Remember those long -ago days when we talked about starting a Training Farm with youth programming during the summer-time on agriculture and business – and then having those youth sell at Market, at neighborhood farm stands, and maybe even to local restaurants?! And then the people (ie Coalition folks) voted on developing the training farm in East Waco. Well, well, well. we’ve come a long, long ways – and have officially signed a lease!!!

Not only has a lease been signed, but we’ve received a generous (VERY GENEROUS) donation to keep our lease for the next five years!!! And received seed funding to provide all the tools and irrigation and pay a Program Coordinator!!! But where is this so-called, soon to be fantabulous East Waco Training Farm?! Two blocks off the Brazos River, behind the old Farmers Market on Dallas street, on 2.5 sandy river-bottom acres. Rejoice! We’ll be sending out updates frequently exciting upcoming events – including a Groundbreaking and our initial work days that will start end of June/beginning of July!!!

After selling produce from the Tennyson Garden a few weekends at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, UGC staff wanted to the students decide how the money from sales of Swiss chard, basil, lacinato kale, and collards could be used to support other community projects.  The students decided on seven different possibilities for where their money could go:

  • Cancer patients and research
  • Nursing homes (for new beds and chairs)
  • Salvation Army (for food and hygiene supplies)
  • Homeless (for clothing, blankets, toiletries)
  • Animal shelters and charities
  • Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry
  • Another Community Garden

At our last Garden Club meeting before the Winter Break, students voted after munching on kale chips they had harvested, roasted, and seasoned.  Results showed that there was close competition between Cancer Research (9 votes) and Animal Charities (8 votes) – out of 21 voting students.  Students were also asked to support their vote with reasons why their cause was most important.  Some of the most insightful (and colorful) answers included:

  • “I would like to donate and help animal shelters.  Animals need to be cared for because humans have wiped out the places where they would live freely.”
  • “Animal shelters.  Why? Because I love animals.  Animals are people too.”
  • “I would like to support cancer [research] because my good friend from church died from cervical cancer and I wish she could’ve lived”
  • “My sister went to live with the Salvation Army and learned the hard way but I would like to donate [to the Salvation Army] so those who that happens to will be taken care of.”
  • “I had a great aunt who died from cancer recently, because she was stage four when she found out.  My grandma’s friend, Judy, also had breast cancer, but is currently very healthy.  I hope it would help, and I think cancer patients need it the most.  If the homeless/hungry people need money, I think they should get a job themselves.”

Because of the close tallies of Cancer Research and Animal Shelters, students will be voting on their final charity today at Garden Club (January 10th).  Stay tuned . . .

Follow to the Urban Gardening Coalition’s blog for more updates on the Tennyson Middle School Garden and the Sodexo School Engagment Grant!

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CHILDHOOD HUNGER

Sodexo is underwriting this program because they expressly want to engage students on the issue of childhood hunger.  Although it is often difficult to isolate children from a hungry family, or from the broader underlying issues of poverty and homelessness, this progaram’s focus is on bringing food resources to children, and on increasing awareness of the crisis of hunger as it affects the children in thea community.

At the beginning of the school year, the Urban Gardening Coalition was notified that the school garden program at Tennyson Middle School would be receiving a Sodexo School Engagement Grant in partnership with Youth Service America - a grant which utilizes service-learning as a means to empower students to learn about impact childhood hunger and nutrition in their communities.

Each week, UGC staff members meet with students from Tennyson Middle School to work, weed, water, and harvest produce from the School Garden, in addition to preparing healthy snacks using garden fresh produce, learning about healthy and balanced diets, and distributing extra produce through the Waco Downtown Farmers Market and local hunger programs.  Money generated through produce sales at the WDFM will be donated to a local charity as decided upon Tennyson Garden Club students.

UGC also hopes to deepen partnerships within Tennyson Middle School by working with teacher Mary Duty (Social Studies Department chair) and the Life Skills Class.  Mary Duty has worked with the garden in the past to harvest produce used in the soup for Caritas’ Feast of Caring in the spring.  The Life Skills Class is planning to maintain a few beds in the garden – as well as partnering with Baylor Campus Kitchens, who will be leading nutrition and cooking lessons with Tennyson students.

Follow to the Urban Gardening Coalition’s blog for more updates on the Tennyson Middle School Garden and the Sodexo School Engagment Grant!

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

CHILDHOOD HUNGER

Sodexo is underwriting this program because they expressly want to engage students on the issue of childhood hunger.  Although it is often difficult to isolate children from a hungry family, or from the broader underlying issues of poverty and homelessness, this progaram’s focus is on bringing food resources to children, and on increasing awareness of the crisis of hunger as it affects the children in thea community.

 

 

Taken from the FARFA website, regarding the Cottage Food Bill and other similar bills this past legislative season . . .

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FARFA worked on several bills in the regular 2011 Texas legislative session.  While the raw milk bill (HB 75/ SB 237) died, portions of the cottage foods (HB 1139 and HB 2084) and farmers market (HB 3387) bills were passed within SB 81.  Specifically, under SB 81, small-scale producers of low-risk foods are exempt from regulation under the following conditions:

1)  They are selling non-hazardous baked goods, canned jams or jellies, or dried herbs directly to consumers;

2) They make $50,000 or less in gross sales of these foods;

3) They sell from their home; and

4) They label the food with a label that includes the name and address of the producer, and a statement that the food is not inspected by the state or local health departments. (The Department of State Health Services will adopt a rule governing the labeling requirement)

SB 81 also includes two provisions to help farmers market vendors:

1)  Clarifies that farmers and food vendors at farmers markets can obtain temporary food establishment permits for up to one year, without limiting permits based on the number of days during which the farmers market takes place.  This provision recognizes that farmers markets are special events regardless of the number of days that they occur on, while providing the flexibility for local governments to decide the best option for their jurisdiction.

2) Prevents mandatory mechanical refrigeration or electric heating requirements.  While the state and local health departments can still adopt rules governing what temperatures foods must be kept at (to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot), they cannot dictate the specific method by which the farmer or vendor meets these requirements.  The only exception would be when a municipality owns the farmer’s market.  In those cases, the municipality may specify the method to comply with food temperatures.

These farmers market provisions do not apply in counties with a population of less than 50,000 people and over which no local health department has jurisdiction.

Read the entire text of SB 81

OTHER BILLS OF INTEREST

To read the full text of each bill, click on the link with the bill number.

HB 268 – Relating to the exemption from sales and use taxes … for timber and certain items used in or on a farm, ranch, timber operation, or agricultural aircraft operation.

HB 274 – Relating to the reform of certain remedies and procedures in civil actions and family law matters, referred to as “Loser pays.”  This bill will make it more difficult for individuals and small nonprofits to take on large corporations in the Texas courts.

HB 414 – Relating to the regulation of equine dentistry and the conducting of licensing examinations by the State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.  Background:  in 2006 the Texas Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners established a rule that floating horses’ teeth was veterinary medicine. After several lawsuits and multiple bill introductions, a bill was passed this session that makes floating a horses’ teeth a veterinary procedure, but allows non-veterinarians the ability to provide this service under “appropriate” supervision of the veterinarian.

HB 1451 – Relating to the licensing and regulation of certain dog and cat breeders; providing penalties.

HB 1992 – Relating to the authority of the Texas Animal Health Commission to set and collect fees.  Provides authority to TAHC to set fees “for any service provided by the commission” through 2015.

HB 2471 – Relating to limiting the civil liability of certain persons who obtain or provide medical care and treatment for certain animals.

HB 2994 – Relating to the creation, operation, and funding of the urban farm microenterprise support program.

SB 18 – Relating to the use of eminent domain authority.

SB 89 – Relating to summer nutrition programs provided for by school districts.

SB 199 – Relating to agricultural projects in certain schools, including the eligibility of nonprofit organizations that partner with schools to receive grants.  Authorizes TDA to provide grants to nonprofits that partner with schools in urban districts to demonstrate projects designed to foster an understanding and awareness of agriculture.

SB 332 – Relating to the ownership of groundwater below the surface of land, the right to produce that groundwater, and the management of groundwater in this state.

SB 387 – Relating to the sale and consumption in this state of raw oysters harvested from Texas waters.

SB 449 – Relating to the appraisal for ad valorem tax purposes of open-space land devoted to water stewardship purposes on the basis of its productive capacity.

SB 479 – Relating to limiting the liability of certain persons for farm animal activities.  Extends the protections against liability  that are currently provided for equine activities to all farm animal activities, such as fairs, rodeos, and parades.


9/11 Service-Learning Grants

Available to youth ages 5-25 and teachers/educators who work with youth ages 5-25, YSA will award 10-20 $500 or $1,000 grants to youth-led projects that address important community needs while helping youth – many of who have no first hand memory of the event – remember and honor the 9/11 victims and their families, understand the significance of the event, and commit to sustaining our democracy through service. Projects will need to address one of YSA’s 9 for 9/11 – 9 lessons from the event and related ideas for service-learning projects. Grant applicants can also suggest a 10th lesson for the 10th anniversary. (Download the 9 for 9/11 at http://tools.ysa.org/downloads/ysa/9for911.pdf) The application deadline is Friday, June 17. Learn more at www.YSA.org/grants/911

Robert Mondavi’s Community Gardening Heroes $20,000 5/22 Community garden, expansion
Preventing Childhood Obesity Article $250 5/30 Gardening, childhood obesity, article
Yes to Seed Garden Fund $500 for school gardens 5/31 School gardens
Fosters Community Grants n/a 5/31 Community wellness, environment
Nature‘s Path Garden Grant Contest $50,000 5/31 Community organization, 501c3, organic gardening
TX Healthy Habitat Grant Program $10,000 5/31 School – 5-12 grades, non-profit, nature

URGENT: Please call to support local foods bills – HB 2084 and HB 3387 – in Texas

Right now, anyone who wants to bake a few pies or make a few jars of jam to sell to their friends and neighbors must have a commercial kitchen and be inspected by the state.  The regulatory requirements can cost over ten thousand dollars, hurting small businesses and preventing start-ups from having a chance.

HB 2084, the local and “cottage foods” bill, would allow small-scale producers selling low-risk foods — baked goods, jams, and dried herbs — directly to consumers to do so without these expenses.  The bill benefits local economies and small businesses by removing unnecessary regulatory burdens and promoting local food production.  HB 2084 recognizes that food produced on a small-scale and sold directly to consumers is different than food produced by the massive industrialized system in which the major food safety problems have occurred.

Additionally, HB 2084 helps local foods even more by calling for legislative hearings on issues such as the regulatory fees imposed on artisan cheesemakers, the barriers to food stamp beneficiaries being able to buy fresh produce at farmers markets, and the property tax problems faced by community gardens, urban farms, and sustainable farmers.

Another local foods bill, HB 3387, would establish clear, reasonable standards for farmers’ markets and protect against some unduly burdensome regulations.

HB 2084 and HB 3387 provide vital support for the local foods movement in Texas.  Please help us get these wonderful bills passed!  The deadline for the Texas House to approve House Bills is this week, so we need your calls in support as soon as possible.

TAKE ACTION

1) Call your State Representative and urge him or her to vote YES on HB 2084 and HB 3387.

You can call the Capitol Switchboard at 512-463-4630 and ask to be connected to your Representative’s office, or you can look up who represents you online at http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us

The legislators are working long hours, so you can call at any time of the day.  If you get their voice mail, leave a message saying: “Hi, my name is ____.   I am a constituent.  I urge Representative ______ to vote Yes on both HB 2084 and HB 3387.  Thank you.”

2) Call your State Senator and ask him or her to sponsor HB 2084 and HB 3387 and support them in the Senate.


MORE INFORMATION

You can read the full text of HB 2084 and HB 3387 on the Texas legislative website

Under current law, anyone who prepares any food for sale must have a commercial kitchen license.  The cost of a commercial kitchen can be prohibitive for start-up businesses and small-scale producers.

HB 2084 would allow small-scale producers selling specific low-risk foods directly to consumers to do so without the expense and burdens of the current commercial kitchen requirements. The listed foods are baked goods, jams, jellies, and dried herbs, all of which are recognized as non-hazardous by FDA. Individuals selling less than $50,000 of these foods directly to consumers either from their own home or at a farmers market would be exempt from regulation.

At least eighteen other states have similar laws already on the books: Alabama, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming.

HB 2084 was unanimously approved by the Public Health Committee. Over 150 people and organizations registered in support, including the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Sustainable Food Center, Texas Impact, and Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association.

HB 2084 also helps local foods by calling for legislative hearings on the following issues:

*  Helping small-scale cheesemakers: Due to a 2007 bill, fees on small-scale cheesemakers and dairy producers have gone up from as little as $52/yr to as much as $600/yr, depending on the size of the producer and their source of milk.  These fees threaten to drive small producers out of business.

*  Improving access to healthy, local foods for low-income individuals: The SNAP program (formerly Food Stamps) is administered at the state level using Electronic Benefits Transfer (“EBT”), similar to debit cards. The state provides EBT terminals to retailers, but these wired terminals are not practical for outdoor farmers’ markets. Farmers markets provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables in “food deserts” and underserved communities with less overhead expense and construction time as compared to establishing a supermarket or grocery store.

*  Providing for fair property tax treatment: Under Section 23.51 of the Tax Code, “qualified open space land” includes land “devoted principally to agricultural use to the degree of intensity generally accepted in the area.” But community gardens, urban farms, family farms raising fruits and vegetables, and sustainable livestock farms have often been denied fair property tax valuations under the claim that they are not truly “agricultural” uses.  If the land is being used primarily to produce food to feed people, it should be valued as such.

HB 3387, the “farmers’ market bill,” sets clear, reasonable standards for sampling foods at farmers markets; clarifies that permits can be granted to prepare food on-site year-round, without limitations on the number of days; and bars unnecessary and burdensome regulations that require mechanical refrigeration to keep foods cold.

For more information, go to www.FarmAndRanchFreedom.org

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