It’s good that I’m not a business executive. Beside the fact that I’d make a lousy CEO – or even mid-level manager – I’m not well-versed in meetings, and I know business execs spend an inordinate amount of time meeting with somebody or other. Often, particularly on Wednesdays, a customer rushes up to the farm stand and breathlessly explains, “I couldn’t get here earlier because I was stuck in a meeting!”

I had to laugh when a customer at the Jollyville Road stand described the meeting he’d been itching to get away from that morning: “It was like asking, ‘Is there anything else someone doesn’t have to say?’ and then they all started talking again…”

Now, I knew beforehand that the meeting I attended last week would have substance, but wondered what I’d contribute to it. (As it turned out, not much.) Edible Austin magazine had organized a roundtable discussion between some area farmers, restaurants and “end-sellers” like Wheatsville, Whole Foods Market and others. Normally, neither Farmer John nor I would opt to go to something like that, but as it was invitation-only, we felt like one of us should represent. And the “one of us” would be me.

I’ll admit I didn’t argue about going. After all, it was being held at the beautiful Barr Mansion and it included morning snacks, an all-organic lunch (all the food served at Barr Mansion is certified organic) and beverages. At the very least, I was sure to eat well. And as a bonus, I drove away from the farm while everyone left behind huddled in the drizzly rain picking lettuce mix.

I’m learning that attending a meeting isn’t always a bad thing.

The meeting was extremely well-run, with a professional facilitator leading the way so the agenda items could all be accomplished within the designated four-hour period. After the facilitator laid the initial ground rules for the meeting, she suggested that anyone needing a “bio break” should take one at that point.

A bio break? Everyone glanced around, puzzled, until it slowly dawned on us that she was instructing us to visit the restroom (i.e., the facilitator was suggesting we use the facilities). It took me a little longer than most to figure it out, especially since my hearing isn’t the best in the world. When she said “bio break,” I heard “bayou break”…as if we should go outside to find some swampland – it was raining after all – in which to relieve ourselves.

For a split second, it crossed my mind how much easier that would be for the men.

(The farm was still pretty darned swampy from all the rain, so I’m blaming that for my misunderstanding too.)

All in all, the meeting was a positive experience. I always enjoy an opportunity to spend some time with other farmers, and it was interesting to get a glimpse into the end-sellers’ vantage points about the local food movement.

One of them in particular was extremely enthusiastic, and spoke up several times. The more comments he made, however, the more obvious it was that his perception of farming was a little skewed. I was sitting beside Barr Mansion’s food buyer – a non-farmer – and even she leaned my way and whispered, “I think he needs to spend some time on a farm.”

It was mainly because of the shovels. This end-seller was at the front of the room, detailing the potential benefits the farmers could enjoy by belonging to a purchasing group. “Rather than buying just one…” he paused for a moment to think of an example… “shovel, you could all get together and purchase an entire GROSS of shovels!” As if we farmer-types spend much of our day shoveling. And can’t afford enough shovels to do the job.

This is our farm’s inventory of shovels.

I believe we’ve owned these same shovels the entire eleven years we’ve been in business. Truth be told, when we consider the number of hours we shovel as compared to how much we use all the other farm tools and equipment, the percentage of shovel time isn’t really very high. A new shovel is not on our wish list right now, nor do I foresee worrying about budgeting for another shovel in the near future.

Though I suppose when one goes out into the bayou – for any reason – a shovel might come in handy.

* * *
Here’s what we’ll be bringing to the farm stand this Wednesday:

The first spring broccoli (I don’t know yet how much we’ll have, but we’re hoping for a lot!); beautiful lettuce mix; lettuce/chicory salad mix; young spinach from the new crop; Asian greens mix; the first of the arugula; bunches of green onions; green garlic; bunches of leeks (dug with a shovel!); bags of chard; broccoli greens (a delicious substitute for dinosaur kale); curly kale; collards; and some brussels sprouts.

**Barr Mansion will be cooking up some of their wonderful organic dishes for a TOFGA (Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) fundraising brunch on Sunday, March 28 at 11:00 a.m. Food and sponsors include Angel Valley Farm (you may have heard of them!), Boggy Creek Farm, Coyote Creek Feed Mill, Lund Produce, Shades of Green and Johnson’s Backyard Garden. Tickets are $50, and all proceeds benefit TOFGA. If you’d like to attend what is sure to be a lovely and delicious event, email Valerie@BarrMansion.com.

Thanks!
Jo Dwyer
Angel Valley Organic Farm

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