The end of the year is a good time to think about how you got to where you are.  Here’s how the adventure started for us:

“I take you to be my wedded husband… and I promise you my love… without any limits… to accept the things you believe… to be near you whenever you need me… to trust in your love for me… I promise to plan with you… and to dream with you… and to do my best to show you… how much I love you. All the days of my life…

When Skip and I made this oath on our wedding day 14 years ago, little did we know this vow would birth Green Gate Farms.

Despite our successful careers in public health, Skip’s dream was to return to farming (and I vowed to support his dreams, right?).  So we plunged in, jettisoning our comfortable middle-class lives with two kids under five in tow. This was a terrifying decision. Yet, after years of writing about health, we were inspired to put our knowledge into action.

Fortunately, volunteers arrived in the nick of time. Thanks to many of you, a derelict, historic farm site has been revived into a community center that feeds and nurtures neighbors of all incomes.  Green Gate Farms provides certified organic vegetables, flowers and meats, through our Community Supported Ag programs, Sponsored Shares and farm stand. But there is more to do.

This year our community-based farm took a long awaited step with the creation of New Farm Instititute (NFI), the education arm of Green Gate Farms.  This 501©3 formalizes the on-farm education initiatives and will help us fund more programs for all ages and abilities (and maybe we’ll win Austin Chronicle’s “Best place to see food grow” again). This is some of what’s planned:

  • More campers: Our goal is for 300 adult and child campers to get their hands dirty in 2012 at camps and at workshops on Beekeeping, Seed-saving, Butchering, Plowing with a Horse, and other farm topics. We’ve created the “Second Helpings” product line with chefs at Natural Epicurean to help fund a Scholarship program for qualifying campers.
  • Maintain an open-door policy: Welcoming and training up to 5,000 volunteers, teachers, school children and professionals each year is how we help our neighbors develop an intimate appreciation for local, certified organic food. With funding, we can hire staff to keep the barn door open yearround.
  • Expand Texas’s First Incubator Farm: Land for aspiring farmers has been set aside on our farm, sustainable housing has been designed by Stanley Studios, and a curriculum that pairs experienced farmers with those beginning their journey is underway. All that’s needed now is funding to help grow more farmers for Central Texas.
  •  More Partnerships: Raise awareness about our Sponsored Shares program that benefits underserved children and families at Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity and UT Charter Elementary School. Help feed people in need. It’s easy.

Remember that giddy feeling you had after a date with “the right one?”  That’s how we feel about New Farm Institute. As the local food movement gains momentum, great changes are coming. We envision new organic farmers growing a green ring around Austin, fueling a delicious revolution. You can help make that happen.

You’re encouraged to donate your ideas, your time, your trash (you never know what we can use), and your cash. Donate here!  Whatever you’d like to give to Austin’s newest nonprofit is greatly appreciated. To those who have already given this year, thank you for believing in the dream and supporting farm-based education. You rock.

Thanks for the energy, enthusiasm and support that makes our work possible,
Erin Flynn, NFI Executive Director  +  Skip Connett, NFI President