Texas Farming & Oil Production: Like Water and Oil

Head a couple hours west of Austin and you’ll see oil rigs sprouted all over the flat West Texas landscape. For decades, oil has meant big money for the Texas economy, but it’s a mixed bag for many Texas farmers. Some of our friends out in the Midland area farm cotton, which is one of the state’s biggest crops, raking in $1 billion annually. Their farm is a generations-old family-run operation that they hope to keep in the family and pass on to their children, but oil is threatening that legacy.

As the biggest producer of cotton in the U.S., Texas has over 14 million acres of land planted with cotton crops.
As the biggest producer of cotton in the U.S., Texas has over 14 million acres of land planted with cotton crops.

Back in the 80s, things got tight on their farm, so they decided, like many other Texas farmers, to sell the mineral rights to their land. They received a hefty lump sum payment that not only kept the farm operating, but enabled them to invest in new state-of-the-art farming equipment and even put some money away. In Texas, selling mineral rights to companies like Caddo is common practice. Once sold, the mineral estate is severed from the surface estate, but the big catch is that the owner of the mineral estate has the right to use the surface estate, or the land, for exploration and drilling.

At first, this wasn’t a problem for the Millers. For a solid twenty years after purchasing the mineral rights, the oil company opted to do absolutely nothing. But then, in 2010, when the drilling production along the Permian Basin started peaking, the oil company suddenly reappeared with trucks, trailers, and drilling equipment. They initially decimated four acres of crop land setting up shop, then constructed roads right through the middle of the cotton field for their trucks to come and go. Now the Millers have to contend with a steady stream of work trucks rumbling over their land and inconsiderate workers who leave trash all over their property. Additionally, they worry about the drilling contaminating their groundwater which is used for both watering their crops and purified for drinking in their own home. Since they sold the rights, their hands are tied; the drilling company will keep drilling on their land for as long as oil is selling at a profit.

Pump jacks like this one are all over West Texas
Pump jacks like this one are all over West Texas

Their story is like that of so many other Texas farmers who had to sell their minerals to keep operating their farms when times were tough. It’s a Catch-22 – now they resent the very oil that saved them decades ago. While oil has done great things for our state, it’s sad to hear personal examples of how it’s threatening farmers across the state. Farming and ranching are at the heart of the Texas economy, and it’s important that we too have representation in the state legislature just like the oil and gas lobbyists. That’s why Two Small Farms is proud to be a member of Texas Farm Bureau, who works with agencies like the Texas Agriculture Council to protect this great state’s agriculture.

Why Do Meal Delivery When You Can Do a CSA Box?

Recently, we were all gathered around the TV when a commercial came on for a new service called Blue Apron, which touted “farm fresh ingredients” and a “better way to cook”. I hopped online to look at what all this service entailed and came across these Blue Apron reviews which detailed one user’s experience. Turns out there are a number of companies following this meal delivery service model, including Green Chef, Plated, Hello Fresh, Chef’d, and Pete’s Paleo among others. The basic model of the Blue Apron service is that users are sent a weekly box with all of the ingredients they need to make 3 different meals. With Blue Apron, meals start at $9.99 per meal for 2 people, so that’s $59.94/week for two people to make three dinners. And Blue Apron is “reasonably” priced – other services, like Green Chef charge upwards of $15 per meal per person for their all-organic, Paleo-friendly fare. I was flabbergasted from reading reviews to find that people are paying this much on a handful of meals for the week. Having three dinners delivered means you still have to take care of 7 breakfasts, 7 lunches, and 4 dinners with whatever is left of your grocery budget.

CSA boxes give way more bang for your buck than any meal delivery service
CSA boxes give way more bang for your buck than any meal delivery service

This left me wondering, why don’t more people take advantage of locally-grown CSA boxes? CSA boxes, which stand for Community Supported Agriculture, allow consumers to buy produce directly from local farmers, like us. At Two Small Farms, our CSA boxes range between $25 and $45/week, depending on the size of the box you specify, which is on par with CSA boxes offered by other Texas-area farmers. You can also add on a dozen of our farm-fresh eggs for $5. With our CSA boxes, you get legitimate farm fresh ingredients, and enough of them to have fresh produce with at least one meal a day for the whole week. If you order a large box and add a couple of dozen eggs, for $55 you could have enough produce to get you through almost all of your meals for the week if you just pick up a protein of your choice from the store. No, they don’t come all pre-portioned and measured out for step-by-step recipes, but with fresh produce, the meal possibilities are endless. Google has plenty of ideas for how to cook up those crispy orange carrots or that medley of colorful summer squash. Here are some great ideas from we came across when looking for inspiration for our own crops.

Expect farm fresh berries in your summer CSA box!
Expect farm fresh berries in your summer CSA box!

To find out more about ordering our CSA boxes click here. If we aren’t in your area, we recommend that you contact a local farmer’s market to find out about CSA box options close to you. Many farms deliver their boxes weekly at market, and some are even able to do home delivery in bigger urban areas.

What Sets Organic Farming Apart

What Sets Organic Farming Apart from Conventional

Today’s organic farmer combines traditional farming methods with modern technology and agricultural techniques that can produce high yielding crops without doing harm to the environment.  Organic farming tries to maintain the natural balance of the surrounding eco system during the farming process.  Organic farmers do not use chemical fertilizers or chemical pesticides or anything that may be toxic to the consumer.  Organic farmers also opt not to use genetically modified crops either.  Organic farmers carefully choose the location of the farm along with which type of seed that is best suited to grow in that climate.

Crop Diversity

Crop diversity is one of the methods that farmers use to produce high yields.  Crop diversity is also referred to as ‘polyculture’ and it is when different types of crops are grown one after the other on the same piece of land.  Plants absorb and release different nutrients so planting different crops each season helps to keep the soil fertile.  Different crops also attract different insects, microorganisms and wild plants; all of these increase the biodiversity in the area.  Modern conventional farming on the other hand uses the same plot of land to grow the same crop each season.  As the ground becomes less fertile more and more chemical fertilizers need to be used, the irony of this farming method is that it leads to increased production costs.

What Sets Organic Farming Apart

Soil Fertility

Organic farmers believe in the adage, feed the soil and not the crop.  Unless farmers tend to and take care of their soil it will stop giving them the highest yields, and while all farmers want the best yields it needs to be done through proper management.  Chemical fertilizers that are used by conventional farms will only help the crop grow the following season, in time it also makes the soil more acidic.  Over time as the soil becomes more acidic it will eventually no longer be able to support crop growth.  Organic farmers instead use organic fertilizers such, they recycle crop residue, use compost and crop rotation.  Here is a video detailing just how organic farmers preserve their soil composition.

Smaller Farms

Typically organic farms are much smaller than their conventional counterparts.  Smaller farms are used for a couple of reasons, first they are much easier to maintain without the extensive use of machinery.  A wider variety of crops are grown at the same time, instead of acres and acres of a single crop.  More variety in crops makes it easier to allow for crop rotation.  Very large farms require heavy machinery to plant and harvest crops, all of these machines require fuel and spew out fumes causing pollution.

Cows

Raising Healthy Livestock and Organic Meat

Often when you hear the word ‘organic’ the first thing that comes to mind is vegetables or produce.  Aside from fruits and vegetables there is also organic meat and eggs.  Most of the time when people are shopping they grab whatever is handy and what fits the budget, we buy the meat without giving it much thought.  You’re probably unaware of why you should grab organic meat instead of factory farmed meat.  Here are a couple of reasons to opt for the organic options instead.

  1. Organic meat comes from livestock that has never been given antibiotics, hormones and other types of drugs.  Livestock that have been grassfed without antibiotics prove to be healthier and that is in turn healthier for you.
  2. Animals that have been allowed to grow with a free range grassfed diet are safeguarded from mad cow and other diseases, and again that helps you stay healthier.
  3. Animals that are raised free range, not only are healthier, the diet is better for the livestock and they are not penned up they roam outside unlike factory farmed livestock.
  4. Organically raised livestock are generally raised in a more humane manner, the animals are ethically treated. Purchasing organic meat means that animals have been taken care of.
  5. Animals make manure; this can either be beneficial to the farm or be an incredible mess. Smaller farms often use the manure to fertilize their soil.  They create far less waste than large factory farms.
  6. Raising organic livestock, much like growing organic crops reduces the amount of chemical that are used on the land. This helps to keep the water clean, better topsoil and a cleaner and healthier environment for the people that work there.
  7. Getting the certification to be USDA organic is hard and filled with endless paperwork. Those farmers that get the certification are dedicated to raising healthier food as well as environmentalism.
  8. Small organic farms are family owned businesses, just like us at Two Small Farms. Buying from an organic farm like ours supports that farm and all who work there.  This is important; it offers you high quality products and keeps your money in the local community.

Organic farming is important both for the environment and your health, you know that your meat is coming from healthy animals that have been treated well.  The animals weren’t forced to drink contaminated water, had hormones or antibiotics injected into them, all of this gives better meat for you and your families.