Howdy from Austin!! The Sol Food crew has finally made it back to the south, where grits, biscuits, and the locals saying “ya’ll” is normal. Despite the fact that the entire crew is visiting Austin for the very first time, we all feel right at home. So far Sol Food has been in Austin for a week and is loving the city more and more every day.
Frost Bank in downtown Austin
The first two days of our visit we had the luxury of checking out all the cool spots in Austin. In the downtown area, the crew members were able to visit the Frost Bank tower that was designed by their sponsor Duda/Paine Architects. On South Congress St, there were funky art shops and dozens of amazing food trucks! At sunset, Dylan and Ellen watched the Mexican free-tailed bats swarm out from under the Congress Bridge. Austin has so much to offer, that it’s no wonder it’s the fastest growing city in the country.
Mexican Free-tail bats flying away for the night
After two wonderful days of exploring, we visited Green Gate Farm. This sustainable, organic farm was founded by Skip Connett and Erin Flynn. We had the privilege of meeting Erin and getting a tour from her. Green Gate was our first encounter with pigs on this trip! Erin raises a rare-breed of pigs called Guinea Hogs. These hogs are especially unique because they graze on grass as oppose to food scraps (although they do enjoy a pumpkin or two). Along with their pigs, Green Gate has chickens, goats, and lots of beautiful produce. Erin was an extremely knowledgeable farmer and she taught us a lot about the history of Austin’s farm land.
Guinea Hog piglets chowing down on old jack-o-lanterns
For the first half of our trip we didn’t get to work with many schools, because a lot of kids were on summer vacation. However, now that schools are back in full swing we are visiting as many as possible. The first school we visited in Austin was Overton Elementary. We worked with their Boys & Girls club after school program. Overton Elementary has a beautiful, small vegetable garden that the students work in regularly. Ms. St. Lucie, the teacher whose class we worked with, thought it would a great idea to add a vermicomposting bin to the garden. After giving tours of the bus to all the excited students, we worked with them to build a brand new worm bin and plant seeds for fall vegetables. A lot of the students were very eager to be a part of the worm bin construction. It was very sweet to see them show off their handiwork to their parents at the end of the day. We all had a wonderful time with the students at Overton Elementary and look forward to hearing about their experiences with the new worms!
Students finishing the worm bin!
Our next school stop was at Trinity Episcopal School. We spent half the day giving tours to a science class of eighth graders and all the fourth graders. The Eighth grade science class was focusing on creating a green business and what steps go into creating a project like ours. We were able to talk to these students about the planning stages of our non-profit and how to stay organized. The fourth graders were learning about problem solving and what to do when something doesn’t go according to plan. We were the perfect people to ask these questions to because our trip has been filled with problem solving! The entire Sol Food crew was blown away by the insightful questions all of the students asked and their intense attention to detail.
Reid teaching about rain catchment
On Tuesday, we visited Widen Elementary School. They have a very small garden that needed some tender loving care. Along with a group of excited second graders, we amended the soil with organic compost and planted seedlings from our greenhouse. All of the students attentively planted there seedlings and proudly gave them names. It is always inspiring to watch a child plant a seedling for the first time. They always radiate with a strong sense of accomplishment. It is these reactions that make our work greatly fulfilling.
Students planting seeds to take home
Stay tuned for more news about our action packed week in Austin. We will be visiting two more schools, a farmers’ market and two more farms!!