Urban farm tour gives insight into small farm struggles




Posted on April 15, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Updated Sunday, Apr 15 at 6:41 PM

AUSTIN -- From the crop covered furrows, to every resident creature, it's far from what Carol Ann Sayle would call an accident.

"It's the miracle of germination," Sayle smiled. "It's the miracle of surviving the weather, it's the miracle of the people coming to buy the fruits of our labor, literally."

Twenty years ago, Sayle's five acres of farmland was a junkyard. Today, it's Boggy Creek Farms, a quiet piece of nature only occasionally broken by the sound of a city bus.

"We just had this idea that we could farm in the city," Sayle said. "This is some of the best soil in the world. This is bottom land."

Sunday, Sayle showed every inch of it off as one of four farms in the East Austin Urban Farm Tour. In exchange, visitors supported the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a statewide group pushing for fair treatment of small farms.

"We write our letters, we make our phone calls, but usually we don't have a lot of time for that because farming is a sun up to sun down job and usually seven days a week," Sayle said.

Animal regulation is one of the biggest fights for small farmers. For example, one proposal allows industrial chicken farms to operate under just one permit whereas Boggy Creek would potentially have to label every chicken individually to monitor their activity.

"There's the energy behind the local foods, but unfortunately energy behind the agribusiness regulation side too," explained Alliance director Judith McGeary.

McGeary said some regulations are so strong if they were fully enforced many farms would be out of business. The fear is lose the farm and lose the neighborhood.  At nearby Haus Bar Farms, the chicken coops come with a history.

"Used to be a crack house," sighed Hans Friedrich. "The minute we knew there was going to be a farm next door it was like a dream."

"Whether there's going to be change at the policy level really depends on whether people, individuals out there speak up for their farmers," McGeary said.

For more information on Boggy Creek Farm and other urban farms click here.