oscar. I think they were all smiling right along with me when the day was through!

We all love us some Ms. Opal!
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New Beginnings at the Farm

The Fall crops are in and doing well. The greens are abundant, the tomatoes ripening quickly, and the peppers have been supercharged by the cool night air. We’re taking more and more to market and more coming in the next two weeks. Come and see us at Cowtown Farmers Market and prepare for the holidays!

This is our favorite time of year at Opal’s Farm. The mornings have a slight chill in the air. The summer heat is left behind. The high temperatures hover around seventy to eighty degrees – perfect weather for working. There’s time to clean old beds and prepare new ones for Spring.

The pace seems more relaxed and laid-back. It’s also the perfect time to reflect on our mission, our vision, and our values and focus on the truly important things Opal’s Farm is about. Are we staying the course? How can we do things better? It’s a time to refocus, make sure we’re following the best path toward our goals, and look forward to the coming year (yes, friends, it’s only two months away…).

Our Mission Statement

Building vibrant local communities through regenerative urban farming, faithful gathering, and lasting fellowship

Our Vision

We imagine a world where diversity is evident, opportunities are plentiful, and divisions are crossed, all in pursuit of lasting unity. Opal’s Farm creates community empowerment through food. Through our work we hope to generate a replicable model of community building, engagement, and empowerment.

In keeping with our Mission Opal’s Farm is proud to be part of the Farm Manager Apprenticeship program starting on Wednesday, November 3rd. Grow SE, with a grant from the United Way, is beginning a nine-month Apprenticeship Program for three new farmers from Southeast Fort Worth.

They will be working side by side Grow SE farmers to learn how to plan, build, and grow their own crops using regenerative, organic means of building healthy soil and healthy plants. They’ll each build their own fifth of an acre plot, from planting to harvest, and then market their crops. They will take the knowledge and experienced they gain to their respective communities in Southeast Fort Worth – joining the urban agriculture movement to bring healthy fresh produce to neighborhoods that need it most.

We’ll be introducing you to the inspiring young men in coming posts and keep you updated on our progress.

We’d love to have you come out (weather permitting) on Wednesday, November 3rd at 10:00 AM and celebrate the beginning of the Farm Manager Apprenticeship Program with us. Come meet our new farmers and be a part of the Opal’s community.

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Dig Deep: A Conference for Growers

I’d like to invite all Opal’s Farmers to come out to the 2021 Dig Deep Conference. Opal’s Farm will be talking about “Empowering Communities Through Food”. There are programs for all types of growers. We’d love to see you there.

Please join Tarrant Area Food Bank and the Tarrant County Food Policy Council for an exciting and educational event – Dig Deep: A Conference for Growers!

Growers of all kinds from all over the North Texas region are invited to attend the conference as a means to network with other growers, learn more about important aspects of growing, and participate in an event highlights the important and positive work being done in our area to help end hunger and promote a healthier community.

Tracks will be offered on Home, Community and Market growing, ensuring that there is something for every kind of grower.

For more information and registration, visit https://digdeepconference2021.eventbrite.com!

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Extra Special Juneteenth (Thank you Ms. Opal!)

The Juneteenth Festival this weekend will be a special celebration, both here in Fort Worth and nationally. A signing ceremony in the East Wing of the White House made Juneteenth, the 19th of June, a National Holiday. Words cannot express the joy and pride I felt as I watched President Biden sign the bill and hand a pen to our beloved Ms. Opal. Many prayers have been answered. Let the celebration begin!

Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed the bill and sent it over to the House where it passed with bipartisan support on Wednesday. I’m at Opal’s Farm all day so I didn’t here of the passage until last night’s 10 o’clock news. I never call anyone after 10:00 PM (I was taught a call after 10:00 better involve blood or it was completely socially unacceptable), but I had to call Ms. Opal right away. “You did it”, I cried.

“No, WE did it”, she said. “There have been so many people along the way who made this happen”.

I wouldn’t have expected any other answer. That’s the kind of person she is. I’ve learned much about true humility from Ms. Opal, but she earned the title “Mother of Juneteenth” from her many years of persistence and dedication to a vision. Many others worked to make this day a reality, but it was a “little old lady in white tennis shoes that gets in everybody’s business” (her description, not mine) that blazed the path forward.

She personifies Juneteenth. That’s why the holiday has come to mean so much to me. Her constant reminder that “no one’s free until we all are free” echoes through all we do at Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm. I’m amazed and proud I get to be a part of it all.

I’ve had the honor and privilege of serving as the Farm Manager for Opal’s Farm for the last three years. I’ve listened to the stories and the history that I never knew. One story has always stood out. On Juneteenth, 1929, when she was only twelve years old, her family home was burned down by a white mob upset by a Black family moving into their neighborhood. I’d heard the story through media reports, but it was Ms. Opal who told me the one detail that had the greatest impact on me. She told me she decided that day so long ago “that I was going to hate what they did, but I wasn’t going to hate them” (the white mob).

That a twelve-year-old girl could have that spirit of love and forgiveness was astonishing to me. It makes perfect sense when you see her today. I’ve learned more about loving and forgiving others in the last three years than I did in the previous fifty!

Ms. Opal, I’m so proud to be a small, small part of your journey. Thank you for all you have done – not just for me, but for all of us. I’ve prayed diligently for this day. To see you honored in the East Wing of the White House by President Biden, Vice-President Harris, and so many members of Congress was the

was an honor to know, love, and be loved by you. It still doesn’t make my heart swell as much as when you said you were my grandmother too!

That being said…

Opal’s Farm will not be a Cowtown Farmers Market this weekend. We’ll be with Unity Unlimited, Inc., Ms. Opal, and hundreds of others for an extra special and one-of-a-kind celebration. Please join us at 10:00 AM for our walk with Ms. Opal from Evans Plaza to the Tarrant County Courthouse. The celebration continues with the I Am Juneteenth Festival at Panther Island Pavilion beginning at 3:00 PM and followed by fireworks at 9 PM. What a better way to begin celebrating freedom for us all.

Image: President Joe Biden hands a pen to Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., after signing the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act, in the East Room of the White House on June 17, 2021.