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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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!
Thoughts from the Porch: It’s become harder to get in the Christmas spirit this year. The exact reason has proven elusive. It could be that Christmas music starts blaring the day after Halloween, but It probably has to do with the fact that Mom and Dad are both gone now. This is the second Christmas since Mom passed and the sixteen of them without Dad. You’d think I’d be past it by now, but grief is what it is. It wasn’t until this morning that the season rushed over me and my soul felt revived with Christmas spirit.
I have a scheduled meeting every Sunday morning at 9:00AM.
It’s one of the highlights of my week. I get to carry a simple message of hope
to hurting people. I don’t know who benefits more – them or me. The spirit of
giving tends to do that. Uncommon sense again – the more you give, the more you
receive. But I digress…
I drove to my meeting yesterday morning somewhat short of my
required coffee quota. I wasn’t paying attention to the radio or much else
until I heard an angelic rendition of “Silent
Night” come flowing from the speakers. I wish I could tell you who the
vocalist was, but I had to hop out of the truck and get to my meeting before it
finished. All I know is that I felt different. I was more “Christmas-ee”…
My family never celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday.
Being good fundamentalists, we couldn’t celebrate something that the Bible
didn’t state for certain. To most folks that sounds silly. Now that I’m older I
can’t say that I disagree. Still, we celebrated Christmas as a secular holiday
of giving and family. Santa Claus was alive, and Jesus’ birthday was up for
Ironically, Christmas carols were always in order even if
they were religious in nature. The Sunday church service before Christmas always
included religious carols, and mentioned the birth of Jesus (you know, since
the rest of the world was focused on it) but it was “to celebrate the season”,
not the birth of our Savior. I never quite got the logic in that. Anyway…
I no longer hold to the strict religious traditions of my
youth. Jesus may or may not have been born on December 25th. It
makes little difference. This is the season which people have chosen to
celebrate his birth. I can’t find anything wrong with that. The point is that
he was born. Emmanuel – “God is with us”.
Listening to “Silent Night” this morning it hit me full
force; “God is with us”, and just like us. Just like me. Just like you.
My sons may be adults now, but I can remember the day each
was born as though it were yesterday. I didn’t need a manger, livestock,
shepherds, or wise men to make both moments holy, just as that moment some two
thousand years ago. Maybe that’s why God chose to enter in to our world the way
he did. I’d like to think so.
The authors of the four Gospels tell of the man and his
teachings, but they record little of Jesus’ life growing up. I’d like to
believe that he wasn’t much different from my boys. I don’t know what was
comparable to spaghetti in First Century Palestine, but I’m sure that most of
it ended up everywhere but his mouth. Mary probably had to give many an
after-dinner bath during those first couple of years.
At the risk of sounding a bit sacrilegious, I would like to
think that Jesus ducked out of Hebrew school to go fishing with his buddies.
After all, He had an affinity for fishing and hung out with his fishing buddies…
The only reference we have to Jesus’ young life is an
incident when he was twelve years old. Instead of going home with the rest of
his family he hung back in Jerusalem. I can only imagine the panic Mary and
Joseph felt when they realized he was missing. I freaked out when one of the
boys hid behind a clothing rack at the store…
I’m no Biblical scholar, but I’m pretty sure that Jesus was “just
one of the guys” for most of his life: content to live like everyone else in his
town. It’s telling that the townsfolk response to his first recorded teachings
in the Gospel of Luke is “Isn’t this
Joseph’s son, the one we’ve known since he was a youngster?” (Luke 4.22).
It’s easy to concentrate on Jesus as divine, as perfect, and
forget that Jesus was one of us. That, above all, is the miracle of Christmas.
God chose to enter His creation through Jesus, an everyman, dirty diapers and
all. He lived and worked among us as an ordinary guy. He laughed and hung out
with his buddies. When all was said and done, He stepped up to announce that,
“God’s Spirit is on me;
he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor.
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the
To set the battered and burdened free,
To announce, “This is God’s year to act” (Luke 4.16-21 The Message)
The rest, as they say, is history.
So, I’m in a bit more of the Christmas spirit this morning.
If Jesus could walk among us, “Loving God and loving others” then I’m inclined
to follow in his footsteps. It isn’t always the popular thing. After all, he
tended to upset the proverbial apple cart. “You’ve heard it said… but I say to
you” tends to rub some people the wrong way. I guess we all tend to do that…
I’m so glad that God chose to enter the world the way he
did. “Emmanuel” – God is with us.
Thoughts from the Porch: I wasn’t going to write today, my thoughts anyway. I have a ‘to-do’ list a mile long. It’s a blustery, chilly morning so ‘porch time’ was brief. The coming days bring more pressing matters to the ‘to-do’ list. It’s all good stuff, mind you, but suddenly there seems to be a shortage of hours in the day.
Even though our time on the porch was brief, my wife made it a holy moment for us both. She recounted a phone call yesterday from a friend. The gist of the conversation was how much her friend appreciated my wife. Both of us were a bit teary-eyed by the gratitude we felt. Prayer came easier afterward, even if all we could muster was “thank you God”.
I write of gratitude often. Probably more than anyone wants to hear if I get honest. I remember a friend told me several years ago there were only two topics worth talking or writing about: grace and gratitude. It’s taken a few years, but today I know what he meant. I hope that you, gentle reader, aren’t bored by my seeming lack of topical diversity.
In my interactions with other folks I’ve noted that those who have experienced the depths of God’s grace have one common denominator: gratitude. Gratitude seems to be directly proportionate to grace. The deeper the experience of grace the more gratitude one feels and lives out.
Gratitude changes the way I see the world. I’m more patient, courteous, and giving when I’m grateful. I’m more honest when I admit my own faults and in turn, more tolerant of other folk’s faults. I experience far less conflict and greater serenity. I don’t feel obligated to have “my” way as often. “Enough” is word I understand today.
I don’t always stay there. I still slide into worry, morbid self-reflection, and stubbornness at times. I’ve also come to acknowledge my own humanity with all its imperfections. It doesn’t take me as long to get back to an “attitude of gratitude”. That usually is the result of an awareness of grace. Funny how it all works…
Thoughts from the Porch: It was a bit chilly on the porch this morning, just enough to make the coffee taste better. The sun is obviously up but the overcast lends some doubt to that fact. The rain is coming once again, according to the weather folks. Although it’s not forecast to last more than a couple of days, heavy rains impede work on the farm. It looks like I’ll be mopping up after the dogs here at home for the next couple of days…
Margaret reminded me that today is December 7th, theanniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It led to the US entrance into World War Two seventy-seven years ago. Growing up, it was huge part of history classes. Movies celebrating America’s victory over the Axis were common, the age-old tale of good triumphs over evil. Things were more clear cut then. We had a sense of purpose.
I lost an uncle in the European theater and another who served in the Pacific. We all had fathers and uncles who had fought in “the war”. There was no need to refer to it as the Second World War. We knew what war one was talking about.
I’m a Baby Boomer, one of the generation of children born when GIs came back from the war. Over time, our parents came to be known as the“Greatest Generation” – people who had survived the Great Depression and emergedfrom the world’s largest and most deadly conflict as heroes. We all need heroes…
Today, Pearl Harbor day is more significant than past ones.
It’s the climax to an eventful week, ever reminding me of time’s passing.
I lost my mother a little over a year ago. My dad and my uncle passed over fifteen years ago. I have one aunt left, my mother’s younger sister, and she’s seventy-nine. I realized that the “Greatest Generation” will soon be gone, and with it, a store of wisdom that has been often forgotten.
As my generation has grown older, we’ve come to appreciate ourparent’s generation a little more. Perhaps that’s because we’re aging ourselves. Time seems to erase the negative memories and replace them with only happy ones. We become a tad more willing to listen to our elders now that we wish our own children would listen to us. Life has a way of doing that.
I certainly didn’t want to listen to my parents when I wasyoung. Given the tumultuous earlier years of my generation, I’m confident I’m not the only one. Foolishness and youth tend to go hand in hand. If you had told me that my parents were part of the “Greatest Generation” some thirty years ago, I’d have angrily pointed out all the mess of the sixties and seventies.. They were the problem and wehad the solution.
The last week also marked the passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush at the age of ninety-four. I could go on and on about our political differences and my extreme opposition to his policies. I didn’t respect the man in that sense, but I did respect the values he exuded.To be honest, it’s not the man I mourn, as much as it is the reminder that the “Greatest Generation” is soon to be no more. What I felt this week has been a sadness for those I respected, loved, and lostto the passing of time.
However, I was able to spend some time this week with anicon of the “Greatest Generation”, Ms. Opal Lee. She’s not only the namesake ofour urban farm. Ms. Opal, at ninety-two, has long been a community activist, teacher, and humanitarian. Her love of others radiates. She’s a wealth of wisdom of the generation I’ve come to respect and love. We attended the Fort Worth Development Group together on Wednesday. It couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
Wisdom has been the theme of the group for this last quarterof the year. One of our members, Joseph Lockhart, Jr., a business owner and Pastor, spoke on the topic. He reminded us of the value of wise counsel. Ms. Opal’spresence was just that. I was reminded one more time of the experience and thewisdom of those who have walked this journey of life longer than I have.
Things change. That’s the only thing certain in life. I’m not who I was thirty or forty years ago. Nor are my friends. The only constant in life is the wisdom we leave to the next generation. Unfortunately, I often been an example of what not to do. Wisdom doesn’t choose sides. It prefers experience.
Sometimes I’m not too optimistic about the future. I’m notsure “Baby Boomers” have done such a great job and “Millennials” don’t appear to be great listeners. My pessimism can probably be attributed to getting cranky and overly nostalgic as I get older. I’m sure our parents said the same of us.Kids can be pretty hardheaded. It’s the cycle of life…
December 7th doesn’t mean as much to our kids andgrandkids as it did to us and our parents. Pearl Harbor Day is quickly becoming just another date in the history books as more of the “Greatest Generation” pass. It serves as a reminder to me how important it is to hand down the lessons learned and the wisdom of our predecessors.
So, I urge you on this December 7th, in thisholiday season, spend some time with your elders. Listen and glean the wisdom from those that ventured down the path before us. Maybe, just maybe, we get to do the same with our kids and grandkids. Maybe, just maybe, we can be heroes too…