For three years, we battled the County to find a solution to the loss of our groundwater caused by their pumping massive amounts of water up to East Metro Park’s playing fields and catch-and-release fishing ponds. They didn’t come through, thanks in large part to the obstructive response of Commissioner Eckhardt. So we went back to doing what farmers do best: figured it out ourselves.
The new well (which we located via the research done by UT Professor Jack Sharp’s Hydrogeology class) is installed and operating. While producing half the volume of our previous well, and thus not enough pressure to directly supply our drip irrigation system, it is possible to irrigate with this groundwater through a storage tank and sand filter set-up.
Farmers have always been known for innovation. Even though our groundwater was sucked out from under us by over-development in our area by subdivisions and County parks, we have survived!
Looking ahead, we realize that our proximity to Austin (14 miles from the capitol building) and the fact that we live in a county where the then current Director of Natural Resources (Joe Gieselman) said, “The best and highest use of their land (Tecolote Farm) is no longer agricultural” makes our future not so certain. Farming is so important, and a county which goes on the record to discourage farmers from nurturing fertile soil to feed the local community is essentially pushing them out. As a matter of survival, we purchased a parcel of land another 14 miles the other way (east) in Bastrop County. We continue to farm Tecolote Farm proper, but our first crops went in the ground at the new land in Fall 2011. We lovingly call the new place the River Farm, as it was first coined by the Green Gate Farm crew who are our neighbors there along the banks of the Colorado. An farming community we’ll be: one which tried first to farm as close to Austin as possible, but then spread outward as dictated by the trends of sprawling development.
Katie has served on two local Boards comprised of volunteers who care about the future of sustainable agriculture in Travis County. She was an inaugural member of the City of Austin and Travis County’s joint Sustainable Food Policy Board, serving 3 years, and was also the voice for farmers on the Travis County Board set up to advise regulations on subdivision development laws as they relate to water: the Groundwater Availability Stakeholders Committee. In addition, Tecolote Farm is a founding member of the Growers Alliance of Central Texas, a grassroots alliance of farmers and ranchers who serve the Austin area.