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Change is Possible

I’m home this morning. I went for my check up yesterday. While everything went well – I’m blessed with good health – I received my third COVID vaccine, my shingles vaccine, and my flu shot. I made it through the first two COVID vaccine, but that’s not the case with this one       I’m feeling it a bit this morning so here I sit. Much has run through my mind the last few days, so I’ll take a moment to share some things with you.

I haven’t been able to do that very often – Opal’s Farm has had a busy Fall. Add to that my fantastic Thanksgiving week with my newfound family in Kentucky and I’m swamped with work. Writing, whether it’s read or not, is one of the greatest joys in my life. Every now and then God says slow down, rest, and write. Enjoy the morning. Today I may be feverish with the chills but I feel intense gratitude for my life, my family, and my friends.

I celebrated sixteen years clean on December 1st – my rebirthday. I had a friend who always said we were such blessed people to live two lives in one lifetime. Looking back, I can appreciate that statement more than ever.

My story isn’t that much different from any other recovering person. I spent a long time believing the lie that I could successfully drink and drug while living a life for everyone else. I fell deeper into the hole I was digging until there was no way to climb out. I’ve heard it said by those in recovery that God provides the ladder. Quite frankly, if He did I didn’t even have the strength to climb it. As I look back today, I can see that a loving God reached down and lifted me to freedom. The life I have today is simply grace and mercy from a God that loves His kids fiercely.

This time of year is always a time of reflection for me – probably even more so this year. I got a call earlier in the Fall from the folks organizing the Annual Erma C Johnson Hadley Awards Dinner. Ms. Hadley was the first women and first African American to serve as Chancellor of Tarrant County College and brought the college to one of the premier county colleges in the nation. She was a trailblazer and fine educator. The dinner is held annually in her honor since she passed away.

I thought they were calling for volunteers – I had worked one pre-COVID – but Dr. Jackson informed me that I was receiving the Community Leader award and she needed a short bio and headshot for the program. I was overwhelmed. How could this happen to me. I called my dear friend Edgar and all I could ask was why. Do they have any idea who they’re talking to? Don’t they know I’m simply a farmer?

Edgar reminded me that I need to share that. I’m nothing special. I grow food for people and help marginalized neighborhoods. I try to honor my calling in very simple ways. Who I was before December 1st, 2005 is not who I am today. My relationship with God has brought about a radical transformation. His will was my own true will for myself all along. He lovingly and patiently waited until I was ready to surrender to Him.

I only bring this up as a reminder to myself and others that one’s past doesn’t dictate one’s future. My addiction defined who I was some sixteen years ago. God defines who I am today. I simply had to let it. From an ex-felon and drug addict to a community leadership. Hmm. Change is possible…

“That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” Paul’s letter to the Romans 8.28

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“Be like the fox / who makes more tracks than necessary, / some in the wrong direction. / Practice resurrection.” – Wendell Berry, “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer’s Liberation Front” (1973)

Photo by Alex Andrews on Pexels.com
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Dig Deep: A Conference for Growers

I’d like to invite all Opal’s Farmers to come out to the 2021 Dig Deep Conference. Opal’s Farm will be talking about “Empowering Communities Through Food”. There are programs for all types of growers. We’d love to see you there.

Please join Tarrant Area Food Bank and the Tarrant County Food Policy Council for an exciting and educational event – Dig Deep: A Conference for Growers!

Growers of all kinds from all over the North Texas region are invited to attend the conference as a means to network with other growers, learn more about important aspects of growing, and participate in an event highlights the important and positive work being done in our area to help end hunger and promote a healthier community.

Tracks will be offered on Home, Community and Market growing, ensuring that there is something for every kind of grower.

For more information and registration, visit https://digdeepconference2021.eventbrite.com!

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It’s already May!

It’s difficult to believe it’s already May. April flew by in a scurry of activity. What’s even harder to believe is that all the Spring planting is complete except for the okra that goes in next week. Opal’s volunteers stepped it up and made early Spring a huge success!

April showers showed up just in time to give all the veggies a huge growth spurt. We closed out the month moving into “abnormally dry” as opposed to “moderate drought” status that started the month. The official rainfall total was four-and-a-half inches, but we over five inches at Opal’s Farm. The last few days of rain made access and work onerous but also allowed us some time to catch-up on some things we’ve put off due to Spring planting (like this blog…).

On April 24th, we had a group from my son Adrian’s church, The House Fort Worth, come down to the farm. They have regular “Love Your City” workdays and provide volunteers for projects all around Fort Worth. They did an amazing job getting furrows mulched and ready for the coming summer heat! Thanks to each one who came and Pastor Mark Ortiz for getting us on the list!

The House Fort Worth volunteers!

Our National Resource Conservation representative for urban farms, Mr. Michael Higgins put us in touch with two exciting new endeavors for Opal’s Farm. The first one is with Bashira Chowdurry, a native Houstonian working at Auburn University. Bashira is helping us develop new produce such as Bottle Gourd and Bitter Melon, which are staples in South Asian food. The seeds she sent are growing in our test beds. We’re trying them out to see how they work in North Texas. If all goes well, we’ll be able to grow produce for our South Asian community here in Tarrant County.

The second new project is with new immigrants from East Africa. We eagerly gave a third of an acre plot to Sylvia, Christian, and Gerard, new urban farmers here at Opal’s. They have been hard at work preparing beds and getting Spring planting in. It’s exciting to see the passion of our new farmers. My heart jumped a bit when Sylvia said it reminded her of home! We hope to be a part of making them successful as they meet the needs of the East African community and all our neighbors in Fort Worth.

This Spring has brought new volunteers to Opal’s Farm. We’re so happy to share this journey with other people who want to help us address food insecurity and food apartheid here in Fort Worth. Food brings people together. No one should have to be food insecure or denied access to healthy, fresh produce. No one should have to go without the sense of community that we have at the farm. Visit our website www.unityunlimited.org and sign up for your time to farm with us.

If you don’t have time to volunteer right now, please help us with your financial support. Every dollar you contribute goes to helping your neighbors get access to nutritious fresh produce!

P.S. Cowtown Farmers Market is getting busier with all the Spring crops coming in. The varieties of fresh, local produce may sell out so come early every Saturday so you don’t miss out!

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Earth Week Celebrations

Join Opal’s Farm and one billion people from over 193 countries in celebrating Earth Day, April 22, 2021.

Earth Day started in 1970 to increase awareness and mobilize people to address environmental issues that affect our health and well-being all around the world. Opal’s Farm is proud to be a part of the movement to make our environment, our world, and communities a better place. Earth Day is every day at Opal’s Farm!

http://www.earthday.org


When we began Opal’s Farm two years ago, we made a commitment to

-Building vibrant local communities through regenerative urban farming, faithful gathering, and lasting fellowship. 

Why Regenerative Urban Farming?

The first component of regenerative farming is soil health. Healthy soil makes for healthy plants and healthy plants make for healthy people. Soil rich in nutrients means plants richer in nutrients – not to mention the flavor is so much better than those raised with industrial farming methods. Building the soil health is the foundation for the other components or regenerative agriculture – biodiversity, water and cleanliness, and soil carbon sequestration.

My name is Greg Joel. I’m the Farm Manager here at Opal’s Farm. People often ask if we practice “sustainable” farming. The answer is a resounding no! We practice regenerative farming. There’s a huge difference!

“Sustainable” implies keeping things (in our case, the soil) the way they are – to keep them from deteriorating and saving them for future generations to use.

“Regenerative” goes beyond merely preservation of the existing environment. It means to leave it better than you found it – building resources for future generations!

Opal’s never uses chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. These all degrade soil health over time. That’s why so much land has become non-productive. That’s also why many of the vegetables we love have lost the true flavor we love them for.

Texas soil requires amendments such as compost, other organic matter, and organic fertilizers to build healthy soil and increase vegetable yields. Soil needs to be fed just like we do to be healthy and productive. The difference between soil and plain old dirt is that soil is a vibrant environment full of life – microbes, microorganisms, and bacteria that feed the soil and in turn, feed the plants that live there. Dirt is not – it’s void of the living things that make up what we call soil.

We are so grateful for the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) for providing our five acres for urban farming. One of the ways we show our gratitude is farm organically. The last thing we want to do is use substances that run-off into our beloved Trinity River and contaminate the water we all depend on.

This week of Earth Day celebration reminds us of the responsibility we have as good stewards of the land we’ve been given. We’ll be talking more about regenerative urban farming and about the other components of our mission during the coming week.

None of what we do at Opal’s Farm – regenerative urban farming, providing access to healthy, fresh produce in neighborhoods devasted by food apartheid, and uniting the surrounding community could be accomplished without your ongoing support. The notorious February freeze may have been an obstacle for the Spring season, but we’ve come through with flying colors because of the generous support of our friends and neighbors.

Spring has blossomed at Opal’s Farm and we need your support more than ever. Please give to our work with your donation to Opal’s Farm at www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm

Join us tomorrow as we get closer to Earth Day 2021!

Thanks for your help Diane!