Urban farms are a welcome trend in conjunction with community gardens, but one of the big hindrances to cultivation is that many farms require more land and more work. For many, though, urban farms have been a predominantly White venture which further spreads the notion that communities of color are disengaged with healthy diet practices. Surprisingly, even in a city as segregated and racially divided as Austin, Texas, there is a healthy representation of who believes farming to be important and worth preserving. As a treat to myself, I went on a bike tour hosted by Ghisallo Cycling Initiative to see both of Austin’s urban farms, both located in East Austin.
Boggy Creek Farms, like the Festival Beach Community Garden and Food Forest, has been in existence since before the Civil War, no mean feat for a complex in East Austin. In addition to serving as a farm that sends goods to a farmers’ market, there is housing on-site in a bid for agritourism. Boggy Creek uses little to no pesticides and is a no-tilling farm, leaving hidden seeds within the soil until they eventually germinate. Chickens are raised on a small scale because everything is on a small scale; this farm is only 5 acres, and manages to yield enough produce to bring to market.
Up the road lies Urban Roots, which is not only accessible by bus and bike, but has diverse staff and leadership, affirming that everyone on a global level has an interest in how food is produced. Not only does the farm show up during every farmers’ market, the youth engaged with the farm came from a variety of backgrounds, which they shared on the tour. While being a working farm, Urban Roots fully engages with the community both with youth and with multiple volunteer days. Like Boggy Creek, Urban Roots is also small scale at 3.5 acres, and offers paid internships, unlike many nonprofits.
In Texas, the image invoked when thinking of farms is grand scale, expensive farms that are mostly too expensive to obtain or maintain. By showing people that small-scale farming is just as valuable, the lawn trend can slowly die. After all, if only 3.5-5 acres yields enough harvest for farmers’ markets, home gardens should be enough to feed families.