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The Phoenix Festival 2022

We may have woken to a chilly morning on Saturday, but the sun was shining, and it was a great day for the first Phoenix Festival at Evans Plaza! Thank you to Brave/R Together and the Tarrant County United Way for a fantastic day of vendors, events, and music for the benefit of the 76104 community. Thank you especially to Shawn Lassiter (and everyone at Brave/R) for putting it all together.

Opal’s Farm is happy to be a part of this effort to better serve our southside neighbors. CoAct was there, and Grow SE were represented by Black Wall Street, Ms. Jovetta, and Mind Your Garden MYG Urban Farm. Steve and Ursula Nunez (MYG) put on an amazing cooking demonstration that had many of our neighbors talking and buying fresh, nutritious produce from all the farms. We are looking forward to the next Phoenix Festival!

We’ll be right up the road next Saturday for the Funkytown Mindful Market at Texas Wesleyan University with tons of fresh produce for our neighbors in Poly Heights from 11-2!

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Day of Service

Happy Sunday and the beginning of October! Thank you to everyone who participated in the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health at the Watch Party on Wednesday. We are so thankful attention is being given to the food insecurity and the health issues that stem from it. The conversation has started and now is the time for action – changing how we think about food, giving access to healthy food for everyone, and pursuing food justice. This is 2022 – there is no reason that 1 in 5 of our kids goes to bed hungry each night.

One of the things that stood out to me the most is that the food advocacy community here in Tarrant County is already doing and growing into many of the actions the conference discussed. We are blessed to have a small but vibrant community of food advocates here in Fort Worth and Opal’s Farm is proud to be part of that community.

In support of the White House Conference and the Administration’s drive end hunger by 2030, Opal’s Farm will be hosting a Day of Service at both the Community Food Bank and Opal’s Farm. Not only will be doing some excellent service work at both places, but we will also be walking “Opal’s Walk for Hunger” from the Community Food Bank to the farm, immediately followed by a celebration of Ms. Opal’s 96th birthday! Please come and join the festivities.

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Ups and Downs – New People and Thefts

I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’ve written a blog post until I saw there was no September posts. Here it is the 25th and the month is almost over. It’s not like nothing has been happening. In fact, it’s busier than ever – some good and some well, you know…

Opal’s Farm started September with hiring a new Assistant Farm Manager, Amber Carr. In three short weeks she’s come to be loved and appreciated by each of us. We have long been trying to grow into the next phase of Opal’s Farm and we finally can do just that. Amber interned with Charlie Blaylock at Shines Farmstand for the last year and brings a wealth of knowledge and incredible drive to Opal’s. We are blessed to have her with us.

Stacey Harwood, our Volunteer Coordinator is no longer a “volunteer” Volunteer Coordinator! We were able to hire Stacey on part-time thanks to a salary grant from the Rainwater Foundation and Grow Southeast. Stacey has been with Opal’s as a volunteer since Spring of 2020 and she is greatly appreciated.

We had a major glitch in operations last Tuesday. We found the fence down and the doors to our shipping container were wide open. About $15,000 worth of equipment was stolen. The thieves cut the fence and loaded everything on our trailer and took off. While it is fortunate that our new Kubota tractor was not touched, the BCS tractor and rotary plow that builds our beds is gone. We now park the Kubota off-site for security reasons. The police said that several sites were hit in the last couple of weeks. Apparently, these people are professional thieves. Given the tools necessary to cause the break-in damage it makes sense…

They weren’t messing around.

For this reason, we are setting up a Go Fund Me account to help replace the stolen equipment and install additional security measures. While no security systems are perfect, we try to give thieves reason to think twice before attempting to break in. You can always donate directly to Unity Unlimited and the Opal’s Farm page. Please be sure to mark what it’s for.

I know the North Texas Giving Day was last Wednesday, but we are asking to consider this a special, immediate need. This has hampered and slowed our operations in many ways. Anything you can give would be a great help and so appreciated.

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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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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!