Well-managed, sustainable farms are good for the land, and food grown locally is fresher and more nutritious. Produce often loses a significant proportion of its nutrients within a few days — days probably spent on a truck or a plane. At the farmers’ market, you know that bright yellow squash was picked within the last day or two. You might even get a recipe along with it — or a chance to meet the farmer who grew it.
Farmers’ markets are generally open a few days week, and some are held right at the farm. Through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), you can buy a subscription to receive a box of seasonal produce every week or two during the growing season, directly supporting local farmers. Food co-ops operate the same way, but provide food from more than one local farm and may offer other items with group discounts.
When you buy food from your local farmer, you also play a critical role in preserving open space and the cultural heritage of the Hill Country. Texas is rapidly losing prime agricultural land to development. By purchasing food grown in the Hill Country, we can help keep local farmers and ranchers in business.
The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service recently received a contribution allowing the purchase of a pre-existing facility in Fredericksburg by the Texas A&M University System that will support the state’s viticulture and fruit industries, according to an agency official. Learn More
Many family farmers are struggling to stay financially afloat and face pressure from development that is destroying farmland. Farms closest to America’s cities—often the providers of the delicious local food found at farmers markets—are directly in the path of destruction. AFT’s I Love My Farmers Market Celebration is raising national awareness about local farmers markets and putting money directly in the pockets of family farmers. Check out the Fredericksburg Farmer’s Market every Thursday – a fantastic Hill Country example.
The bipartisan "farm-to-table" caucus landed a couple of key victories in its first legislative session, laying the groundwork for its effort to help small agricultural businesses crop up across Texas. More from Texas Tribune
On a mission to advance the local food movement, a Democrat from Austin is finding common ground with Republicans and rural Texans. Read more from Statesman.com.
Read more Local Agriculture news and find upcoming events.
SARE Report from the Field – A report on projects across the country funded by the Sustainable Agriculture Resource and Education Program (2010).
Building a Sustainable Business - A business plan development guideline for farms and rural businesses (2003, updated in 2010).
Organic Resource List - A list of resources for organic farmers and consumers from the Texas Department of Agriculture.
City Sprout - Free service that offers local food producers the ability to search for communities who've told us they want fresh and local food delivered to them.
Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (TOFGA) - Supports the people who produce and provide organic and sustainable food in Texas and provides education and marketing support to the organic and sustainable producers of Texas.
Backyard Food Production - Website for those interested in growing their own food in their backyard or on a small farm.
Edible Austin - Promoting local food in Austin and Central Texas.
Bountiful Sprout – Member-owned food-buying community from the Dripping Springs/Wimberley area committed to making quality organic food available closer to home.
Local Harvest - Use this website to find farmers' markets, family farms and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area.
Sustainable Food Center - Creating opportunities for individuals to make healthy food choices and to participate in a vibrant local food system.
Pick Texas - A resource from the Texas Department of Agriculture for locating farmers’ markets and pick-your-own farms across Texas.
Slow Food Austin - Austin’s local chapter of Slow Food USA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting people with local food.
SARE - The website for the Sustainable Agriculture Resource and Education program, administered in Texas through Texas A&M University. Also includes information on Texas CSA farms.
SARE Publications Catalog - A catalog of publications on various sustainable agriculture topics published by SARE.
Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association - A statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing organic farming in Texas.
Holistic Management International Texas - A nonprofit ranchland management organization working toward improving the health and productivity of the land by working with land managers toward holistic land management.
National Institute of Food and Agriculture - Information on sustainable agriculture practice and programs from the USDA.
National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service - Information on different aspects of organic farming and livestock production.
American Farmland Trust - The website for the American Farmland Trust, whose mission is to help farmers and ranchers protect their land, produce a healthier environment and build successful communities.
ThrivingPlanet.net - A place to imagine how we can create a way of living that helps us thrive as human beings, and cooperate with nature in a way that sustains the natural balance of life on Earth.
Texas AgriLife Extension Plant Index - Questions and answers about growing different types of plants from the Texas AgriLife Extension education service.
Texas AgriLife Extension Lawn and Garden Resources - Detailed information on growing fruits and vegetables in your home garden from Texas AgriLife Extension. Includes plant-specific fact sheets.
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As we continue our outreach program to encourage night sky friendly lighting in the Hill Country, we are pulling Bill Wren away from his duties at the McDonald Observatory once again. Join us for a screening of the film The City Dark followed by a presentation by Bill Wren, Dec. 11 in Bee Cave and Dec. 12 in Mason. Learn more about protecting the night sky here.
On Sept. 1, 2013, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) began serving the citizens of Texas under a new management structure with three full-time Board members. Between that time and the successful passage of Proposition 6 on Nov. 5, both the new Board members and agency staff have been hard at work preparing to implement the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and to respond to other new legislation. Read More
Tune in as Evan Smith from the Texas Tribune hosts a conversation with two Hill Country legislators, Senator Donna Campbell and Representative Jason Isaac. Learn More
Mirroring trends seen elsewhere in the nation, Texans living in urban areas are driving less, according to a report from think tank TexPIRG. The report’s authors say the decreased driving trend means that policymakers should be shifting infrastructure funding priorities away from road projects and into alternative modes of transportation. Read full article from Austin Business Journal.
Big Bend National Park is one of the darkest place in the U.S. but the Hill Country is quickly losing the night, “...much outdoor lighting used at night is wildly inefficient, overly bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded, and, in many cases, completely unnecessary.” Read this story published in the December issue of Men’s Journal featuring HCA Night Sky Team member and frequent guest speaker Bill Wren of the McDonald Observatory.
In a series of three guest blogs, Sharlene Leurig, Water Program Director for Ceres, examines the details of Proposition 6, the water project financing measure approved by Texas voters on November 5th. Proposition 6 amends the Texas constitution to appropriate $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to seed a new water infrastructure loan fund directed to water supply projects included in the State Water Plan. Click here to read.
Across the Hill Country, other aquifers, which provide vital spring water for many rivers, are very low and many of their springs and seeps have dried up. These aquifer-fed springs are not only key to local ranchers, but to maintaining river flows in the upper Nueces, Guadalupe and Colorado river basins. Read full article by Mike Mecke in Ranch and Rural Living Magazine.
Second in five part series by Texas Tribune: "Like any natural resource, the precious groundwater that flows under Texas’ land does not follow political boundaries. The state is home to nine major and 21 minor aquifers, some of which stretch across the entire state and have segments with wildly different hydrologic properties. Yet at a time when thirsty cities and industries are clamoring for groundwater more than ever, the resource is regulated by nearly 100 entities drawn along political boundaries such as county lines, in part because groundwater is considered a private property right in Texas." Read more from Texas Tribune.
Bob Webster, a staunch advocate of the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District tapped to fill vacancy on Board of Directors. Webster, the "public" at nearly all of the GCD meetings, is the host of The Garden Show on KTSA AM 550 San Antonio and serves as an advisory board member of the Hill Country Alliance. Learn more from the Boerne Star.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries and State Parks divisions have partnered with other private groups to develop habitat enhancement projects to improve fishing opportunities at Inks Lake the past three years. More from TPWD.
Texas Parks and Wildlife is the only state agency with a dedicated sales tax. Under state law, a portion of the sales tax on sporting goods is meant to go for parks. But lawmakers consistently divert some of that money to balance the state budget. Read more from StateImpact.
The mayor of Del Rio told San Antonio Water System trustees Monday that his city would use every legal means to block a proposed plan to pipe billions of gallons of water from Southwest Texas to San Antonio. The proposal, made by the V.V. Water Co., would send enough water for more than 150,000 households per year from drought-weary Val Verde County to SAWS by 2018. Red more from SA Express-News.
The mood was grim among folks from Bay City, Eagle Lake and other coastal communities today as the Lower Colorado River Authority board voted 8-7 in favor of an emergency proposal that will likely cut off water to rice farmers for the third year in a row. Read the full article from the Texas Observer. View Sierra Club's comments and press statement for the November 19 LCRA meeting.
Unlike surface water, which is owned and allocated by the state, groundwater belongs to the landowner and is regulated by nearly 100 different conservation districts across Texas, all of which set their own rules. The recent drought, along with major court decisions, has led to what some say is the most uncertain time in state history for those who depend on and manage groundwater in Texas. Read the first of this five-part series from the Texas Tribune.
The Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter recently released an updated version of its popular report on desalination of seawater and brackish groundwater and surface water. Desalination: Is It Worth Its Salt? is a basic primer on desalination written for the general public. The report explores the environmental, energy, and economic issues surrounding desalination and provides an overview of desalination activities in Texas. Read More
Now leading one of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s top five most-visited parks, Doug Cochran sees challenges and opportunities in managing Enchanted Rock State Natural Area’s 1,600-plus acres, which includes the iconic, 640-acre granite dome outcropping. Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.
With groundwater and surface water treated as two independent water supplies under Texas law, it can be tricky to plan for our future generations. Citizen involvement is essential to achieving fair policy to sustain our water supply, a shared resource. A great place to learn is the Texas Living Waters Project - Tune in.
Attendees of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association's annual conference gathered at Austin School for the Blind and Visually Impaired for a rainwater harvesting tour and discussion. The tour was hosted by Quality Control Steel who donated a 3000 gallon rainwater harvesting tank to the school. Learn More
The case for County Authority is made once again on the edge of Austin and Bee Cave. With little county power to deal with intensity and location of development, planning can be left to the utility. More than a hundred residents showed up at City Hall to express concerns about water, traffic and quality of life issues. Learn More
Americans favor walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods, with 56 percent of respondents preferring smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving between home, work and recreation. Read More
Perhaps the biggest elephant in the room when it comes to the state water plan is groundwater regulation. Almost every region in Texas plans to look below the surface for more water supplies. But many water suppliers, including those that serve Austin and San Antonio, are battling for the right to pump groundwater outside their own jurisdiction. Read more from the Texas Tribune.
The Texas Water Journal, an online, peer-reviewed journal about Texas water issues, will present the inaugural Texas Water Journal Forum, “Water, Politics and Drought,” Nov. 21 in Austin. Learn More
Environmental leaders call on water board to focus Prop 6 money on conservation and avoid projects harmful to rivers. “The State of Texas has consistently declined to implement common sense approaches to to maintain in-stream flows to the bays and estuaries - to the point where coastal ecosystems are now in peril,” said Annalisa Peace, Executive Director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance.” Read the story from Environment Texas.
As water becomes scarcer in Central Texas and the thirst for it is on the rise, property owners in Rollingwood are requesting permission to drill a well and pump 913,400 gallons of water per year for their home. More from Hays Free Press.
“We’re dealing with so many water challenges in the state, particularly here in the Hill Country. There are a lot of unknowns like how to solve the complex water problems and rainwater harvesting is just a simple thing people can be doing to take the stress off of our aquifers.” Read the full Boerne Star article.
With what has been described as the worst drought in recorded history punishing parts of Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott found a way to keep watering his yard without risking fines or incurring huge monthly bills: He drilled his own well. Austin has no power to stop landowners from drilling water underneath their own terrain in pro-property-rights Texas. It can only monitor the proliferation of private wells, which Jason Hill, an Austin Water Utility spokesman, said officials are doing “vigorously.” More from the Texas Tribune
Henly is not so much a town as a collection of farmers and ranchers along U.S. 290 between Dripping Springs and Johnson City. Community life revolves around volunteer fire department barbecues and services at the Henly Baptist Church. The unincorporated town, which has more livestock than people, doesn’t have so much as a traffic light or a gas station. More from Statesman.com.
Texas Green Network is hosting an event in Austin, November 21st to examine next steps related to Prop 6. What does this mean for conservation? How do these funds get prioritized? How does this affect the business community? Details
“Parks and recreation won big on the ballot this week,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “At a time when many parks are suffering and natural areas are quickly being eaten up by sprawl, millions of Texans put their money where their mouth is and made a big investment in green spaces, water quality, ball fields, bike trails and in our overall quality of life.” Read the full story.
Scenic Texas announces the appointment of three new Hill Country board members. The new appointments are Kathleen Krueger, Former Mayor Pro-Tem, New Braunfels; Paul Robert Goebel, Associate Dean at Texas Tech University, Lubbock; and Chris Cornwell, former PepsiCo Food Scientist, Canyon Lake. Learn More
Texans overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment Tuesday to jump-start financing for water projects in the state: Proposition 6. The plan will take $2 billion in surplus state money (from the Rainy Day Fund) to start a low-interest loan program for water projects in Texas. The measure had widespread support from both sides of the aisle as well as business and environmental groups. It passed with over 73 percent of the vote. More from State Impact.
It might have been a clear, crisp fall day in Boerne, but inside the Boerne Civic Center it was raining a solid schedule of rainwater harvesting information at the 4th annual Rainwater Revival. This Hill Country Alliance (HCA) event brought together a full day’s schedule of rainwater experts and professionals to teach and demonstrate a sure way to end all your water woes. Read the full story in the Rivard Report.
The new CAMPO website features a pretty bluebonnet-lined Hill Country road on the cover, what are we doing to protect this vision? A new video featuring CAMPO leaders kicks off a new public input vehicle - Mind Mixer. What’s important to you as we grow this region? Quality of life, clean water, natural resource protection, open spaces, rail and bike options? Let CAMPO know.
The choice for cities facing water shortages now or in the future is clear: invest in expensive new water supplies or invest in programs to reduce water use, including outdoor water use. Several smart Texas cities chose the latter. San Antonio Water System provides rebates to customers who agree to reduce their turf grass and to replace it with plants from an approved drought-tolerant plant list. More from texaslivingwaters.org.
Now is the time because current enhanced tax incentives expire Dec 31. Rules regarding amount of the deduction and the number of years you can take the deduction are about to change. Contact your local land trust for more information. Learn about conservation easements and land trusts working in the Hill Country here.
December 5 in Wimberley – Open House to discuss four-lane divided parkway between Wimberley and San Marcos - Details
December 6 in Uvalde - Star Party at Fort Inge - Details
December 16-18 in San Antonio - Clean Air through Energy Efficiency Conference and Business Expo - Details
The 2014 HCA Calendar is on sale!
Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape
Helpful Mapping Resources - Beautiful and informative maps of the region to print and share.
HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool