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Take a Trip on My Austin Farm Tour

Sharon Palmer

It was so exciting to organize the second annual Today’s Dietitian farm tour on May 20, 2018—this time in Austin, Texas during the Today’s Dietitian Spring Symposium. We had a fabulous group of 48 attendees, including dietitians (from as far away as Mexico and the U.K.), speakers, and sponsors for a full day of learning about Austin’s food and farm scene. A huge thanks goes to the Sorghum Checkoff for sponsoring this field trip. Despite the torrential rainstorm that rolled in, complete with thunder and lightening, attendees still learned more about the food system in this region.

American Botanical Council, Austin

Our first stop was with Jenny Perez, the Education Coordinator for the American Botanical Council, where we learned more about the evidence on food as medicine, and toured the edible and medicinal demonstration gardens at the historic location in Austin. During this tour we learned about the interconnectedness of flavor and pharmacology as we explored the phytochemicals in common foods and culinary herbs and how they relate to therapeutic attributes.

In the Gardens at the American Botanical Council, Austin

As we toured through the medicinal, herbal gardens, this carved tree caught my attention.

Echinacea growing in the gardens at the American Botanical Council, Austin

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RD

After the herbal farm tour at ABC, we made our way to a sorghum farm, during which Doug Bice from the Sorghum Checkoff told us all about how sorghum is grown in Texas, and Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RD (pictured above) filled us in on the basics of sorghum nutrition and cooking.

Sorghum Farm Tour at James W. Kamas’ (L River ) Farms

Our next stop was to visit James Kamas’ farm, where he works approximately 2,350 acres of cultivated land and grows, small grains (wheat and oats), corn, grain sorghum, and cotton.

Sorghum Farm Tour at James W. Kamas’ (L River) Farms

It just poured on the way to James’ farm, so we were unable to get into the fields, which were knee deep in mud, to actually see how the sorghum grows—such a huge disappointment. However, James told us a little bit more about how he grows his sorghum and other crops, and how he went from being an engineer to a farmer, because he loves to watch something take root and grow—there’s nothing better, according to James!

Lunch at the Home of Wayne Cleveland, Executive Director of Texas Sorghum Producers

It just kept on pouring as we made our way in the bus to the home of Wayne Campbell, who is the executive director of Texas Sorghum Producers. He opened up his own home—muddy shoes and all—to our group for a home-cooked meal of delicious Texas-style foods, including grilled meats, salads, grilled vegetables, beans, corn on the cob, and home-made ice cream. There were wonderful choices for vegans and vegetarians, too! The whole family, featured in the kitchen here, were part of the culinary team.

Lunch at the Home of Wayne Cleveland, Executive Director of Texas Sorghum Producers

Even though it was pouring, we took refuge under the tents to enjoy the delicious fixings and Texas hospitality!

Lunch at the Home of Wayne Cleveland, Executive Director of Texas Sorghum Producers

After lunch we had a discussion on sustainability with Danika Trierweiler, RDN of the Sustainable Food Center. From seed to table, Sustainable Food Center creates opportunities for individuals to make healthy food choices and to participate in a vibrant local food system. Through organic food gardening, relationships with area farmers, interactive cooking classes and nutrition education, children and adults have increased access to locally grown food and are empowered to improve the long-term health of Central Texans and our environment. Danika Trierweiler, RDN will be presenting on sustainability across the food supply chain.

Lisa Barden, Keep Austin Fed. Keep Austin Fed is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that gathers wholesome surplus food from commercial kitchens and distributes it to area charities that serve people in need. Keep Austin Fed began in 2004, when founder Randy Rosens saved high quality catered food from an Austin Museum of Art Fundraising event that was headed to the dumpster and fed a group of women and children living at a shelter in South Austin. Today our volunteers rescue thousands of meals each month, feeding hundreds of our neighbors living with food insecurity. One in 7 people in Austin do not know where their next meal will come from, while approximately 30 percent of food produced in the U.S. ends up in a landfill, producing harmful methane gase

Urban Roots Tour with Max Elliot

Our last stop was to see the wonderful Urban Roots Farm, a nonprofit using food and farming to transform the lives of young people and engage, inspire, and nourish the community. Unfortunately, some recent roadwork made it impossible to take our bus down the road to visit the farm, so Max Elliott, executive director and co-founder of Urban Roots, hopped onto our bus and told us all about his program. As the only farm-based youth leadership organization in Austin, Texas, Urban Roots provides a unique space for young people to learn how to grow food while growing as leaders.

And that concluded our amazing farm tour! We hope you join us on our next farm tour in Scottsdale on May 19, 2018! Stay tuned for more details and mark your calendar today.


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