Today’s post is a bit of “Down on the Farm” and “Thoughts From the Porch”. It’s been raining for the last nine days. I’ve had more time on the porch and less time at the farm as a result.
Even when I can’t be busy planting, weeding, and prepping beds I tend to spend time thinking about each of those things and how to make Opal’s Farm bigger and better. More people can be served and maybe, just maybe, the farm makes life better for all of us.
During down times such as these I get to post on social media and keep everyone updated. My hope in doing so is that you all will want to donate and/or volunteer at Opal’s Farm. We desperately need the donations and we’re able to get so much more accomplished with our volunteers.
The infographic offers some great reasons to volunteer at Opal’s Farm. The events of the last week have caused me to pause and reflection on the importance of Opal’s Farm right now. Opal’s Farm has become an essential business. It was before – farming, growing food, is essential any time – but even more so now.
The last few days have seen rapid and monumental changes in our daily routines due to the COVID-19 crisis. It was working from home if possible and no gatherings of more than 250 people just a few days ago. Now it’s multiple business closures and no gatherings, either inside or outside, of more than ten people. Sunday evening, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced a “shelter in place” order for everyone residing in Dallas County. Other North Texas counties probably aren’t far behind.
If a “shelter in place” order is issued for Tarrant County volunteer opportunities may not be available. I will continue to work as Farm Manager and an employee of Unity Unlimited, Inc. but I’m unclear as to volunteers at the farm. We’ll keep you updated. I hope that anyone who’s having a bit of cabin fever will come down and spend some time with us while you still can.
Wednesday was a long day. It was like any day really, but especially long when one spends it driving around DFW. Margaret is unable to get in my truck since it sits too high. We have been fortunate to use our kid’s car for her doctor appointments and such. It’s a KIA and sits low enough for Margaret to be able to get in and out. I’m not complaining mind you, but while a small car is great for her it’s not so great for me.
I’ve driven a pick-up truck for most of the last 30 years. In fact, I can’t remember the last car I owned. A ¾ ton truck is perfect for a guy who’s 6’3” and weighs in at 230 pounds. Heck, I even have enough head room for my beat-up old farm hat on. I like sitting above most of the other drivers. There’s a sense of security in that. You know, the ‘above the fray’ kind of thing.
Change doesn’t typically disturb me too much, but switching to a 2-door sub-compact car? It’s a bit like moving from a big rig to a go-cart. However, I’m grateful I still have the flexibility to fold and unfold myself in and out. Once I’m in it’s not so bad…
The other drawback in using our kid’s car is that I make the sixty-mile roundtrip twice a day to drop them off at work and pick them up. I haven’t driven in rush hour traffic in a long time. The farm is only fifteen minutes from the house: just hop on the freeway and there’s one stoplight between here and there. Any other time I work from home.
It’s not quite the same when you commute in a DFW rush hour and the closer you get to Dallas the worse traffic gets. It starts slowing on the east side of Fort Worth and by Arlington and Highway 360 it’s stop-and-go. That’s aggravating enough but something transpires once you cross the Dallas County line. Apparently, it’s a black hole of sorts that sucks any common courtesy and driving ability out the window.
I think I understand why our kid goes to bed so early. I was worn out after four hours of stop-and-go driving. If I had to do that daily my spirituality would fade into one-fingered salutes, horn honking, and yelling. I understand road rage much better, although shooting at someone is still a bit extreme for me…
After my dad was transferred to Colorado, our family returned to Fort Worth a couple of times a year. Every time I crossed the Texas state line, I was greeted by “Welcome to Texas” and beneath it was the line “Drive Friendly”. As we travelled up and down Highway 287, slower travelers would pull over to let us pass. We would do likewise for those who came up in our rear-view mirror. Once past, my father would raise his hand and wave as a thank you to the driver behind us.
If we were on a two-lane country road, each driver would raise a hand in a “howdy” to each other as they passed. People would hang back to let you merge on the freeway. When I came of driving age, I was taught that courtesy was as much a part of driving as the ability to handle a vehicle safely.
One of the things I’ve always loved about Fort Worth is its small town feel and friendliness. Common courtesy was paramount in social situations with others. Driving was a prime example. One spends a lot of time on the road living here. Even rush hour, albeit less tedious and congested than our neighbor to the east, was reasonably friendly. At least it was…
I’m quite willing to acknowledge that my perceptions may have become a bit nostalgic as I’ve grown older. The demographics of Fort Worth have changed. North Texas has grown faster than the infrastructure for America’s 16th largest city. Frustrations abound when construction delays are constant. Driving is a microcosm for what’s happening around us. As driving has become more frustrating and common courtesy less common, so too has the society around us.
All of this started me thinking. What if everyone could slow down, take a deep breath, and offer a friendly hand wave when someone lets you in on the freeway? What if you take a moment to acknowledge your neighbor with a hand wave as you drive down your neighborhood street? What if you wave an apology to the guy you just cut-off by accident?
I don’t know. Perhaps I’m a dreamer, but I think one little hand wave could change the world (or at least my little part of it!). When I exercise common courtesy on the way to the store, I’m more likely to hold the door for the person coming in or out. They say thank you and I’m more likely to be patient with that slower driver in front of me. I let that guy in on the freeway or simply wave a thank you to the person that let me in.
That simple hand wave set of a chain reaction of “niceness”. I’m not as stressed on the road. I become just a bit more relaxed. I’m nicer to the next person I meet. I smile more. In turn, maybe they’re a bit nicer to the next driver, the next store clerk, or the next coworker. In turn, who knows? Maybe world peace…
I’m so sure a simple way is the key I believe it could even change our neighbors to the east. Why not give it a try…
I sat down to go through our social media posts and comments
this morning and I had to take a hard look at how we post for the farm. I often
post articles from my blog on WordPress to Opal’s Farm page as well. It was
brought to my attention that I could communicate the purpose, goals, and impact
of the farm more clearly. I appreciate any comments coming from our supporters
and other urban farmers. One thing I have learned is that it truly takes a ‘village’
of people to make the farm and, everything else positive in life, a success!
Starting the beds
While our Mission Statement is written in the “About Us”
section of the page, it can be easily overshadowed by other postings (including
links to my own blog…). Our Mission Statement sums up our overall goal in a
simple fashion – “Opal’s Farm restores hope and vitality to neglected
communities through an agricultural intervention and education.” However, mission statements make more sense when they are broken
down into bit-sized chunks and we certainly want to bring clarity of purpose to
our supporters, followers, and ‘farmers’.
Statement of Purpose
Opal’s Farm is a model for regenerative,
organic agriculture that:
elimination of local food deserts and scarcity in low-income communities.
in sustainability, soil conservation, food distribution, and nutrition.
creates jobs, job
training, and entrepreneurial opportunities that provide a living wage for low-income
We developed our statement of purpose by listening
to the community and getting input from other successful urban farming
projects. Ms. Opal Lee, who as many of you know, is our namesake, is the President
Emeritus of the Community Food Bank in the United Riverside neighborhood of
Fort Worth. She spent many hours speaking to the folks served by the food bank
and found that many of those folks had issues with finding employment paying a
living wage because of previous incarceration. Moreover, they would be willing
to grow their own food and exercise a degree of self and community-reliance. As
a result, the vision of Opal’s Farm was born.
Once the vision became a reality, we began to
seek guidance from other successful urban farm projects. Bonton Farms, located
in the Bonton neighborhood south of downtown Dallas, provided much of the model
for Opal’s Farm, especially in developing economic sustainability. Paul Quinn
College offered support. God opened so many doors and people came from out of
the proverbial woodwork to help Opal’s Farm.
Jeff Williams, Team Depot Captain at the White
Settlement Home Depot makes the first delivery to Opal’s Farm- – Thanks Jeff!
Charlie Blaylock, of Shines Farmstand and the
Cowtown Farmer’s Market, has been our closest consultant and friend. Paula
Pacanins with Container King provided a shipping container to store our
equipment. Natasha Neidhart, Store Manager for the White Settlement Home Depot
(#8521), and Jeff Williams, the Assistant Manager and Capitan of Team Depot
partnered with us to provide substantial support in tools, equipment, and
supplies. Brandon Hendrickson, the Rental Manager at Zimmerer Kubota provided
us with a tractor and farm implements to plow the almost 4 acres that makes up
the total area of Opal’s Farm.
We also have the support, and are a member of,
Grow Southeast, a coalition of growers dedicated to building urban farms and
gardens throughout the southeast side of Tarrant County. The Healthy Tarrant
County Collaborative purchased a BCS tractor for all the growers to share as
they built and prepared beds for planting. So far, we’ve built 70 beds (a
whopping 28,000 square feet!) in the last four days because of their help. TCU
has come alongside of Opal’s Farm as well through the Tarrant County Food
Policy Council. Students are assisting in a variety of ways this semester to
make the farm a success. Last, but most certainly not least, is the Trinity
River Water District that provided the acreage and believed in Ms. Opal’s
dream. Without them, none of this would be possible.
What I’m trying to say in all of this is that
Opal’s Farm is about Fort Worth, about our community, and our home. That’s why
Opal’s Farm is so important. Each of us has an opportunity to make a real difference
in the lives of our neighbors. We can’t do it alone. We need each of you –
individuals, businesses, and organizations to bring health and vitality to the
community. This is very real work, with very real results.
People often ask me if this is a “faith-based”
project. I’m not trying to be funny when I say the honest answer is yes, and
no. We believe that one’s faith is best reflected in the actions one takes, not
merely words. Our faith is reflected in the lives we change and the people who
are united in making a better place for everyone. Fresh produce is the means to
the real end: helping others. Faith says, always err on the side of love” and
that always benefits all of us.
Future posts will include articles from my blog
and updates on the farm. It’s not to promote the writing business of one
individual but to share what’s going on and how everyone can be a part. Mother Teresa
was once asked about her work among the disenfranchised and poor in India. Her
response was, “Come see”. Come see what we’re doing at the farm and we might
just make a farmer out of you.
You can learn more about Ms. Opal and Opal’s
Farm on our website, www.unityunlimited.org
and our Facebook page. You can also make a secure donation online.
Thoughts from the Porch: It’s frigging cold! I huddled over
the trusty old desk in a long-sleeved shirt, hoodie, and the space heater
turned on high as close as I can get it without burning myself. Did I ever
mention my office is the coldest room in the house?
Our home was built in the 1960s. Back then, builders in
North Texas weren’t concerned with energy efficiency and insulation. Since
Margaret and I moved in we’ve made improvements slowly as the money has come.
Rare cold days like today put a strain on the heater and thus my office is
simply damn cold. Anyway, the rant is over. On to other things…
Experience has taught me to look for the positive in every situation, albeit hard at times. It’s usually easier after the fact. I may be wrong, but I believe it was Steve Jobs who said something to the effect that “life is meant to be lived forward but can only be understood looking backward”.
There are times when our ability to believe a lie is a
positive thing. My wife has dealt with back issues and chronic pain for most of
her life. She’s had many surgeries and some post-operative infections over the
years. The doctors have often given little hope of keeping her out of a wheelchair
and are always surprised when we walk into a new appointment. Her philosophy
through out her lifetime has been “don’t tell me what I can’t do”.
Doctors base their truth on the evidence at hand. We tend to
call it an opinion rather than a truth, but it’s an opinion based on facts. The
facts indicate Margaret should not be ambulatory, but don’t tell her that. She doesn’t
believe it. She pushes through and is still, albeit with a cane, walking today.
Her refusal to accept the facts lead her to live a better life and she’s not
Whether you believe man left a garden, or the African savannah
doesn’t really matter. Either way, I can imagine those early humans sitting
around the tribal campfire after a long day of hunting and gathering. Autumn
has set in. There’s a chill in the night air. As they laugh and chat about
their day, a flight of geese heading south for the winter passes overhead.
One of the guys looks up and says, “I wish I could fly south
and get away from this winter. Maybe I can find a way to do just that”. His
other buddies crack up with laughter and tell him how goofy he is. He becomes
the object of ridicule. After all, man doesn’t have wings and can’t fly like a
Fast forward many centuries to the Renaissance. Leonardo Da Vinci is busy drawing a flying machine. Man is still thinking of ways to “head south for the winter”, to fly like bird. If you fast forward to a hill at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and the Wright Brothers finally the first airplane flight. Just a few decades later and we’re walking on the moon. Go figure…
Now the truth is man can’t fly. No matter how fast one runs
across the meadow flapping man-made wings, they fail miserably. I know. I tried
it, but that was back in the seventies and involved hallucinogens which is
another story all together. The fact, the truth, is that man can’t fly.
Before you deem me simple of mind take a moment to think about it. Have you ever known a man to fly? I haven’t but I have seen man create new and better airplanes and forms of flying machines. They fly; sometimes without a human pilot aboard. I know it’s all semantics, right? Still, I’m thankful old Wilbur and Orville believed in the lie that man could fly. Because of their belief in a lie, I can hope a jet for Jamaica in the winter (which I really wish I were able to do today…), soak up the sun, and take a dip in tropical waters. You see, there’s something positive in everything.
By now you’re probably asking what this has to do with “Us”
and “Them”. The truth is humans were created to live in community, to live life
together, and what’s inside each of
us is inside all of us. This sounds
so cliché, so trite, but it’s the truth. The truth is there is no “them”, there’s
My friend Edgar always said, “Show me how you act, and I’ll tell you what you believe”. If I believe the “Them” lie, I can justify all kinds of bad behavior toward others. My belief system is faulty. I believe a lie. Sometimes I think it’s easier to be a duck, but I’m not, so today I’ll try to be the best “Us” I can be and act accordingly.
What do you believe?
“Show me how you act and I’ll tell you what you believe…”
“When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things will happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” — Edward Teller
One of my favorite scenes from
the “Indiana Jones” movies where Harrison Ford’s character must step out in
faith over a giant chasm in order to reach the Holy Grail. With his nemesis
holding him and the people he loves at gunpoint, he’s at wit’s end and out of
options. He steps out into the darkness of the abyss. As he takes the first
step a narrow bridge begins to come into view. Unfortunately, it can only be
seen with each successive step, one step at a time. Each step requires more
courage, more faith, than the one before. I can’t recall how many steps it took
to get across the dark abyss, but I’d like to think it was twelve. I can
That scene’s been on my mind a lot lately. Margaret and I are experiencing some difficulties as late. Finances have been tough since my hospital stay earlier this year. Business has been slower than projected. Opal’s Farm still has a way to go before all the start-up costs are in hand and planting is scheduled for February 15th. How are we going to do this? It’s a little overwhelming at times (OK, a lot overwhelming…) The chasm looks awfully vast at times…
If I get honest, I’m a lot like
Indiana Jones (well, except for the whole “dashing adventure hero” thing…). I
usually need to be backed into a corner with no options or solutions in sight. I
know there’s absolutely no way I can get out of the situation before I’m
willing to step out into the darkness. I forget the fact that in looking back, a
path has always been carved through
the darkness and it’s always illuminated. If the path isn’t clear, I learn to
fly before I crash into the bottom of the abyss. Always! Though I usually don’t
see it until later…
You’d think that with such a
proven track record I’d push right through whatever obstacle was in my way. It
doesn’t always work like that. Taking that first step into the abyss isn’t my
first choice. I temporarily forget God’s faithfulness. As my friend Edgar likes
to remind me, “I’m not a slow learner,
just a fast forgetter”.
“Trials are not enemies of
faith but are opportunities to prove God’s faithfulness.” — Author Unknown
Ironically, my memory gets
sharper as I grow older: at least in matters of faith (in other areas, yeah,
not so much…) It doesn’t take as long to remember God’s faithfulness even when
mine is absent. One of my favorite reminders is Psalms 119.105: “Your word for my feet and a lamp for my
path”. The funny thing about a lamp is that it only shows what’s
immediately ahead. I can only see the path if I keep stepping out, one step at
I’ve spent far too much time stressed out about things beyond my control, so I’m stepping out. Whether I’ll be walking or flying, I’m not sure yet. What I do know is that I’ll see you on the other side…
Thoughts From the Porch: My body clock tends to get thrown of schedule when Christmas and New Year fall in the middle of the week. When I was in corporate America, I was always grateful for a holiday in the middle of the week. Now that I work from home, not so much. I’ve become a creature of habit. It takes days to get back on a regular schedule. I’m becoming my father…
I wasn’t sure I should write this today. A “year in review” seems a little too cliché for me.. However, I’ve spent the last couple of weeks looking back and made some decisions about the coming year. It’s not about New Year’s resolutions mind you. I’ve paid for enough forgotten gym memberships and Blue Bell ice cream to know they’re pointless, no matter how well-intentioned. However, the post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s lull is the perfect opportunity to learn from the past, dive in to today, and look to the future. Year-long increments make it all easier to digest.
The past year hasn’t been the best of years as far as
finances are concerned. Starting a new business in a field I’ve been away from
for some time hasn’t been easy. There’s been a definite learning curve. I’m
grateful for the ability to learn today.
There’s been some lean times where more month was left than
money. Looking back, even those times afforded new opportunities for growth and
trust in the God of my understanding. God has never let us down. I can say that without reservation! However, I
tend to forget that when I’m in the middle of life’s difficulties.
Forgetfulness causes a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety. Fortunately, I’m
haven’t been as forgetful this year. I keep placing one foot in front of the
other. Let the proverbial chips fall where they may…
Whatever difficulties may have presented themselves this
past year, they fade in the light of God’s goodness to us. Many of you know
about Unity Unlimited, Inc., Ms. Opal Lee, and Opal’s Farm. For me it was a
dream come true. I’ve shared some of the events leading up to the farm. I see
God’s hand all over it: one miracle after another. We ended the year by
finalizing the Lease Agreement with the Tarrant Regional Water District and so
it begins! You can learn more about Opal’s Farm by going to our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/unityunlimited
forget that it’s the last day for a 2018 tax-deductible donation either…
I also want to take the opportunity to give a shout-out
to the new friends this last year who have become a favorite part of my week –
the members of the Fort Worth Development Group. I started looking for
networking groups and I received so much more.
Thank you to Brenda Ryan and The Referral Resource Guide (https://thereferralresourceguide.com)
for getting us all together.
I may not make New Year’s resolutions, but I plan on
spending some time asking myself some of the same questions I ask my clients. I
can easily get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day work and lose sight of what’s
important: to my family, my business, my clients, and myself. I encourage you
to as well.
Who are you?
Who do you want to be?
How do you want people to see you?
I can’t think of a better time to ask these questions than at
New Year’s. Knowing who, and most importantly, whose I am fills the
coming year with joyous anticipation!
I also need to stop and say thank you to the WordPress community for making my first year with you all a blessing. I hope that you all have a blessed, prosperous, and Happy New Year!