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What’s Plan B?

A researcher from the City of Austin called me a couple of years ago to ask some questions about having an urban farm on a floodplain similar to Opal’s. The city had recently bought out a thousand homes because of flooding on Williamson and Onion Creek. They wanted to build an urban farm on the property and much like governments do, they had to do a study first. Not that it’s a negative mind you. One should “count the cost” before jumping in, but the city was overthinking the whole project. That tends to happen a lot…

Anyway, this nice grad student from the University of Texas called to pick my brain and had a very long list of questions to be answered. Our conversation went well. Yes, there are challenges to urban farming and no, they’re not that big a deal. Farming teaches us how to work with nature and not against it. Moreover, it’s always a risk since nature tends to win no matter what we do. That’s just the way it is. Resilience must be a core value.

She asked me a question I’d never thought of before: what is your Plan B if it floods? It took me back a bit. “What do you mean by Plan B?”

She went on to explain that they were on a twenty-five-year flood plain and they needed a Plan B if it flooded there. I had to laugh and then remember I was talking to a researcher for the city. Cities have a need to put everything in a plan. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t work like that. I guess that’s why I love it so much. There’s never a dull moment.

I informed her that we had no “Plan B”. If it floods, we rebuild the beds and replant. What else is there to do? Maybe that’s a tad easier for me to say since we are on a hundred-year floodplain and have never had to deal with flooding – at least until this week.

The local media is calling this week’s rain historic. We received a month’s rainfall in a day – fifteen inches at Opal’s Farm. The Trinity River breached a section of the levee and flooded the back half of the farm. I was finally able to drive down there by Wednesday. Walking the beds and negotiating some of the still standing water I was surprised to find the back road covered in dead fish – hundreds of them. The levee is slightly lower on the south end of the farm and had washed over that section and when it receded, it left our finned friends high and dry. It was a first for us.

Needless to say…

We spent the rest of the week on “Plan B” – clean up, rebuild, and replant. We were unable to make Cowtown Farmers Market this week, but we should be there next week. We didn’t lose any of our existing crops although everything was covered in mud. The rain and the cooler nights have led the tomatoes to bloom in force and begin setting tomatoes again. Everything is a vibrant green on the farm once more. The dead fish have been added to the compost pile, so I assume we don’t have to spend anything on fish emulsion. The rain brought us down for “Extreme Drought” stage to “Severe Drought” stage. After all, resilience is one of our core values…

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My Own Mind…

There are sometimes when I’m glad there is nobody else at the farm with me. Don’t get me wrong. I love our volunteers and they take a huge burden off my back. Still, there are times when it’s just me and the farm. Everything else seems far away. The soil becomes a part of me. The plants are greener, the pace slower, and all is right with my world.

It probably helps that we finally received some measurable rain after sixty-eight days without. It wasn’t much and it didn’t affect my work – the tractor hardly threw up any mud after the sun came out – but the cooler temperatures and the sprouts of green across a sea of drought-brown reminded me of the ever-present circle of life at the farm. Drought and intense heat bring a sense of hopelessness with it. It begins to weigh heavily and it’s easy to simply go through the day without noticing the wonder of God’s creation.

I was talking to a friend yesterday whose father farmed tobacco in Tennessee. His father always told him that farmers loved the rain and had to appreciate droughts because it gave them the opportunity to find new ways of growing. Opportunity instead of problem – where have I heard that one before…

The more I thought about it though, the more I became convinced that I too, can be grateful for drought. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything (even drought), by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present you requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4.4-7).

This summer helped me find new processes to make Opal’s Farm more successful and get more healthy, fresh produce to our community. God sends everything in it’s time. The rain came just when we needed it the most. The farm is a constant reminder of the ebb and flow of life, of nature. I’ve forgotten that at times. It was okay before I got there, and it will be there when I’m gone…

I take care of the plowing, planting, and building new beds when I’m by myself. I relax, stick on the headphones with some great music (and the Bluetooth to hear the phone over the tractor), and go with the flow of the day. I heard a Lyle Lovett song that I’ve decoded to make my own. I get it and it sums up my days pretty well. Hope you enjoy it…

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New Market This Saturday!

It rained last night! That’s a major news flash this Spring. I went to the farm today after the road dried up enough to pass and found the first ripe tomato of the season! I’d love to say it’s going to market, but it didn’t quite make it home. Enough said…

We are so grateful for the rain. Everything is looking so good. There’s something special found in God’s watering system that outperforms even the best of human irrigation. It seems like everything grew a couple of inches overnight. I hope to be bringing some variety to Cowtown Farmers Market this Saturday. Be sure and get there early before it sells out!

This coming Saturday, April 3oth, we will be leaving after Cowtown Farmers Market and setting up at the Funkytown Mindful Market at Texas Wesleyan University for the Polytechnic Heights neighborhood. It promises to be a wonderful day full of family fun, wellness, and developing healthy habits. I hope to see you all there. We are grateful to be a part of the festivities and hope we can continue to bring healthy, fresh local produce to our neighbors.

Funkytown Mindful Market

Join us at the Mindful Market for an eventful day to engage in mindful habits and support vendors that are providing services to improve our longevity.

Enjoy a plant-based meal or explore mindful movements that can help you start your journey to longevity.

April 30th, 2022 from 10:00AM to 4:00PM

Texas Wesleyan University

3200 E. Rosedale Street | Fort Worth Texas | 76105

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“If we are to heal our ecological wounds, we need to shift from settler views of individual land ownership to Indigenous views of communal land stewardship.” – Liuan Huska, “Rethinking Property Rights”

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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!