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We’re Growing!

Down On the Farm It’s been a great week at Opal’s Farm. We had a bit of a thunderstorm this morning following a week of fantastic weather. Thanks to the Blue Zones Project we have a large sign for the entrance to Opal’s Farm. Our friends at Zimmerer Kubota delivered a tractor to begin plowing our second acre. Several volunteers, new and our regulars showed up to help this week. We hope it chased away the coronavirus blues!

We’ve been so busy this week we almost forgot to wish our fellow farmers a Happy National Agriculture Day. On Tuesday the 24th Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said,

“Our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers in America are feeding and clothing the world. Now more than ever it’s important that the American people not forget that. Our farmers are resilient, and during these uncertain times they are still working, day in and day out, to produce what’s needed for our growing population. Today, on National Ag Day, I challenge the American public to keep our farmers, ranchers and producers on their minds – for all their work to provide us a safe, healthy and abundant food supply. We owe them a debt of gratitude.”

Thank you Blue Zones!

We are grateful to you all as well. Your support is, as always, absolutely amazing! Tuesday was especially eventful. The sign for our barn at Opal’s Farm was installed, letting everyone know about Opal’s Farm. I feel bad singling people out for recognition, but Brenda and Carol with Blue Zones – Fort Worth have been incredible. I know it’s a team effort and I can’t thank Blue Zones enough.

Tuesday also saw the start of our expansion into acre number two. One of our sponsors and great friends, Brandon Hendrickson at Zimmerer Kubota, delivered a tractor for us to use in plowing our second acre. We’ll be smothering the area in wood chips to control the weeds and provide compost for the next season. Brandon surprised us with a tractor with an enclosed cab and air conditioning. It was perfect for the above-average temps this week (almost 90 degrees…). Thanks Brandon, Jerry, Sam Zimmerer and all the good folks at the North Fort Worth store.

Jameson the Farm Dog is supervising…

Special thanks go out to Kiersten, Alexis, and Mike for harvesting almost thirty pounds of sugar snap and green peas. You all saved them from my constant snacking as I went down the beds…

It’s a bit muddy following this morning’s rain, but the sun has come out making for a beautiful Saturday. We’re expecting a washout for this coming Monday so I’m off to make hay while the sun shines…

Thanks to everyone at Zimmerer Kubota!
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Hurry Before It's Too Late…

Down On the Farm:

Today’s post is a bit of “Down on the Farm” and “Thoughts From the Porch”. It’s been raining for the last nine days. I’ve had more time on the porch and less time at the farm as a result.

This much rain is a mixed blessing

Even when I can’t be busy planting, weeding, and prepping beds I tend to spend time thinking about each of those things and how to make Opal’s Farm bigger and better. More people can be served and maybe, just maybe, the farm makes life better for all of us.

During down times such as these I get to post on social media and keep everyone updated. My hope in doing so is that you all will want to donate and/or volunteer at Opal’s Farm. We desperately need the donations and we’re able to get so much more accomplished with our volunteers.

The infographic offers some great reasons to volunteer at Opal’s Farm. The events of the last week have caused me to pause and reflection on the importance of Opal’s Farm right now. Opal’s Farm has become an essential business. It was before – farming, growing food, is essential any time – but even more so now.

The last few days have seen rapid and monumental changes in our daily routines due to the COVID-19 crisis. It was working from home if possible and no gatherings of more than 250 people just a few days ago. Now it’s multiple business closures and no gatherings, either inside or outside, of more than ten people. Sunday evening, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins announced a “shelter in place” order for everyone residing in Dallas County. Other North Texas counties probably aren’t far behind.

If a “shelter in place” order is issued for Tarrant County volunteer opportunities may not be available. I will continue to work as Farm Manager and an employee of Unity Unlimited, Inc. but I’m unclear as to volunteers at the farm. We’ll keep you updated. I hope that anyone who’s having a bit of cabin fever will come down and spend some time with us while you still can.

To sign up or donate go to www.unityunlimited.org

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Opal’s Farm Volunteers and COVID-19

Down On the Farm: Governor Abbott announced the State Health Emergency and Executive Order limiting gatherings to ten people and a number of business closures for the next two weeks. I’ve spoken with several people this morning who asked if Opal’s Farm was still open and accepting volunteers. The answer is a resounding YES. However, there are some changes we’ve made due to COVID-19 and the ongoing crisis.

To volunteer go to www.unityunlimited.org and click on the Opal’s Farm page. The Sign-up button will give you a calendar with dates and times. Please note that there are only four slots for each for morning and afternoon. We are limiting the number of volunteers to ten or less in accordance with CDC and Texas State Guidelines.

While at the farm we ask:

  • Please honor CDC social distancing requirements (6 feet apart) with other volunteers.
  • Stay home if you have a runny nose, headache, persistent cough, or a fever. You can come to Opal’s Farm any other time.
  • That groups cancel any workday already scheduled for at least the next two weeks.  

Volunteering at Opal’s Farm is a great way to get out into the sunshine, get a workout (the gyms will be closing), and do something great for the community.  With changing schedules and many folks having additional spare time we hope that you’ll come visit us at the farm.

We hope that each of you stays safe during this difficult time. We’d love to see you!

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Rain, Rain…eh…

Down On the Farm: I’d love to wish you all a good morning from the farm, but it will have to be from the desk instead. We had a night of downpours, so I get to greet you all from the warmth of my office. We’re always thankful for the rain. Last month was the second wettest January on record and February is on a similar track.

Rain is often a trade-off for Opal’s Farm. It’s slowed down our Spring planting but all the onions and most of the potatoes are in. The remaining preparations for Spring – spreading compost, bed preparation, etc. – have come to a standstill because it’s too wet to work at the farm. It doesn’t mean work stops. It just stops outside…

It’s that time of year when there is a long “to-do” list, but the weather is so erratic that some needed tasks get put on the back burner until it’s dry enough to work. If you’ve signed up on our volunteer schedule you may wish to call the farm if it has rained the day before you’re coming out to be safe. I’ll be happy to shuttle volunteers from the entrance gate. Every now and then it gets a little too muddy for an automobile.

We recently had an issue with the volunteer sign on our website, www.unityunlimited.org. That has been resolved and the sign-up link is working great. We’ll be emailing each of you who were unable to sign-up because of an expired link. Please don’t hesitate to call us at 817.333.8367 if you have any questions.

A huge thank you goes out to Yvonne and Kiersten for a great day of planting. Please come join us anytime!

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Raining again!

Down On the Farm

It’s a bit quiet down on Opal’s Farm. The last three days have brought rain and cold weather, but it’s not freezing. We’re always grateful for the rain, but especially since we were able to get all our onions planted (all 3000 of them!) and fertilized before the wet weather got here. We are so grateful for our volunteers that helped get the planting done.

We’re excited that Spring planting is under way. Through our partners and donors, we’ve been able to spread compost and organic fertilizer. Building and regenerating our North Texas soil is not only crucial to increasing production, but it’s essential to being good stewards of the land the Tarrant Regional Water District blessed us with. Mom always said, “Leave it better than you found it”!

Ducks where everywhere Monday!
(by the construction entrance)

2020 promises to be a successful second year for Opal’s Farm. Last year, with virtually nothing to work with except donated seed and a few volunteers, we were able to produce over 4500 pounds of food for the food banks, neighborhoods, and Cowtown Farmer’s Market. This year we’ve been able to add composting, fertilization, and a better irrigation plan so the yields from our first acre will be even higher and more of our neighbors will be served.

We’re also working toward better weed control and soil regeneration through the extensive use of wood chips. J. Davis Tree Care Solutions has been bringing truckloads of wood chips over the last few weeks. We are thankful for their help on Opal’s Farm!

We will be expanding into our second acre this year as the Spring planting continues. We hope to be able to utilize more land when Fall planting arrives.

We wouldn’t be able to do all this without some great partners. Blue Zones Fort Worth, Healthy Tarrant Collaboration and Grow SE have been amazing. BBVA Bank worked with Grow SE to provide compost. It’s been a huge blessing to us and to them we offer a huge thank you!

Our volunteer numbers continue to grow as well as our vegetables! Thanks again to everyone who came out to help get compost spread and onions in the ground.

One More Thing…

We have one major issue going into Spring and we need to ask for your help. Our farm truck needs some work done as soon as possible in order to keep up our work on the farm. While grant monies have helped our Spring preparation and planting, they are for seed, materials, and supplies only. They don’t cover maintenance, repairs, and most importantly, salaries. We maintain a low overhead in these areas, but they are important to the continued growth and mission of Opal’s Farm.

Please donate today at www.unityunlimited.org or contact the farm directly at 817.333.8367.

As always, we appreciate your continued support in ending food insecurity and food deserts in Fort Worth. Way to go Cowtown!

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It May Be January but Spring is Here

Down On the Farm

This morning’s rain chose a perfect time to stop work at Opal’s Farm for two reasons. One, I had to make a visit to the veterinarian today (a not so good reason) instead of the farm. Two, we made serious headway on planting yesterday.

Our middle fur baby, Maggie, came in from her morning duties outside with her right eye swollen shut. A couple of hours later the swelling had taken over the right side of her face. A huge shout out to Penny Paws Vet Clinic in Richland Hills for seeing her so quickly. It turns out it was an allergic reaction to either a spider bite or bee sting.  She’s well on her way to recovery.

There’s not much worse than seeing your kids hurt. Pet parents know what I mean. Margaret and I have grown kids. We love them more than we can say, but hey, they don’t keep us warm at night…

Spring Planting has officially begun!

Although the target date was February 15th, we were able to kick off the Spring planting early. Big thanks go to Charlie Blaylock at Shines Farmstand for the onion sets (all 2,000 of them) and to our volunteers, Brenda and Kiersten, for helping get the first two beds planted. All those little green shoots are drinking in today’s rain, Jameson the Farm Dog is on pest control duty, and all is well down on the farm…

Kiersten’s laying ’em down!

Thank you to all the people that called following the news story on NBC5 offering to volunteer at Opal’s Farm. We’re busy getting our volunteer sign-up and schedule for Spring. We can’t wait to see you and play in the dirt together!

I also would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Blue Zones Project Fort Worth for the basket from The Table Market and Culinary Studio (the spicy carrots are amazing!). You are truly a blessing!

From The Table at Dickson Jenkins Plaza, 120 St. Louis, Suite 1038, Fort Worth
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Fighting Hunger One Meal at a Time

We are incredibly grateful for Noelle Walker at NBC 5 DFW for her series on “Fighting Hunger” and for the segment on our work at Opal’s Farm. The story aired yesterday on NBC 5: First at Four. The link to the story is at https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/fighting-hunger-urban-farming-in-fort-worths-food-desert/2292808/

I love the opportunity to tell a wider audience about Opal’s Farm. The farm is my personal passion. Ending food insecurity is my reason for getting up in the morning. I know what it’s like to be hungry. No one, especially a child, should have to go to bed hungry.

While I’m well aware of the statistics: one in seven children in Tarrant County face food insecurity. There are over forty food deserts in Tarrant County. Neighborhoods that rely on dollar stores or convenience marts for their groceries often face higher rates of obesity, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a myriad of other health problems. I know those statistics, but I learned a new one from Ms. Walker’s news story today: Tarrant County is one of the top ten most food insecure counties in America.

Let that sink in for a moment…

Tarrant Country is in the top ten most food insecure counties in the country. Not in the state, not in the region. In the country!

I’m angry about that. Fort Worth is my home. I grew up here and fell in love with the history and the culture of Cowtown. Whether it’s the 136th edition of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo or an art exhibit at the Kimball my hometown has something to offer to everyone. Well, almost everyone…

I’m angry because, quite frankly, we’re better than that. I’m upset and maybe you are, too…

Since the NBC 5 story ran I’ve received dozens of emails and social media messages from people who believe in the mission of Opal’s Farm; who believe that an urban farm is just what is needed today. I’ve heard from older folks who remember the old “Greek” farm that was where Opal’s Farm is today. I’ve heard from young folks that want to be a part of a food “revolution” right here in Cowtown.

Opal’s Farm is a hands on way to address the needs of our neighbors. Not only those who struggle with poverty but those families that often work multiple jobs and still face hunger. That’s the reality many of our neighbors live with.

This first year has been tremendously exciting and, to be honest, a little scary. I remember the first time I walked around the levee after the Tarrant Regional Water District had disked and cleared the entire acreage for us. I couldn’t help but feel like I was wa-a-a-y in over my head. It was so big; much bigger than the community gardens I’d built before. What had I committed to?

According to the ancient Taoist proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”, so that’s just what we did. We took it one step at a time. There were many missteps along the way. The learning curve was steep and the work overwhelming at times. Still, step by step, bed by bed, seed by seed, Opal’s Farm began to take shape and seeds turned into a harvest that surprised all of us. Talk about starting on a wing and a prayer…

Our second year promises an even more bountiful harvest than our first. We will feed more people than last year, but we need your help. Opal’s Farm is in desperate need of donations to fund the coming year. We are expanding into our second acre. This will allow us to offer a wider variety of produce to the neighborhoods we serve.

The thing I love the most about Fort Worth is the people. We’re a big city (16th largest in the country!) but we haven’t lost that “small town” feel. We’re neighbors here. Neighbors help each other out. Help us help your neighbors with a donation to Opal’s Farm today.

Go to www.unityunlimited.org right now! Click on Opal’s Farm and you’ll find a “donate now” button to make your safe and secure donation to Opal’s Farm. You’ll also find a “Sign Up” button if you’d like to be a farmer right along beside us. We love working beside our volunteers!

Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one”. Your donation today will ensure that one person, one child goes to be with a full tummy because your dollar went to the produce we grew and brought to their neighborhood. That’s not just neighborly, it’s the right thing to do.