The first humans to grow food were likely women. That’s what I’ve concluded, anyway. The first archeological evidence of farming dates the DNA of humans in the Fertile Crescent and their grain to be 10,000-12,0000 years old. Multitudes of journals detail, and of course debate, the findings: Why did they farm? What drove nomadic cultures known 40,000 years prior to only roam? To begin changing their ways? When I think about it and what I know of the earth herself, I like to imagine that as people sought ways to begin settling into more stillness and grow more food to diversify due to climate change; the men went on hunting and gathering and the women stayed behind with the children and began creating a home. Whether it was simple curiosity or intuition or by some instruction, one day some lovely woman, perhaps with her youngest child strapped on her back, dropped seeds into the moist ground. Then one day, there was a sprout – a delicate miracle: she grew food. Eventually, this miraculous event would alter our ancestors lives and rapidly revolutionize agriculture. Tribes of communities and then villages and towns were built around domesticated animals and plants. At the beginning, there was a woman.
When I arrived at Boggy Creek this past Wednesday, it was market day. It was
my first time on the property, so I got there a bit earlier than planned so I could wander around. After speaking to Larry briefly and leaving him to tend to some business, I walked around structures until I came upon his wife Carol Ann in the front rows, speaking with two workers in Spanish. Out of sight, I simply watched as she explained the quantities and order of what needed doing to the two women – the priority was on picking produce for a new restaurant order that was to be delivered that same afternoon. I then watched her walk the long 200+ foot rows stopping here and there to look at something or pick a weed. I was hypnotized by her beautiful strength and grace – assured grace because with over 25 years logged there, her feet have walked the hollowed ground enough to do it in her sleep. As she picked fuchsia flowers, I finally walked over to interrupt and introduce myself.
Passionate about the right to grow real food that isn’t full of pesticides, Larry said, “We wanted to feed people.” They bought five acres in East Austin, increased production, and got certified organic in 1991. When they started out, there wasn’t any online catalog to look to for advice. It was the beginning of the urban farm movement – they were the beginning. But as individuals, they are both determined people. As a team, they are bonafide. So, they simply did what others like them did before – trusted their vision, trusted the land would provide and then trusted each other. They explained that not having any debt helped and land in east Austin was super cheap. Small-scale production began in 1991 and their first commercial success occurred in 1992 when Whole Foods began buying and selling those infamous tomatoes.
Ask most farmers in the greater Austin metro, or Texas for that matter, who the pioneers of urban farming are around here and I bet it’s unanimous. Most budding farmers in the area at some point whether directly or indirectly, firmed his hands and know-how in the same fertile bottom land, near Springdale and Lyons road. A lot of entrepreneurs would be satisfied with leaving it at that – to let history show they were one of the first organic urban farms in the country. But for Larry and Carol Ann, it’s about much more than the past. They are now at the beginning stages of crystalizing a new vision. Once realized, it will make them architects of the kind of legacy that is much bigger than their impressive long relationship with the largest natural food store chain in the United States.
With the help and encouragement of enthusiastic friends and family, Boggy Creek plans to become a foundation where interested people can gain access to in-depth knowledge of farm stewardship, learning to grow food for future generations. In an economy (and city) that no longer makes starting a farm accessible to most of us and in fact makes it almost impossible due to federal and state regulations – Larry and Carol Ann have made it their mission to see that what they started 25 years ago continues to nourish and sustain others, long after they themselves physically labor in the field. That is a legacy of the highest nature.
What gives you abundance? What likens you to a mid-July downpour or a bountiful harvest that honors the earth and feeds your neighbors? I encourage you to find ways, daily, to create that abundance in enough measure for yourself that you also have a reserve to share with others.
peace and loveliest of days,