food

A Nurturing Tradition

At the intersection of of Manor Road and Rogge Lane sits a house on a vast yard. On one side, the grass grows wild with barely enough control to stay within the fence. On the other side, rows of beets, carrots, turnips and broccolini appear, responding to the rain and the unseasonably warm weather. Not long after seeing the crops, I see Tiffany Washington herself, dropped off by her husband for their family dream, wearing overalls in an ideal depiction of how one would see a farmer. As we pick weeds, she tells me about her vision.

Currently, Dobbins-Kauv Garden Farm is a quarter acre, worked entirely by Ms. Washington and her family, and the land is leased out to tenants who live in the house while the Washingtons cultivate. At the end of the lease, she is gathering resources to either continue leasing or to potentially buy the land. In addition to the farm, her vision includes a cooperative kitchen and office with organic food supplied by the farm. At this moment, though, she is developing a greenhouse environment after having laid the beds and grown the produce from seeds.

Turnips and beets

Other than the duplex, the land was a vacant lot before the rise of community supported agriculture (“CSA”), and Ms. Washington offered to develop the land with her family. She would prefer a CSA with about 10-15 families because of the amount of prep work, but cringes at the licensing and paperwork to make the land a fully functional farm. It is important that it remains small at this point because of the administrative barriers to labeling the area as a farm. While she gathers a weeder, she combs through the weeds and tells me about her grandmother, Dorothy Turner, who stood on the Black Citizens Task Force in Austin before creating the non-profit “Jump On It.”

While the Black Citizens Task Force is barely noted in city council meeting minutes, it came about to combat the inequality suffered by Black people during the 1970s. Dorothy Turner and her colleagues directly addressed systemic issues such as police brutality and avoiding economic development. There was a growing concern that the only purpose of the downtown area was to make money, and the Black Citizens Task Force felt that if money was spent “improving” downtown, Black people would be pushed further out as the Black communities rarely received public investment. Moreover, the Black Citizens Task Force advocated for a group to work directly with the police department to shore up neighborhood relations in light of the existing tensions.

Like so many groups without extensive resources, the Black Citizens Task Force faded away even though it had accomplished the monumental feat of being included on a pay equity task force by the city and to monitor police activity. Not one to stand idle, Dorothy Turner wanted to come up with free entertainment for children to keep them occupied during the summers. “Jump On It” was managed by her until her death, and Ms. Washington has done her best to not let the work of her grandmother grow tarnished. After all, it was her grandmother that taught her to look after her community, only Ms. Washington approaches community care in the form of nutrition.

Blooming broccolini

All of her radishes, beets, spinach, collards, broccolini and carrots are grown organically with no pesticides because Ms. Washington knows that the Black community would also enjoy affordable access to healthy foods. At the moment, she continues to grow her crops while teaching her children how to tend, but she is reaching out to neighbors and working to build a customer base. Like most entrepreneurs, she would rather be busy working than waiting but like a farmer, she knows that her seeds have been planted and she just needs to keep cultivating to harvest a bounty.

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