Four years ago, the USDA’s Census of Agriculture data revealed historical growth in small acreage farming operations, and spotlighted a maturing $3.16 billion organics industry (including over 14,500 organic farms and ranches) that was poised to grow. These agricultural trends hinted of major transformations underway in food systems across America.
In Central Texas it’s hard not to notice a tremendous energy around the local food system, coalescing from viewpoints of public and personal health, ecological stewardship, and equitable food access. Around the same time as the USDA’s Organic Survey, Austin/Travis County created the advisory Sustainable Food Policy Board to “improve the availability of safe, nutritious, locally, and sustainably-grown food.” Soon after, the City of Austin created a Department of Sustainable Agriculture and Community Gardens, and Texas House Representative Eddie Rodriguez chartered the nation’s first bipartisan Farm to Table Caucus. Meanwhile, the numbers of local farmers’ markets, farm stands, CSA (community supported agriculture) subscriptions, and school gardens have proliferated.
With this focus on fresh foods and sustainability, many Central Texans are transforming yards into gardens, some complete with fruit trees, layer chickens, and honey bees. Rising in step with this local food movement is some residents’ interest in producing food for sale through sustainable or organic small acreage farming operations.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Travis County recognizes the important role that small-acreage farmers hold in Central Texas’ community, economic, and food-system development. As such, we are working to connect farmers to the vast, science-driven knowledge of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, and build a robust set of educational resources for both current and aspiring urban farmers in Central Texas.