Cultivating food, communities and farmers. That is the mission behind Green Gate Farms, a certified Organic farm in East Austin that was founded by Skip Connett and Erin Flynn in 2006 after leaving careers in Public Health.
“More than 10 years ago, our lives were all about addressing the epidemics of obesity and diet caused disease,” Erin Flynn says, taking a brief break from orchestrating volunteers and farm workers in the green house and in the construction of a new tool shed. “Intellectually, that was a motivation [for founding the farm]. Emotionally, my husband was raised on a farm and he wanted to get back to that. And my family has farmed and ranched in Texas for six generations.”
So with intellectual and personal reasons in line, Erin and Skip decided to start a farm that was “very different from what we had both experienced.”
“We wanted a community-based farm. That was the goal, and I think we have achieved it,” Flynn says, flashing a smile.
They accomplish this through a cornucopia of projects and programs. Not only do they have a Community Supported Agriculture share that provides participating community members with seasonal vegetables and herbs, flowers, eggs, dairy, and pastured meats; they also offer ways for people to get involved on the farm with an emphasis on education.
When volunteering at Green Gate Farms, there is opportunity to move up in ranks if the motivation ispresent. Volunteers can become work-share participants who work in exchange for reduced prices on their produce. From there, participants can become paid staff on the farm, just like the current head farmer. The next step is incubating, which means farm workers take responsibility for a piece of land and start directing what takes place on that plot.
“We are trying to make it much easier for people to get into the business of farming,” Flynn explains. Green Gate Farms, the first farm in Texas to create an incubator farm, has had three incubator farmers so far, and is currently seeking funding to expand the program.
In addition to volunteering and working, Farm camps for both children and adults are available seasonally with a new family camp starting up this summer. Erin and Skip bring in experts from various fields to educate and excite community members of all ages.
“Our priority is to provide a farm experience,” Flynn says, which is why they run a farm stand three days a week on site rather than bringing produce to farmers markets. “We want people to come have picnics, meet the animals, and help out.”
Not far off from where we stand, a father and young son wander around a field dotted with Guinea Hogs before picking up their CSA share. When I approach to take some pictures of the hogs, the man informs me that these heritage hogs are used as an alternative to chemical fertilizer, a fact he learned while spending time on the farm. No surprise.
Erin and Skip are serious about what they do. It is evident when walking around the farm or looking through their website that they have not set a simple task before them, but rather a series of goals that take conviction and hard work to achieve. I encourage anyone in the area to visit Green Gate Farms and get a first-hand experience of what they offer. And while there, you might as well give the Guinea Hogs a little belly rub for good luck.