I’ve been accused of rushing through life, rarely slowing down for rest and repair. The universe has sent me loud and clear messages lately but apparently I didn’t hear them. Or they got sent to junk mail.


The message finally came through loud and clear at 9 a.m. on Aug 23, when literally I came to a crashing halt. I could have suggested a less painful way to get my attention – a slap across the face, say, or four flat tires. Then again, I probably would have rushed to the wrong conclusion.


I was headed north on Highway 183 in our Sprinter van to pick up a workbench. Just as I approached the intersection of Loyola Avenue, a black Toyota Tundra heading southbound did the unthinkable and made a left turn while the traffic I was in – traveling at 55 mph — had a green light. Bang! I hit it broadside. And then the curtain dropped.


Bang! Bang! With the airbag smack in my face, I couldn’t see what I was hitting but I could hear it (finally) and feel it (totally). I was paying attention this time. All I remember was my truck coming to rest at the bottom of the embankment, stumbling out, clutching my neck, cursing at the family in the black pickup down there with me, and wondering how they could have survived the impact.


I won’t repeat what I said but I owed them an apology. It turns out I totaled two pickup trucks (and a traffic control box) that morning and by coincidence both of them were black. Back up the hill and out of sight, the truck at fault had been propelled 100 feet in the opposite direction and now lay crumpled in the median. Fortunately, no one was riding with the driver who miraculously walked away from the scene.


As a police beat reporter many years ago, I saw my share of bad accidents. Mine was frightfully serious but no one was severely injured. Looking back at the path my van traveled, I was awed more by what I didn’t hit – metal telephone and electric poles, culverts, and utilities just inches away on either side. And also by the sturdiness of the Sprinter with its Mercedes chassis, airbags, and headrests.


The van was totaled but somehow I wasn’t. I walked away with a broken toe and a wrenched neck. That’s not to say I’m all right. Pain in the neck is not a phrase I’ll use lightly again. You start to worry that the pain is permanent. And if something else is permanent, too – the quiet reign of terror that creeps into your sleep and lurks around every intersection.


Also crashing to a halt with me were our plans for the fall season. Because of the drought and staffing issues, we delayed the CSA start until mid-October. Now it will be more like mid-November, if we are lucky. Adding to our worries about lack of transportation and income is that our landlord has increased the rent at our intown farm, while Bastrop County has denied our ag exemption for a second year in a row because they don’t understand organic vegetable farming. This means that instead of our River Farm being taxed at an agricultural rate of about $1,200 we will be taxed at nearly $10,000.


As we sort through these challenges (and the pain in my neck), we have been buoyed by the encouragement of our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) members who have offered to help drive the kids to school and gifts of massage.


What is needed most now is to restore one of the tenants of a CSA — a member’s sense of ownership in a farm. That is particularly true of the city farm. Erin and I have invested our personal savings, sweat and tears into a property we don’t own to produce food and community and earth-wise customers. We’ve had incredible help every inch of the way and more is needed to ready our Community Farm for Fall.


As we begin our ninth year of farming, our plans are simple:

Improve infrastructure (walk-in, greenhouse, storage, housing)

Develop Education Center (build new livestock areas, finish pavilion, create outdoor learning stations, teach more students)

Serve our neighbors (expand farm stand, classes, trade food for work, camps)


Here’s how you can help:

Farm Clean-up Day, Saturday, September 13, 9-5:Carpenters, painters, plumbers and workers of all ages welcome as we revive the farm from its crispy siesta. Help plant onions and garlic, get plants started in greenhouse. Participants encouraged to picnic in the Children’s Garden, attend Farm Talk on “Starting Your Fall Garden”


Buy Pork or Pigs: Delicious shares of Guinea Hog pork available $50-$500. Live animals (Guinea and Heritage hogs) also available, all ages and sizes, $50 and up.


School to Farm, Sponsor a Visit: Encourage your teacher and human resource pals to book a tour/service learning activity tailored to the group. Just $10 per person. Sponsors needed to fund requests from underserved schools.


October Workshops: Bees and Butchering classes being scheduled for rabbit, pig and chicken…email us to reserve your spot, info@newfarminstitute.org


Landscaper and Lawyer: Identify/fund landscaper to mow, tidy up the farms; a lawyer to take up our case against Bastrop County.


Donate to New Farm Institute: Help fund a first-rate farm-based education program for Austin! See www.newfarminstitute.org