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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!
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One Last Day to the Longest Short Month

Ah, the last day of February. Tomorrow is meteorological Spring. While it’s not the official (i.e. – the Vernal Solstice or Saturday March 20th) first day of Spring, it’s a reminder that warmer days are just around the corner.

It’s hard to believe that a mere two weeks ago we were huddled around a space heater with no water in a 30-degree house. I was out on the porch this morning for my meditation time. Shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops were all that was needed to be comfortable.

We were blessed to have a generator to power the space heater and a coffee pot. Others were not so lucky. There are still folks without water as I write this. Please pray for relief so the disaster recovery can begin.

Opal’s Farm took a beating. We may still be able to salvage some onions and spinach. I had to replant cilantro, beets, turnips, snow peas, and snap peas. I’m glad to have gotten them in before the rain this weekend. We have potatoes to plant when it dries up and more onions are coming to replace what was lost to the freeze.

They had just started putting out

It has been a busy week here at the farm – replanting, plowing, and irrigation repair. We lost a couple of hundred feet of PVC pipe to the cold. There’s much to catch up on so if you have a little free time and want some dirt therapy go email us at opalvolunteers@gmail.com or opalsfarm@unityunlimited.org. We’ll get you going!

We had our annual membership meeting for Cowtown Farmers Market yesterday. We are pleased to be a part of such a dynamic group of farmers and vendors that believe in bringing fresh, local food to our community. We will be continuing the SNAP and Double-Up Food Bucks through April 1st as well. Please come see us and enjoy the best fruits and vegetables in Fort Worth! We’d appreciate the support for our local farmers.

February, especially this year, was an opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. The freeze was a major obstacle to a successful 2021. The produce we would normally take to market was lost, cutting our revenue for the next few weeks. This is a huge blow to our budget for this year. We are currently seeking assistance from a couple of disaster recovery resources, but so many farmers suffered losses this month that it may be months if we receive financial assistance.

We nearly doubled our yield over 2019 last year and we hope to do so again in 2021. Our soil health has drastically improved with the amendments we were able to have last year (Thank you Sliver Creek Materials and Microlife/San Jacinto Environmental!). We’ve expanded our production area by another acre. We are excited by the possibilities even with the hardship that came from the deep freeze.

We’re also aware of how blessed we are to be a part of the community and all our friends. While your thoughts, prayers, and volunteering are appreciated more than you know, we are asking for financial help to whether this setback. If you’re able to give, please go to www.unityunlimited.org/opalsfarm and click donate. You can also donate through Facebook, or even drop by the farm.

We have an exciting Spring and Summer planned and we’d love for you to be a part. Thank you for all each of you do. Thank you for being part of Opal’s Farm!

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com
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Can’t Wait Until Saturday

After a couple of fits and starts we finally have power here in our little neighborhood. We set the thermostat to 64 degrees to lower our demand. There are still many Texans huddling in the sub-freezing temperatures and the dark trying to make it until Saturday. Things are supposed to return to “normal” winter days – the sixties are coming…

My step kid brought it to my attention that Texans are the butt of jokes on her social media by people from up north. I guess we have different people on our news feeds. Most of our followers for both www.gregoryjoel.com and Opal’s Farm have constantly checked up on us and offered to help in any way possible. I love our community.

The Trinity River normally

We are now dealing with the water issues that come after a long, hard freeze. Yesterday morning I found water running down the driveway. A pipe had burst in our laundry room. Fortunately, it was an easy repair and I spent most of the day wet vacuuming up water from our back room. I never imagined I’d be grateful for such a leak, but if that’s the worst plumbing issue we have then we are blessed. The news was filled with pictures of our neighbors with water filling and destroying their homes.

We lack water pressure and we’re under a “boil water” notice, but we have power and water (and lots of coffee!). My wife’s noticing that I haven’t been able to shower since Sunday. That’s okay. I’ve spent a couple of weeks backpacking in the high country. I can assure you this is nothing. It could always be worse.

The Trinity today

I’ve been able to watch the news the last couple of nights. I’m discouraged to say the least. Everyone spends their time pointing fingers and little action is taken to relieve the misery so many Texans are in. I don’t expect much from the politicians and pundits anyway. Their track record isn’t great. I’d rather spend my energy with folks who are “being” the change, with action.

That’s an update on our little cul-de-sac. Continue in prayer for our neighbors as they struggle through this mess. Please don’t stop either. My gut tells me this is going to be a hard one to recover from. When you tuck your little one’s into a nice, warm bed this evening take extra time to say thank you for that bed and let you goodnight kiss linger a bit…

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We’re Growing (as always)…

I awoke to the sound of rumbling thunder and a soaking rain on Sunday morning. It looks like the pump will get to stay in the barn for a few days. I get to stay home update you all on the farm and enjoy the rest of Sunday with my wife. Opal’s Farm gets a well-deserved shower. It’s a win/win for everyone!

I’d like to thank Roman for all the hard work. Roman is one of the Tarleton State interns with Healthy Tarrant County Collaboration and Grow SE. He’s completed many of his field hours literally in the field! He’s been an unbelievable help to Opal’s Farm – getting tilling, new infrastructure, and preparing beds for Spring (and some great conversation as well!). Roman, we hope you have a wonderful Christmas break. Thank you for all you do!

I’d also like to apologize for the scheduling conflicts that prevented us from setting up at the Tributary Café for Holiday Open Streets on Race Street. As we begin to hire new employees in the coming year we will be able to make more markets like these.

As 2020 draws to a close (Thank God!), We’ve been looking at how we can serve the community better. Our second year as brought so many blessings to the farm – our yields are up twice as much as last year and getting better.

  • Grant money was made available through Healthy Tarrant Collaboration and the United Way to improve our overall soil health, provide more variety in the produce we grow, and make key infrastructure purchases.
  • Our friends at Zimmerer Kubota made it possible to expand our production area by providing us with a tractor that shortens the time (and labor!) to grow more food.
  • J. Davis Tree Care has brought over truckloads of woods chips from their yard. Much of it is already composted and applied directly to productions. The chips that aren’t composted cover the walkways and help with weed control.
  • The White Settlement Home Depot (store #8521) has been a huge sponsor of Opal’s Farm and came through again this season. Natasha Neidhart, the Store Manager and District Captain for Team Depot (the Home Depot Foundation) pulled together our wish list and added things we needed and didn’t even think of. We couldn’t ask for a better partner and friend of Opal’s Farm. We give them a tremendous “shout out” and an even bigger “thank you”.
Thanks Home Depot!
  • Blue Zones Project Fort Worth has been one of our biggest fans and supporters in so many ways – financially, volunteering, and setting up compost pick-ups with Elrod’s Grocery on the Northside and Foodland near the farm. Our composting program has drastically improved since last year. Thank you, Brenda Patton and Blue Zones!
  • I wouldn’t even think of forgetting to thank our biggest supporter, the Tarrant Regional Water District. Not only did they grant the acreage for Opal’s Farm, but they have also supported us in far too many ways to mention. They will be assisting us with new irrigation means in the coming months. That will improve our irrigation dramatically and make it more efficient. Efficiency leads to increased yields in both quantity and quality.

We hope the changes will be exciting to you as well. We want to make Opal’s Farm more accessible to everyone.

Please don’t forget Cultural Kitchen this Friday at 12 PM CST – 1 PM CST Hosted by Fort Worth Community Arts CenterThe Arts Council of Fort Worth and Opal’s Farm