Tecolote Farm has just started their second half of this season’s CSA and time is going by so quickly. If you recollect from the first installment, too, I promised a second essay in order to share the whole of my interview with Katie. Now is the perfect time to share!
What’s what here in Two Hearts Wellness-land is this: school is rolling along and the term is half over, clinic rotations are as busy as could be, and personal training clients and Asian bodywork therapy patients are bringing joy and purpose to my life’s work. On top of that, and just this past week, I picked up my basket and the hub host where I get my veggies gave me a half dozen free-range eggs because she had some extra and wanted to share. Meantime, the CSA newsletter from Katie continues to appear in my email inbox each week with its recipes and commentary and the Tecolote Farm Facebook group remains lively and inspirational (a love of sorrel is going to happen in my life…I have not given up yet and there’s support to be found in the FB group). All humor aside… when I wrote about the sense of community surrounding this particular farm and its CSA program I wasn’t exaggerating a bit. And it’s not just in terms of the farm-to-table (and friends created as a result) connections. Katie and her husband, David, are active members in the larger Texan farming community and that aspect, for me, was interesting and worth some interview questions. I also had asked about organic farming and GMO seeds, two subjects that concern me as a health blogger, bodywork therapist, coach, and future TCM practitioner.
So without further ado (and this time, with asides):
Me: As a happy member of your CSA client list, I wanted to ask you about going organic, staying organic, and resisting GMO seed. How do you keep the vegetables from being carried away by insects? How much work is it to remain steadfast in the face of outside farming trends? Do you worry about GMO seeds blowing into your fields, for example?
Katie: We are swimming in seed packets and seed catalogs, and we buy organic seed and untreated seed and definitely no GMO seed. We have the proper buffer zones, and luckily don’t live near fields that are being seeded with GMO crops. Mostly there is hay production, on existing grass stands. I would be very worried if we lived near commercial vegetable or other frequently tilled and planted fields.
The insect pressure in Texas is intense, and we have to rotate fields with different types of crops in order to avoid infestation. Having another farm along the Colorado River, about 15 miles away from our original home farm, helps in our ability to rotate crops to new soil and thus avoid plant disease and insect takeovers. Still, organic farming is SO MUCH WORK, and CSA farming is the hardest of all vegetable growing. Keeping a variety wide enough to keep the CSA members from getting bored or overwhelmed keeps us constantly training the crew on different harvest and post-harvest methods, and requires us to grow all kinds of crops, not just the ones that do really well here. It’s worth it, though, because of the deep satisfaction of our work feeding people GOOD CLEAN FOOD.
(I have to inject an aside here: I, personally, think that insects are really interesting and lovely. NOT that I would want to have pests eating my vegetables or bedbugs in my mattress or anything awful like that BUT I do like spiders and bees and fireflies and ladybugs and I know that at Tecolote, they appreciate the good insects too. I also think that the occasional random bug in my CSA basket veggies is proof that Katie, David, and the workers are doing their job right. Thus far, I’ve gotten just two minor bug surprises in my basket over the course of four years as a CSA member so I count myself a very satisfied customer, thank you very much).
Me: How does Tecolote Farm fit into a large-view picture of Texas farming? Are farms and farmers united and in communication here in Texas? Or is it mainly the organic farms that are in communication and the non-organic farmers stick with each other? Is there a good balance between the two?
Katie: David and I are two of the 4 co-founders of the Growers Alliance of Central Texas (GroACT). David organizes the annual organic seed potato bulk purchase for about 15-20 farms. He does this to help everyone out with the transportation cost, and to help smaller farms have access to good organic potato seed.
As GroACT, we have potlucks and social gatherings to create conversation and sharing among farmers. Most are not organic, but most of those with whom we mingle are trying to grow as sustainably as possible. I am the daughter of a conventional citrus grower, so I have compassion for those who are not yet aware and attentive to the importance of growing [organic] food. At the farmers market, we meet plenty of conventional growers. Obviously we really believe in the organic, and relate more to farmers who care about the whole picture, not just the profit margins.
(An aside: Have you ever heard of GroAct? From their web site: “Growers Alliance of Central Texas, GroACT, was formed in early 2010 when a group of local sustainable and organic growers decided we could achieve more by working cooperatively. Starting as an informal, grassroots group that has saved money on bulk purchases of organic seed potatoes and materials like drip tape, we then created a growers-only list serve as a tool to communicate despite our distance from one another. We organized grower-only potlucks to connect and inspire. Now we have grown to include over 30 central Texas farms, are a 501c3 non-profit, and offer a farmer emergency medical relief fund.” What really stood out for me when I read their web site was this fine point: “Increasingly, farmer alliances are forming to ensure the survival of family farms.”)
Me: Do you ever get tired of eating vegetables?
Katie: Not really. Mostly we just get tired, and sometimes after a day when we’ve both worked a 14-hour day or so, we don’t feel like cooking.
But when we get lazy and eat more meat because it’s so much easier to prepare in a lot of ways, we end up physically feeling a little gross. Even though we raise our own pork, and get grass fed organic beef from a farmer friend, our bodies crave the nutrient-rich plant foods when we are short on time for cooking. Often at lunch we’ll just eat a great big salad, and most dinners we give thanks for all the food on our plates and are so happy that we grew almost all of it…yum yum yum […].
(Aside: One of the coolest things about living in Austin is that we kind of have a big city here but we really have a small town. I love knowing where my vegetables come from and I love being able to have a conversation with Katie or a chat with—and maybe even a surprise gift of fresh eggs from–my hub-host. I have spoken with David at a couple Farmer’s Market events and he is a charming and friendly guy but I haven’t actually met Katie in person yet. She is so warm and personable in our email conversations, though, that I feel like we know each other. And when I make my yummy vegetables into something lovely to eat, I know that it’s not just them to me but instead, a whole long thread of connections and caring that winds through the great state of Texas. If you want to be part of this friendly circle too, then contact them for a half-term CSA membership or join the Facebook group, or say hi at a Farmer’s Market. You never know what new friends you will make in so doing but you can be assured that the vegetables will be yum yum YUM!)
Two Hearts Wellness is a local holistic health and wellness outfit with a passion for all things nourishing, including but not limited to: joyful living, great food, art, and literature, and–of course–traditional Chinese medicine. If you want to learn more about me, click here and do feel free to follow my blog, keep up with me via Instagram, connect with me on Facebook, or contact me here to set up an appointment for wellness programming and/or health coaching services. If you are interested in Asian bodywork therapy, click here to book an appointment online.