Five years ago Erin Flynn and her husband Skip took a crazy leap of faith: They left their comfortable health policy jobs in Georgia and moved with their two children Ethan, 8, and Avery, 9, to a farm in rural Texas. Green Gate Farm, a short drive from Austin, Texas, is a small certified organic farm of only five acres, but it serves a huge community, and has become an invaluable resource to local residents.
The farm operates year-round, and contains sheep, ducks and chickens, and a variety of crops. They operate a thriving CSA and play host to thousands of visitors a year. And that's why Erin, Skip and Green Gate are featured in Eating Local: The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers by Janet Fletcher. Here, Erin shares what inspired her to take the leap into farming, the most surprising things about life on a farm and why we should all care about where our food comes from.
How did you get into farming?
My family has ranched in Texas for generations and my husband Skip was raised in a farm in Pennsylvania. He always wanted to get back to it, whereas I wanted nothing to do with it. But then, I was working at the American Cancer Society and it became really clear to me how our diet causes disease. It just grabbed me and opened my eyes.
Okay, but theres a huge leap from recognizing the importance of diet and health to buying a farm.
Yes, it was a huge risk and it was extremely difficult. At the same time, people need to act on their dreams.
Make no mistake its relentless work. And its difficult it is to make a living. I understand that people dont want to pay much for their food, but farmers should be allowed to make a living and most of us arent.
Do you and Skip do all the work yourself?
There is no way you can do it by yourself. We have workshares a group of people who get a discount on their food and work part-time. We also have two full time workers and volunteers. Were really really fortunate because of our location. Austins a very creative and open-minded place. We have a very willing population who is motivated to support local food.
Tell us about your CSA program.
We take the community part of "community supported agriculture" really seriously. We have people who are really committed to our farm and like to have kids come out and experience the place.
I was raised with access to a farm, but a lot of people who come to this farm dont have that tie. They have no idea that potatoes are grown in the ground. Theres some basic information they dont have. They also dont have the opportunity to experience how rich a slow life can be.
What do you hope people take away on their visit?
That farming is a lot more than food. Farming is preserving opening space. Farming is beautiful. It pleases the senses. Its so much more than "how much is that tomato?" I think thats why a CSA is so nurturing to the soul if you really engage.
I think that some people think of farming as going back in time, but were really not interested in that. I think what were doing is cutting edge and very much about the future.
Whats the most challenging thing about farming?
Making a living. And also, feeling like a pioneer in terms of creating infrastructure to support urban farms. Theres so many obstacles to our success: Small farms arent at the policy table and what were doing is very different from what farming used to be, which was a family empire. The goal was always to make your empire larger. But this is about using a small amount of land to benefit a huge amount of people.
Why should Americans care about small farms?
Its a really soulful experience. The people that were dealing with tell us were changing their lives. I feel honored to have that opportunity.
From a public health point of view, people dont realize that so much of disease can be prevented. Our society is not set up for prevention, its set up for treatment. Organic farming is all about healing the body and the mind. It radiates well beyond the farm.
Farming is healing to the soil, the body and the spirit. And I mean that in a really urgent kind of way. People need to come together and a community farm is a great place to get started. We deal with all those issues that affect your life. We deal with what you put in your mouth, how you move your body, how you relate to your neighbors and what your city looks like.
People have so much power to control their health and their quality of life.
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