Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Brazos Locavores - Visit to Dogrun Farms

Another hot Texas day meant an early morning visit to Dogrun Farms, the Brazos Locavores August field trip host. David Elsik and his daughter Jenna greeted us with big smiles and a wonderful tour of their farm just 20 minutes from the TAMU campus, complete with a drawing for fresh veggies to three winners!

Elsik, having worked on his family farm since he was a small child, is a natural at farming. He remembers his first experiences with planting and how amazing it was to plant cotton, corn, and watermelons on his family's farm, observing them spout and grow.

Later in life, he concentrated his efforts hay baling until just a few years ago when he was diagnosed with leukemia. It was then Elsik returned to his love of gardening, and organic gardening at that, because of the danger of chemical pesticides and fertilizers to his health.

What began as a small garden, has grown year by year to become a much larger operation. In fact, Elsik is one of the two largest produce vendors at the Brazos Valley Farmers' Market, selling an amazing variety of greens, herbs, and summer produce.

Currently, although he owns 130 acres, he is farming only 1.5 with plans to expand it to 10 next year. As the locavores toured the gardens, I was struck not only with the variety of plants (zucchini, eggplant, okra, hot peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, beans, yellow squash, and cucumbers), but also at the beauty of plants I'd never seen before (particularly the okra flower). As he regaled us with stories of battling both the heat and pests, we were invited to sample fresh okra right off the plant as well as yellow squash flower which turned out to be absolutely delicious and perfect for salad (who'd have thought?).

From a distance, Elsik pointed out 10 bee hives beyond the house, owned by ET Ash, one of the honey vendors at the farmers' market. Elsik provides the fuel for the honey and the bees pollinate the produce for a beautiful and very natural partnership. Water is a trickier matter. Soaker hoses cut down on water evaporation, but they tend to distribute unevenly and the well water is simply not as healthy for the plants are good old fashioned rain water, nor does the current well pump enough water at a time, making watering a bit more labor intensive. Elsik hopes to eventually relocate the extensive gardens to an area with better water access.

At the end of the tour, three names were chosen to receive those fresh garden veggies. The grand prize winner picked a cantaloupe from the melon patch and the second and third prize winners selected cucumbers right off the vine. The rest of us had the opportunity to purchase any of the fresh produce - either picking it ourselves or from the harvest earlier that day. It just doesn't get any fresher!

You know, the power of these locavore trips is truly is connecting the meals we eat with the farms where they are grown, witnessing for ourselves the hard work of the farmers combined with the magic that is nature. It may not earn a lot of money, says Elsik, but "I love it!"

Thanks to all the locavores who visited the farm and a very special thanks to our gracious host.

Stay tuned for next month's field trip announcement. In the meantime, check out some of our other field trip reports at the Brazos Locavores website.

To receive an email for each field trip announcement, subscribe to the Brazos Locavores Google Group.

See you next time!


Michelle said...

Hmmm, started as a small garden... Sound like anyone you know? Myabe your field trips will get REALLY local someday ;>)

Heather @ SGF said...

Michelle - Yeah, thankfully, I don't have that much room. My dad's already teasing me about growing the garden. Nope, ours is as big as I want it to get, despite the fact that we have room for more beds. It's not even in full production and it's more than we can eat. All the more to share :)