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!
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.
I came home from my Sunday morning meeting and spent a long time lost in thought. Today is a special day of celebration in my life: probably more important than all the other holidays combined. I reflected on the friends who made it all possible. I cannot begin to come close to expressing my love and appreciation for them. You see, fourteen years ago I surrendered to God’s infinite grace and began an incredible, mystical journey with these people. Life began again. Dreams became. Miracles happened. In fact, I’ve come to depend on them. I’m living proof. I celebrate fourteen years free from the bonds of addiction, selfishness and self-obsession.
I don’t often speak of my recovery on social media. For most of my life I’ve been an example of what NOT to do. I wouldn’t want anyone to judge the recovery process by my actions. I chose a program of recovery that taught me how to rely on the God of my understanding to break the cycle of addiction, to correct my oft repeated shortcomings, and be of use to others. It has worked for me for a while now.
It gave me a relationship with God that grows more intimate each day. It offered me a new set of glasses through which I see the world as God would have me see His creation (most of the time at least). Where there only existed failure, depression, and endless desperation before, my life is filled with light and infinite possibility. I never dreamt that life could be this way. I know what joy and freedom are today. I’m recovering the life God intended for daily. Pretty damned amazing if you ask me…
I thought of my friend and mentor, Jim, who walked alongside me throughout much of the journey. He followed an eternal path almost two years ago. Not a day goes by that his voice doesn’t speak to me, either in my head or through my friends. One friend in particular, Edgar, frequently quotes “Jimisms”. He always seems to know when they’re truly needed.
I thought about my brother Craig who opened his home when I needed it most. I spent five years sitting in his woodshop, sharing coffee, prayer, and spirit. No man is more blessed than me. I always wanted a brother. I had to wait fifty years to get one!
Perhaps most of, I thought about the woman in the next room who shares life with me; the woman that God (and recovery) gave me. Most of you know my wife Margaret. Most of you know Margaret broke her leg a few weeks ago. It’s been non-weight bearing and will be for several more weeks. It has been my honor and privilege to be her legs these last few weeks; to bring coffee, to help her to the chair, and push her wheelchair. Recovery taught me what it means to love someone else, to be in a relationship with God and the love of my life. It made it easy to exchange vows and really mean it. She is the light of my life and brings me joy on this walk together.
I would be remiss if I failed to tell you how important each of you are in my life. I once told my friend Rusty that I could finally count my true friends on more than one hand. He told me I was blessed: most people can’t say that. From a life of isolation and loneliness I been brought into a life that almost feels too full at times. I somehow make room for it though. When I don’t God helps me make it bigger.
Above all, I know all is grace. I don’t deserve any of the blessings I enjoy today. I’m unbelievably thankful I didn’t get what I deserve – clean or using. What I received was an endless supply of love and grace instead. As my brother Craig reminds me, “God is especially fond of me” (and you, too!).
One of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received is waking up each day to a new and bright world full of hope and possibilities no matter what the newspaper (does anybody still read those?) may say. I get to “live creatively” as the Apostle Paul would say.
Thank you for being a part of this wonderful journey…
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.
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:
Through growing organic fresh produce on our five-acre farm and bringing it to affected neighborhoods.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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!