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!
A researcher from the City of Austin called me a couple of years ago to ask some questions about having an urban farm on a floodplain similar to Opal’s. The city had recently bought out a thousand homes because of flooding on Williamson and Onion Creek. They wanted to build an urban farm on the property and much like governments do, they had to do a study first. Not that it’s a negative mind you. One should “count the cost” before jumping in, but the city was overthinking the whole project. That tends to happen a lot…
Anyway, this nice grad student from the University of Texas called to pick my brain and had a very long list of questions to be answered. Our conversation went well. Yes, there are challenges to urban farming and no, they’re not that big a deal. Farming teaches us how to work with nature and not against it. Moreover, it’s always a risk since nature tends to win no matter what we do. That’s just the way it is. Resilience must be a core value.
She asked me a question I’d never thought of before: what is your Plan B if it floods? It took me back a bit. “What do you mean by Plan B?”
She went on to explain that they were on a twenty-five-year flood plain and they needed a Plan B if it flooded there. I had to laugh and then remember I was talking to a researcher for the city. Cities have a need to put everything in a plan. Unfortunately, farming doesn’t work like that. I guess that’s why I love it so much. There’s never a dull moment.
I informed her that we had no “Plan B”. If it floods, we rebuild the beds and replant. What else is there to do? Maybe that’s a tad easier for me to say since we are on a hundred-year floodplain and have never had to deal with flooding – at least until this week.
The local media is calling this week’s rain historic. We received a month’s rainfall in a day – fifteen inches at Opal’s Farm. The Trinity River breached a section of the levee and flooded the back half of the farm. I was finally able to drive down there by Wednesday. Walking the beds and negotiating some of the still standing water I was surprised to find the back road covered in dead fish – hundreds of them. The levee is slightly lower on the south end of the farm and had washed over that section and when it receded, it left our finned friends high and dry. It was a first for us.
Needless to say…
We spent the rest of the week on “Plan B” – clean up, rebuild, and replant. We were unable to make Cowtown Farmers Market this week, but we should be there next week. We didn’t lose any of our existing crops although everything was covered in mud. The rain and the cooler nights have led the tomatoes to bloom in force and begin setting tomatoes again. Everything is a vibrant green on the farm once more. The dead fish have been added to the compost pile, so I assume we don’t have to spend anything on fish emulsion. The rain brought us down for “Extreme Drought” stage to “Severe Drought” stage. After all, resilience is one of our core values…
I’ve been working on this post for a week, and to be honest, I wish I didn’t have to write it. I’ve kind of been dreading August. It’s a little long so please bear with me…
Things are going well at Opal’s Farm. We’ve held on to the tomatoes and peppers through this crazy hot summer and even have new crops coming in. Thanks to Grow SE and the Rainwater Foundation we have a new Kubota MX 5400 tractor, a Land Pride tiller attachment, and pallet forks to facilitate our future growth and composting. They have also helped us hire an Assistant Farm Manager who I’ll introduce soon. We have wonderful volunteers who brave the intense Texas sun to come out and work at the farm (early in the morning of course!). The Cowtown Farmers Market has a new place to go to that even has shade and picnic tables. We are truly blessed!
So, what’s so difficult to write? This all sounds great! Well…
One of our (especially my) best friends and mentor, Charlie Blaylock with Shines Farmstand will be leaving Fort Worth and moving to New Mexico next week. We’ve known the move was coming for many months but now it’s too real. Laura Blaylock retired from the Tarrant Regional Water District on Friday (and I noticed that most of the furniture was already gone when we had our last Grow SE Zoom meeting) and they had their last day at the Cowtown Farmers Market this past Saturday. Although I’m thrilled for their new adventure (it was 72 degrees last time I talked to Charlie in New Mexico! I’m so jealous.), I’m sad to see them leave.
I’m not sure Opal’s Farm would still be growing had it not been for Charlie. When I pulled around the corner for the first time and saw the five acres plowed I thought “What have I gotten myself into? I’m so over my head”. Fortunately, I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie outside a Grow SE meeting a few months earlier. I had a feeling it was going to be okay. Some people are just destined to cross one’s path. They are truly a gift.
Over the last three-and-a half years, Charlie has helped guide me through the process of making Opal’s a going concern. He’s taken hours out of his schedule to meet with me, listen to my problems, and helped find solutions to make Opal’s a successful urban farm. There have been times I thought we weren’t going to make it and Charlie was always there to cheer me on. Most importantly, he and Laura took time to invite me into their lives and build an incredible friendship.
I know I’m not the only one that has benefited from knowing Charlie and Laura. Charlie has been a blessing to the local farming and food community. His work with the Tarrant County Food Policy Council, the Cowtown Farmers Market, the Tarrant Area Food Bank, and Grow SE has helped start several urban farms in Fort Worth. His commitment to access to fresh, local food and the farmers in and around Fort Worth will be missed. I can only hope that I’ll be able to follow in his footsteps and help others as he has helped me.
Charlie and Laura made sure their farm was left in capable hands. Becca Knutson, the Cowtown Farmers Market manager will be moving in and taking over Charlie’s labor of love. She’s been making the transition for several months now. She’ll continue bringing great organically grown fresh produce to Cowtown each week (and she’s a fantastic manager as well!).
Cowtown Farmers Market will be having its first market at the new location at the Grand Pavilion in Veterans Park this Saturday. It’s somewhat bittersweet for me. Charlie and Laura will be stopping by to be with us one last time, but not as vendors. They’ll be leaving the following week to new endeavors and much cooler weather. I’m not sure I’ll know what to do without my Laura hugs to get me through market (she gives the best hugs ever!).
Charlie and Laura, please know you’re loved and appreciated so much for all you do. I know that New Mexico will be better for your residence there and frankly, I would be right behind you if I could. It’s beautiful there and I’m happy you both get to enjoy mountain living. I may not have Apple Facetime but I already have an app for my Android so I can see your smiles. I promise I won’t be calling every day, but I can tell you I’m grateful for cell phones (this once anyway…). Be safe in your travels and keep me updated on the new adventure.
P.S. – Tell Dusty to call me. He has a place right here for the holidays. I love you both and already miss you!
We had a great 4th of July celebration at Opal’s Farm last night. An enormous thank you to everyone who came to eat and celebrate with us. I was so busy I forgot to take pictures (we cooked a lot of hamburgers and hot dogs!). Over fifty of Opal’s Farm volunteers, their families, and friends of the Farm shared food, fellowship, and lots of fresh grilled veggies. Our neighbors came in droves to enjoy the best spot on the Trinity to watch the fireworks. Our first annual “4th at the Farm” was a resounding success.
Preparations for next year are starting today. We want to make next year bigger and better. This year was an idea and a test run. We will keep you posted (and give better notice!). Of coming events at Opal’s Farm for everyone!
We want to offer a very special thanks to our biggest supporter, friend, and sponsor – the Tarrant regional Water District for making Fort Worth’s 4th of July Celebration the best in North Texas. Thanks TRWD!
Opal’s Farm is finally drying out after our first week without the heavy Spring rains. We might even get to use our new pump so graciously installed by our fantastic friends at the Tarrant regional Water District.
The tomatoes are loving the week of sunshine. Various shades of red are beginning to appear in the humungous green bushes. The vegetables have enjoyed the long, cool drink of Spring and face the summer heat with renewed strength.
The crowd at Cowtown Farmer’s Market is growing as well. Each week brings more shoppers for the fresh, locally grown food. There’s something special (and even more tasty and nutritious!) about locally grown produce. We look forward to market days!
That being said…
Opal’s Farm will not be at Cowtown Farmer’s Market this coming Saturday, June 19th. It’s Juneteenth, y’all! We’ll be walking with Ms. Opal for two-and-a-half miles, from Evans Plaza to the Tarrant County Courthouse. Afterwards, we’ll be set up at Panther Island Pavilion for the Juneteenth festivities, including live music, great vendors, and fireworks to celebrate freedom. Go to www.juneteenthftw.com to see the complete schedule and times. Come celebrate with Ms. Opal Lee and the good times marking freedom for us all…