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Kentucky is our Neighbor…

Fridays and Saturdays are the two busiest days of the week. There’s produce to be harvested, washed, and packaged on Friday for Cowtown Farmers Market on Saturday morning. I rarely make it through the ten o’clock news without drifting off to sleep (that is if I’m lucky enough to be finished by then). I don’t often get to keep up on news happenings until Sunday night…

That changed this weekend. I had left my phone on the desk while I was at Market (which I’m prone to do a lot lately). I saw a text from my sister Dana in Georgia asking if my family in Kentucky was okay given the tornado that hit Friday evening. What the…?

It was then I learned of the massive tornado that had hit the Midwest, much of it through Kentucky. I checked my newsfeed and saw the pictures and the over two-hundred-mile path of destruction through south central Kentucky. I called Momma immediately.

She told me everyone was okay. That most of the devastation was north of them. Flint Ridge, our family farm, had suffered some broken windows and roof damage. I let go a sigh of relief, still horrified by the devastation and loss of life.

She called back a short time later to update me on what new information she had learned. Momma and my brother Danny huddled in the hallway for two hours after the sirens went off. My brother-in-law had left his work trucks at a new home they were working on. The home and the truck were both destroyed. There was quite a bit of damage around Russellville, but Adam’s truck (and job) and the smaller damage at the farm were the only losses suffered by my family. Still, it had destroyed the lives and property of so many in the area.

I watched the news later. The devastation was catastrophic. Governor Beshears had declared a state of emergency and the loss of life trumped the scenes of mayhem on the news. Sitting here some seven-hundred-miles away I felt the pain of loss and helplessness for all those folks so far away. My heart was heavy. I said a prayer of thanks for my family and a prayer of lament for those whose lives had been destroyed.

I had planned this morning as a time to update you all on my Kentucky Thanksgiving. Somehow it doesn’t seem appropriate to do so today. Please pray for Kentucky this morning. The death toll from Friday night’s storm is forecasted to rise. There is never a good time for such things to happen, but I can’t imagine a worse time – the pain that comes from such a tragedy at Christmas. It will take years to recover from the loss.

It’s times like this that remind us of the importance of community – of building the common good. The outpouring of assistance coming from not just Kentuckians but from around the country reminds me that community still exists. It’s unfortunate that tragedy often must be the reminder.

Please keep everyone affected in your prayers. Hold your family a little closer. Take time to love them better. We don’t know what tomorrow brings…

Severe Weather Kentucky
The candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky following Friday’s tornado
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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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Spring is in Full Bloom

What a week it’s been. Yesterday was my wife’s birthday. Today is my son’s fortieth. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Adrian wasn’t sure which of us felt older – me or him. He was quite satisfied to let me feel the pain of aging. I mentioned that they say the sixties are the new forties. He promptly reminded me that only people in their sixties say that…

Spring has sprung in all it’s glory at the farm. The tomatoes and peppers are in with all their trellises in place. All the new seed is popping up. Cantaloupe planting started yesterday. The only thing left is the okra (our famous heirloom okra!). We also have test beds with Asian greens, bottle gourd, and bitter melon (South Asian diet staples) – testing new products for our South Asian community.

We’ve expanded to a second acre for this year. We had originally planned on adding only two thirds of an acre, but the move to tractor farming (made possible by the tractor provided by Zimmerer Kubota and the tiller from Blue Zones Project FW) has enabled us to expand more quickly.

The Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) provided us with the best news this year. Sometime within the next week the installation of our new pump will be complete. We can start on the new irrigation system that will free up more time to bring healthy, fresh produce to the neighborhood.

We are incredibly grateful for the Paschal High School Key Club and the Fort Worth Trailblazers Chapter of the National Charity League. The Paschal kids are there every Saturday morning and the Moms and daughters from the Trailblazers have had several workdays over the past few couple of months. We could not have kept to our Spring planting schedule without their help!

We have a couple of immediate needs on our wish list. The recent freeze set us back financially. Market sales have been low as there’s not that much to sell. We recovered quickly with replanting and moving forward, but it’s been difficult. Please consider a donation to Opal’s Farm to help us grow even bigger. You can donate at www.unityunlimited.org anytime. There’s no time like the present!

Roman hard at work

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Brrrrrrrrrrrrr…

 “It’s frigging cold!” I used to laugh it at my neighbors who complained about the cold in in Texas. We’ve had above-average temperatures this year. Fifty degrees is not cold folks. Today? “It’s frigging cold!”

We’ve haven’t gotten above freezing for the last couple of weeks. The high temperatures are only projected to drop for the next few days. The forecast calls for a possible three inches of snow over the weekend and more later in the week. Much of the country is in the deep freeze so we’re not alone. It just doesn’t happen here often, so this is a major “weather event” for us. There was a 133 car pile-up on I-35 yesterday with six fatalities and 80-plus people sent to the hospital…

Opal’s Farm has come to a bit of a stopping point in our late winter planting because of the weather. It didn’t stop the Tarrant Regional Water District though. The started on the infrastructure for our new pump and irrigation this week and are almost finished. I’ve been doing the “Happy Dance” all week. TRWD is so good to Opal’s Farm. The best way I know to show them gratitude is to grow lots of food for our neighbors. TRWD has always believed in Opal’s Farm’s mission and their support has been invaluable.

Please keep us in your prayers as we go through this week and freezing temperatures. We planted all our onions (around 6,000 of them!) in the week before we knew about this coming in. Onions are hearty plants but so many freezing days in a row will inevitably hurt some of them.

I was once asked what our “Plan B” was in the event of a flood or other disaster. It’s simple – we replant! The farm is a great example of what to do in life – replant. Life throws out some hard lessons. Sometimes you just have to replant and go on from there…

I know this has been a tough year on everyone. If you are able, please consider a donation to Opal’s Farm today. You can donate securely at www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm.

Stay warm out there folks…

Photo by Julian Hochgesang on Unsplash