Green Gate Farms Expands Camp Scholarship Program, Seeks Support from Local Businesses
8310 Canoga Avenue Austin, TX
Austin, Texas, July 5, 2016 — Green Gate Farms, one of Austin’s few certified organic community-based farms, is seeking to expand its camp scholarship program to benefit children living near its eastside location.
“We’re delighted that our new landlord, Roberts Resorts, has funded two summer camp scholarships for our neighbors and hope his generosity inspires others,” says farm co-founder and farm camp director Erin Flynn. “For many of our scholarship recipients, this will be their first camp experience.”
In addition to funding scholarships, such local businesses as Nine François Photography, are donating services. Nine Francois Photography, a local fine artist known for community service, is creating portraits of campers during their final week of Green Gate’s six-week summer season, July 18-22.
Green Gate Farms partnered with Hidden Valley High Meadows (HVHM) Residents’ Association to identify neighborhood children to attend camp. “We love having a farm where we live,” says Mrs. Elisia
Castillo, founder of the HVHM Residents’ Association. “Partnering with Green Gate Farms means our kids get to eat organic vegetables they harvest, play outdoors, care for goats, pigs and other animals, and have fun!”
Green Gate Farms Farm Camp self-funds up to 30 free weeklong scholarships each summer. In 2015, it awarded 20 scholarships to UT Charter Elementary School students nominated by wellness instructor Rebecca Vore. “Summer Farm Camp has had a lasting impact on these kids and on their health,” said Vore. “The children pay attention to how they nourish themselves, and have more knowledge of food access and distribution systems.”
Additional farm-based programming also includes a Free Summer Art Farm Camp provided to neighbor children by artist and permaculture instructor Jenny Nazak. Using her own initiative and funds, Nazak created a free four-day summer camp that featured bilingual artwork instruction. As one child said, “If it weren’t for this camp, we’d have nothing to do, we’d be watching TV all day.”
“The mission of our farm has been to serve people of all incomes,” says farm co-founder Skip Connett. “Our partnerships — with Sustainable Food Center, Dell Children’s Hospital, the City of Austin and other organizations — have allowed us to do this by bringing our food to workplaces and to new markets. Now, it’s time to do the same with our camps.”
Voted “Best of Austin” by Austin Chronicle, Green Gate Farms Farm Camps has been attended by more than 700 children since its inaugural weeklong camp in 2010. Children, ages 5-15, learn about local food and organic systems while mastering projects on the seven-acre vegetable, flower and livestock farm in east Austin. The farm’s nonprofit organization, New Farm Institute (NFI) oversees its educational initiatives, which include day and weeklong camps offered during AISD holidays and summer. Attendance for the week is $400; discounts are given for siblings, multiple weeks, farm membership and volunteering.
“Our long term goal is to double the enrollment of our camps and do the same for our scholarship students” says NFI Executive Director Erin Flynn. “There is no other farm-based camp like this in Austin and we want to ensure our neighbors, especially those who can walk here, participate.”
Local individuals and businesses are invited to help the farm meet its goal of raising $6,000 to cover expenses for fifteen children to attend a weeklong camp. Donors benefits include a free farm tour and publicity at the farm’s upcoming 10th Anniversary Party, September 24, 2016, 4:00-10:00.
About Green Gate Farms: GGF is a certified organic farm founded in 2006 on a historic site in an underserved area of East Austin. The farm’s mission is to educate, assist and inspire citizens and a new generation of sustainable farmers.
About HVHM Residents’ Association: Founded by the long-time residents of the neighborhood and run by a Board that represents the interests and concerns of the Hidden Valley, High Meadows community.
About Nine François Photography: Founded by Nine Francois, a photographer working, teaching, and telling stories through images in Austin, Texas. http://www.ninefrancois.com
About Roberts Resorts: Arizona-based developer specializing in luxury RV lots and manufactured homes purchased the property where Green Gate Farms is located in April 2015. www.robertsresorts.com
Ten years ago, we celebrated Farmer Skip’s 50th as we moved into the now 114-year-old Bergstrom farmhouse. The house was empty yet we were filled with anticipation.
Because when I had asked how Skip he wanted to celebrate his mid-life birthday, he said, “I want to raise my own pig on my farm and invite all my friends to celebrate.”
This request came from a man who wore a tie to work, wrote speeches at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and hadn’t lived on a farm in nearly forty years. While some friends suspected a mid-life crisis, I knew that this yearning was not new. The man I married would not feel complete without realizing his dream to farm, so we set the wheels in motion.
Ten years ago, there were no friends. I had been away from Austin for many years so it was my family that gathered to cut his birthday cake. Ten years ago, there was no pig and Green Gate Farms was nothing more than a rototiller and a crazy dream.
Today Skip is 60. And on Saturday we will celebrate him and the countless friends who helped create a community farm through generosity and passion. There will be a pig roast thanks to chef Tony Grasso. And there will be good news.
A year of negotiations between Green Gate Farms, Roberts Resorts — the farm property’s new owner — and the City of Austin bore fruit last week.
TBG Partners, hired by our landlord, devised a plan that will incorporate our four-acre farm into Roberts’ larger development of tiny homes, RVs and manufactured homes. This plan includes Green Gate Farms and the historic 1902 Swedish buildings – barn, farmhouse and cottages. The drawings will be unveiled at Saturday’s Potluck Party (4-10pm).
In addition, our long-awaited desire to extend our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program to SNAP (a.k.a. food stamp) users has been realized thanks to the Sustainable Food Center. Did you know that 25% of Austinites qualify for SNAP? Now, these vouchers can be redeemed and doubled at our farm stand because of funding from the Double Dollar program. Be sure to tell your favorite musician, artist, teacher, military vet, Americorps worker and other SNAP users that we are hosting a sign-up party and free farm tour on June 11, 11-2 that will ensure their food budget goes twice as far.
As we look forward to another decade of feeding and growing community, a beloved CSA member has arranged for her Aztec dance troop to bless the farm. Following this, we will gather for a Barn Hug. All hands are needed to encircle the Big Red Barnthat has provided so much fun, shelter, and service. (Anyone have a drone that can photograph this event?).
So spread the word. It’s time for new beginnings – birthdays, graduations and a hopeful
Bring a friend, bring an instrument, bring a dish to share. Let’s celebrate!
His death seemed likely often yet I was stunned when it came.
There was the time he ate Avery’s pin cushion, a stuffed frog full of straight pins. We gave him a matter of hours before his gut was shredded. Instead, he nonchalantly threw up broken, half digested pins then returned to his sprawl on the floor, engaging in his favorite pastime: lunging at flies.
There was the first time he was hit by a car. His whimpering on the porch late one night was our only clue that he had been injured. Then there was the second time he was hit by a car…
Buddy was not promising from the beginning. One fine spring morning in 2008, an animal control officer called me from a rural vet’s office. Word was I wanted to adopt a Newfoundland. I had been on a secret quest for a lifeguard for our small children who swam in the Colorado at our River Farm. My plan was to surprise them with a fluffy puppy; however, what was on offer was a skeletal, abused black mop they estimated to be about two years old.
“We rescued him from an animal hoarder who stopped feeding him,” said the officer as he struggled to stand. Apart from his enormous head and floppy mouth, this mutt was not what I had in mind. But, he was the Keith Richards of dogs – mangy, beat up, and somehow irresistible. Needless to say, everyone was surprised when I brought him home.
What no one could anticipate was how after a few months of heaping bowls of giant dog food and love, he’d blossom into the largest lap dog you’d ever seen. As Skip says, he became our Clifford. True, he was a drooling, dirt encrusted, 145-pound black mutt that could incite terror by his mere presence, but if that’s all you saw, you missed the point entirely. He was all lover. He never wasted time with balls or jumping for Frisbees. He lived to smear slobber across your thighs in his persistent, clumsy attempts to nuzzle. His favorite place was in your arms, preferably in the middle of the massaging flow of the Colorado River.
Lucky for him, our community farm is full of visitors, campers and tubs of water. We created a “Grooming Basket” loaded with brushes and combs to not only assure children that he was gentle, but to coopt them into grooming, which required a battalion of helpers. We encouraged the kids to brush and release, brush and release. Over the years, several birds nests were found lined with his fluffy clumps.
Bud loved all farm guests. He took any quilt on the ground as an invitation to flop down in the middle, crush toys, knock over picnics, insist on love and drool on squealing vistors.
Though he was rarely the brightest bulb in the pack (why did he occasionally mark customers? Why did he repeatedly get sprayed in the face by skunks?), Bud taught me about discrimination and presumption as he unnerved canine and human alike.
“Does he bite?” the Hispanic teenagers would shout from across the street when I took him lumbering through our neighborhood. When we passed by the RV park next to our home, a chorus of RV-sized mini canines rang out in a frenzy of barking as he made his rounds. Chihuahuas were the worst, teeth bared, straining to get him. Bud stared down at them dumbfounded and moved on. He was a lover, not a fighter.
During a recent post-vet appointment meander down South Congress, a woman across the street shrieked. Bud and I looked around wondering what was the emergency. But she was yelling at us – “Is that a bear? I thought that was a bear. WHAT IS THAT?”
Even his canine partner, Boonie, a white Italian sheepdog (our first rescue dog), felt compelled to assert his dominance daily by humping Buddy’s face. As Boonie focused on thrusting, Buddy lay sprawled on our dusty dirt driveway, head between two huge paws not even flinching. You could almost see Bud’s little brown eyes roll in his head as he said to himself, “OK, little man, get it over with it.” Though visitors were appalled, we came to find comfort in the ritual “Face Hump,” which was as predictable as roosters crowing and people staring.
What folks (and Boonie) failed to understand, is that Buddy was really a big baby, who could by turns be embarrassed and silly.
Like when we had him shaved to the skin to alleviate his hot spots. The groomer had transformed his lionlike mane into an effette poodle leaving only fluffy ears and a pouf at the end of his tail. He was mortified. He raced into the house and hid for several days.
Or the time Skip bagged a deer and was looking forward to presenting this hard-won roast to the family. The meat was perfect, glistening and cooling on the kitchen island. Skip stepped out, forgetting that Bud’s mouth was table level. When the meat went missing we looked everywhere. In the garden, in the driveway where he took his dirt bathes. But, no, he had shoved it under Ethan’s bed, certain it would never be found.
He loved Ethan’s bed. That’s where he hid his treasures – purloined dinners, rotting carcasses excavated from the compost pile, gnawed crayons…Thunderstorms and firecrackers sent him racing into Ethan’s bedroom as he tried to shove himself under the twin bed. When that didn’t work, he thought nothing of catapulting his dripping, filthy self onto the mattress and under the sheets.
I loved our Bud, dirt and all. How I wish he were here to trek in more. Instead, he took an evening amble this week that ended badly. We guess he must’ve gone down to the river to cool off and a snake got him in the check. He died in our arms gasping as venom swelled his head and shut his throat. He deserved a better end, but given his proclivity for mishap and unprovoked aggression, perhaps not surprising. Our sweet Bud is gone and he has left a giant size hole in our hearts.
After so many gray, rainy days, we’re celebrating yellow. Time for new choices. With so many changes afoot on the farm, Robert Frost’s yellow wood inspires…
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
What an odd spring. So many surprises. So much rain.
This week, I’ve channeled my inability-to-plant-frustrations into gathering wildflowers for you. In this (gorgeous – thank you Kerstin!) photo you’ll see a pastel bundle featuring pinkish leek scapes, pale green horsemint, creamy yarrow, spiky blue salvia with some Johnson grass for bounce. Be sure to take a deep whiff of the horsemint and yarrow. That’s what our River Farm smells like, when it doesn’t reek of mud.
Despite the constant rain, we’ve been harvesting the first of our cultivated colors this week. Those of you who prefer familiar flowers — marigolds, sunflowers, celosia, etc. – should be pleased. The sunflowers we forced in the greenhouse have paid off given that the plants in our soggy fields won’t be blooming any time soon.
I’m tickled that I finally found a use for a plant that typically drives us nuts: Johnson grass. This plant seems impossible to eradicate from our vegetable fields and causes us much heartache. But, it seems to be doing the job in this week’s share. Let us know how it holds up for you.
Green Gate Farms Organic Flower CSA
Doncha’ love this week’s share photo by Kerstin Wiggins? Several of you have wondered what you’re getting. I hope this helps.
Stepdaughter Alex took the pretty photo (below) beside our Big Red Barn — the perfect place for photos. Come take some with your bouquet!