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This Just In…

Several weeks ago we were privileged to be a part of the Blue Zones Project Fort Worth’s “TransFORTmation” campaign. The first You Tube video became available this morning. We couldn’t wait the share it with you. It was perfect timing as always – #GivingTuesday!

Opal’s Farm is proud to be part of helping Fort Worth become a healthier city!

#bzpfw

#opalsfarm http://www.unityunlimited.org
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It's Giving Tuesday!

Down on the Farm

http://www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm

I sat down to check emails before I wrote this. I was astounded by the volume of emails I received about Giving Tuesday. I sat down to write this and, if I’m honest, I wondered if Opal’s Farm email or post would even be read today. We’d be just another one of many organizations working to make our world just a bit better. So many options…

We can’t compete with the big NGOs or service organizations. We are a small but growing (no pun intended) urban farm seeking to bring fresh, healthy food to folks that often don’t have it available. We simply believe that an urban farm can change lives and build community. Our five-acre farm makes a difference!

I could give you all the reasons you need to choose Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm on this special day of giving. I won’t bore you with all the statistics and needs. I’ll just let you know that every dollar you give today is doubled, matched dollar for dollar. We need your help more than ever as we expand our growing area to reach more of your neighbors.

So please push the donate button right now or go the www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm to make your secure Giving Tuesday contribution. When you’ve done that come out and join us at Opal’s Farm and see how your contribution is making Fort Worth a better place – one neighborhood at a time.

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How to Have Happy Holidays

Down on the Farm

I need to confess something. I skipped the traditional Thanksgiving Dallas Cowboy game. I ate more than I should have yesterday, especially the desserts. Although our Thanksgiving celebration was small, a couple of the kids and a few good friends, there was an overabundance of food. We all ate until our tummies were full and then added a tad more for insurance. I trust many of you did the same. Unfortunately, many of your neighbors did not.

Most of us don’t deal with food insecurity. We hop in the car and head to the grocery store. The option for healthy eating habits with lots fresh fruits and vegetables have a wide array to choose from. We make our selections and go home. That’s not the case for many of our neighbors right here in Tarrant County.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

According to the Taste Project, “In the state of Texas alone food insecurity is higher than the national average at 17 percent. In Fort Worth’s Tarrant county community food insecurity is at 18.1 percent. That is 2.7 percent above the national average covering a total of 340,620 people who are food insecure” (italics mine). Those 340,260 people can’t guarantee they will have enough to eat today. Thanksgiving for them is often a reminder how precarious their situation is.

The mission of Opal’s Farm is to end food insecurity in Tarrant County, one neighborhood at a time. Everyone has the right to healthy food no matter where they live. If they can’t get to the store, we bring the grocery store to them. Moreover, we seek to educate our often-neglected neighbors in the preparation and health benefits of nutritious fresh fruits and vegetables. We believe in a three-prong approach to ending hunger in Fort Worth:

  1. Through growing organic fresh produce on our five-acre farm and bringing it to affected neighborhoods.
  2. Through education programs such for children and adults that let everyone know how important a healthy diet is, how prepare fresh food, and how to develop their own farming skills to offer a hand up, not just a hand-out.
  3. Through employment and job training, especially for those who have difficulty finding employment due to previous felony incarceration or other life-altering events.

If you’d like to join our mission, we have a golden opportunity this coming Tuesday. Facebook announced that it will provide matching contributions for much of what is donated on Giving Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019.

That means you dollar doubled and has a greater impact for Opal’s Farm. Imagine one seed becoming, one meal becoming two, and each family fed becoming two families fed. Most importantly, those people may be the people down the street of next door to you. Every dollar stays in Fort Worth!

Please plan your donation today and make your donation on Giving Tuesday, December 3rd, and join us on our mission.

You can also donate through our website, www.unityunlimited.com

Become an urban farmer today…

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From Opal's Farm to You

Down on the Farm

Today we’re thankful for all of your support through our first year at Opal’s Farm. So far this year we have provided almost two tons of fresh, healthy vegetables to our neighbors, food banks, and of course, Cowtown Farmer’s Market. That’s just from our first acre! Imagine what we’ll do in the coming year with more help and support from people like you.

What a view!

Today we’d like to say how grateful we are for our great partners and sponsors, volunteers, and customers!

Zimmerer Kubota was our very first partner. Brandon Hendrickson, at the North Fort Worth store, came alongside us and provided the tractor needed to prepare the land for planting. Moreover, he’s always ready to help Opal’s Farm meet our equipment needs. We can’t thank Sam Zimmerer, Brandon, and Zimmerer Kubota enough for their commitment to make Fort Worth a great place to live!

Container King in Sanger, Texas donated a forty-foot shipping container to use as our “barn” (Happy Thanksgiving Paula Pacinins and crew!). A barn isn’t of much use without all kinds of tools and farming supplies, though. Natasha Neiderhart, the Store Manager at the White Settlement Home Depot (it’s always been my favorite store!) and Team Depot jumped in to fill our barn with all the tools and supplies necessary to start our first season. There aren’t enough words to express our gratitude for their sponsorship.

We can’t forget the Marty V. Leonard Foundation, the Rainwater Foundation, the Dee Kelly Foundation, and all our financial sponsors and donors that helped us take root and grow. Your support and contributions saw us through the tough times of first year farming. We are looking forward to a bountiful coming year with your continued assistance.

Starting any farm, especially a non-profit urban farm, is tough going. It takes several seasons to regenerate the soil for effective farming and higher yields. There are constant weeds to fight since the soil hasn’t been worked in many, many years. Money is always tight. Many foundations or donors like to see something besides a vacant field before contributing to an idea. Our friends at Healthy Tarrant County Collaboration ( www.healthytarrant.org ) and Blue Zones Project  https://info.bluezonesproject.com/live-long-fort-worth  have been invaluable in terms of contributions, whether volunteering or supplies.

Enter Charlie Blaylock with Shines Farmstand. Before the first spade broke ground, Charlie was beside us to plan and consult every step of the way. When money was unavailable for seed, Charlie stepped in and donated seed. When I had questions or simply needed a pep talk, Charlie was there. Because of Charlie we haven’t had to reinvent the wheel. We’ve been able to move forward quickly toward our goals. Charlie was featured in the winter issue of Edible DFW Magazine. Check out https://www.edibledfw.com/winter-2019-20/how-charlie-shines-a-light-on-fort-worth/…  Personally, Charlie has been my mentor and friend since the day we met. Read the article and get a sense of how blessed we are to have Charlie for a friend and partner.

Last, but definitely not least, is the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD). Without them Opal’s Farm wouldn’t exist. Together with Ms. Opal Lee, they envisioned a farm along the banks of the Trinity that could work to end food deserts and food insecurity. Thank you for your belief in us and your unbelievable support.

I know I haven’t named everyone. We’ve had so many folks help us with time, labor, and donations that I know I would leave someone out (That’s what happens as you get older…). Please know we’re so grateful for each and every one of you.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

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Mark the Day!

Down on the Farm

Things are moving along nicely at Opal’s Farm. Many thanks to Ms. Smith’s Dunbar High School seniors who came out to help harvest and work the beds! We love our volunteers; especially the young people who come to work and learn about urban farming.

Giving Tuesday is one week from today.

Please give to Opal’s Farm on this special day of giving. Your donation to Unity Unlimited, Inc. and Opal’s Farm grows (quite literally) to bring fresh, healthy produce to area food deserts and neglected neighborhoods.

Giving Tuesday may be global but it’s never been more important to give to your local community. Every dollar you contribute to Opal’s Farm helps end food insecurity (a nice way of saying hunger) right here in Fort Worth; your neighbors and your community.

You can give via our Facebook Page, Opal’s Farm, or through the Unity Unlimited, Inc. website, www.unityunlimited.org

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It’s Our River

Down On the Farm: Fall is a busy time at Opal’s Farm. There is winter produce such as Kohlrabi, cabbage, and spinach and cover crops to be planted. There’s rebuilding beds and design changes to be made for Spring, irrigation infrastructure to be built, and the ever-persistent weeds and grasses to be dealt with. I only wish the Bermuda grass did as well at my house!

Most of you know that September brought record-breaking heat and only a trace of rain. We had to irrigate more than usual, and the carrots had to be replanted in October, but we still had radishes, turnips, greens, beets, and Butternut squash to take to market. Unfortunately, above average temperatures were followed by an unexpected early freeze. We are probably winding down our market stand for the rest of 2019.

Halfway through this weeks harvest

When we finally had some rain, it lasted for a few days. We love rain though and, as for me, I had the first day off in three months! “Make hay while the sun shines”, my Dad used to say so I did so. When the sun and warm Fall weather returned, I looked at the spot on the Trinity River where we set up our pump. I soon found out the negative consequences of the welcomed rain…

It was obvious that I had some cleaning up to do before I could use the pump again. You see, when it rained the river rose a bit. As it receded, all the trash that washed downstream came to rest on the banks of Opal’s Farm. Plastic bottles and straws, Styrofoam cups, and an odd assortment of empty chewing tobacco tins, single gloves and plain old litter were strewn about the bank and floating nearby. The place where our suction hose usually sits and where we get our water to prime the pump was thick with flotsam. Everything had to be scooped up before we could irrigate.

Just a portion of what washed down

I mention this not only because it causes a lot of work better spent on the farm itself, but because everyone needs to know that litter on our streets has a way of ending up in the Trinity. Storm drains and precipitation runoff means that the plastic bags blowing down your street will likely end up along our banks or worse yet, much farther downstream.

In October, we had the privilege of being an exhibitor at the Tarrant Regional Water District’s Trinity Trash Bash. Nearly 4,000 volunteers spent Saturday collecting over 28,000 pounds of trash. Let that one sink in – 28,000 pounds! Unfortunately, it’s only a fraction of the litter and illegal dumping that goes on all along the watershed.

I appreciate all the volunteers who take it on themselves to address the debris in the river. It’s such a vital part of Fort Worth. Whether it’s biking or running along the Trinity Trails, rowing or boating, or catching a concert at Panther Island Pavilion the river is something we all enjoy. Here at Opal’s Farm it’s part of our life blood, whether it’s for irrigation or just taking a moment to enjoy a little bit of peace and beauty after a long day of work.

Before you throw that candy wrapper down think about where it ends up. Solving our litter problem is something everyone has a part in, not just 4,000 volunteers on a Saturday. Who knows, if each of us took a moment to clean up our little part of the world maybe those volunteers could spend their time on other ways of making Fort Worth and the Trinity River a better place!

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You Give Us Freedom to Grow

This is a bit of “Thoughts From the Porch” and “Down on the Farm” combined so please bear with me. I haven’t written much over the last couple of weeks. Quite honestly, I haven’t wanted to. When I do, the words don’t come. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed by circumstances.

Most of you know that my wife, Margaret, spent a couple of weeks in ICU last month. The good news is that she’s well on her way to recovery from the issue that landed her there. However, less than a week after she got home, she had to return to the hospital once again.

We were going out to enjoy our evening on the porch. Maggie, our “Coyotahoula”, saw a chance to romp in the front yard and zipped out the door in a flash, knocking Margaret over as she flew by. Unfortunately, Margaret fell one direction and her leg went the opposite way resulting in a broken leg.

Maggie “I’m so sorry!”

Margaret always excels in everything she does. The break was no exception. Apparently, a break in the tibial plateau accounts for less than one percent of all breaks. Probably because people don’t typically survive skydiving accidents, falls from high buildings, or high impact car crashes. She really exceeded expectations. I wish she wasn’t such an over-achiever…

Margaret spent a week in the hospital followed by a couple of weeks in a rehab facility. She comes home today. She’ll have to stay off her leg for a minimum of 12 weeks so making our home more handicap accessible has eaten up writing (and if truth be known, brain) time.

This has been an insanely stressful time for us. Between the hospital stuff, the Fall activity at the Farm, and extreme financial difficulties I’ve leaned on our friends and family more than ever. Part of me wants to apologize. The other part simply wants to say thank you over and over and let everyone know what a blessing it is to be part of such a wonderful “village”. While money is usually in short supply, we are wealthier than most because of the people that fill our lives.

That’s why this is difficult to write. Opal’s Farm has wrapped up it’s first growing season. The Fall planting is done, and harvesting has started. Many great things are in the works – experimental cover crops, building new beds and rebuilding old ones, improvements to the irrigation system. However, the farm needs your help more than ever at this immensely important time.

As of today, Opal’s Farm has one acre under cultivation. The farm generated almost two tons of locally grown fresh produce in our first season. We’ve been able to donate to area foodbanks, set up a farm stand in local neighborhoods, and sell at the Cowtown Farmer’s Market. I hope this doesn’t sound like bragging, but we started with virtually nothing but an idea. Cash flow was nonexistent, and we moved forward in faith that if we “build it, they will come”. It’s been our own little “Field of Dreams” and come they did.

The turnips and radishes are almost ready…

None of this would’ve happened if it weren’t for the Tarrant Regional Water District. They believed in Ms. Opal’s dream and granted Unity Unlimited, Inc. the acreage for an urban farm. They have walked with us each step of the way and been incredible supporters. From the Board of Directors to the landscape crews,; everyone has been incredible. There’s no way to say thank you enough.

Several more fantastic sponsors quickly came along beside us. Container King (our very first supporter! Thanks Paula!), the White Settlement Home Depot store (we love you Natasha and Jeff!), Zimmerer Kubota (you’re awesome Brandon Hendrickson!), the Alta Mesa Wal-Mart (I’m still sorting seed packs Anthony), the Marty Leonard and Rainwater Foundations – and of course, Charlie Blaylock of Shines Farmstand (anyone who is familiar with urban agriculture and the Tarrant Food Policy Council knows how invaluable Charlie is to us al)l. Nothing could’ve started had it not been for the seed money (no pun intended), the tractors, the container (our barn), the tools and supplies necessary to begin operation of Opal’s Farm.

Along the way there have been many volunteers who have lightened my workload and enabled me to move forward with our mission of fighting food insecurity and easing access to healthy, nutritious produce in Tarrant County. Dr. David Aftandilian’s Food Justice class at TCU helped us through Spring with some amazing interns, our volunteers from Taste Project, Grow Southeast, Blue Zones Project, and all the individuals who wanted to simply make a difference made the summer harvest and Fall planting possible. I can’t forget our first (and hardest working) volunteer and “co-manager”, Brendan O’Connell. I hope your first semester at Cornell is going great my friend.

“Something out of nothing” is how God has blessed Opal’s Farm. The credit goes to each and every one of you who became farmers alongside us. We are so unbelievably grateful for you all. That’s why I feel a bit guilty to ask you for more.

While we have had amazing support provide seed, tools, supplies, and labor over the Spring and Summer we’ve had a precarious cash position since the beginning. We knew this would be an issue. It is for most non-profits and especially for start-up programs. Please allow me to be a bit personal here…

When I joined Unity Unlimited last year, Margaret and I spent time in prayer and meditation about the job of Farm Manager. We knew finances would be tight, we’d be dependent on donations and the uncertainty that comes with them, but we knew that this is where I, or rather we, were supposed to be. We made the decision to step out of our comfort zone, knowing that God has never let us down and that serving our community was exactly what God called us to do.

For the last year, salary as the Farm Manager has been erratic at best. Cash donations are always needed and appreciated, but never more so than right now. Our personal financial position has never been more precarious. Our business finances must grow if the farm is to do likewise.

We firmly believe in the mission of Opal’s Farm and trust that God will provide but I also know that a “closed mouth never gets fed”. That’s why I’m being a bit personal about our struggles, both business and personal.

Business, especially farming, requires planning for the coming growing season. Consistent donations make this possible; especially as we expand our production area to the full acreage available. Moreover, improved soil health – the addition of soil amendments and organic fertilizers – mean increased yields per acre. In turn, more people are fed, the retail side grows, and the farm becomes economically sustainable. Reaching that point requires an initial capital investment that requires cash flow as well as the great in-kind donations we’ve received from our sponsors.

Personally, your donation goes to make sure Opal’s Farm grows as well as pays myself and our future employees. Margaret and I would certainly be eternally grateful. We are fiercely committed to the success of Opal’s Farm and ending food insecurity in our community. We can’t do it without your support. We know this is a “we” project.

I’m asking you today to please help as we enter this season of giving. Your Opal’s Farm stays right here in Fort Worth. Whether $25 or $2500, each dollar goes to your neighbors, to your community. It’s never been more urgent to help Opal’s Farm

 Please go to www.unityunlimited.org today and click on the Opal’s Farm page to donate today.