Fig season at Knopp Branch Farm
Most people take it easy when they retire. Not Donna and Ernest Roth of Knopp Branch Farm. The plot of land they bought as a dream to grow vegetables “now that we’re retired” rapidly grew into a full-f ledged organic fruit and vegetable farm when local chefs and consumers alike developed an appreciation for the healthy, clean produce that comes from their carefully tended crops and well-nurtured soil. Knopp Branch Farm has 14 cultivated acres where fruits and vegetables grow according to the seasons, and rows of mulch beds for a myriad of culinary herbs are a recent addition to the farm’s offerings. Aside from the regular farmhands and the occasional WWOOFer (guest worker under the network World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, wwoof.net), Knopp Branch Farm welcomes enthusiastic people who are keen to spend a day away from the city and do some good, honest manual farm labor. In return, good food and a great farm experience awaits: They have a huge bonfire pit with Adirondack chairs to gather and chat, picnic tables to share a good meal and a trail to the river for a cooling dip. Both Ernest and Donna are excellent cooks to boot.
Some of the best opportunities to spend a day helping out at the farm are around the harvest times. Summer is the time when their figs are ripe for the picking.
Donna and Ernest grow a wide variety of figs, which ensures them there is a fig to pick just about every day throughout the summer. Fig varieties grown at Knopp Branch Farm include Celeste, LSU Gold, Banana, Texas Blue Giant, Negronne, Mysteak, Ischia, Black Mission and Brown Turkey. So put on some old clothes, dig out your boots and come on down and help pick those figs!
> Knopp Branch Farm is 100 miles southwest of Houston, near the town of Edna. Contact KnoppBranchFarm.com to set up days and times.
WHAT TO WEAR AND TO EXPECT
Wear clothes and shoes that are suitable to work on a farm (closed shoes, hat, etc).
Come before 8am and start the day with a hearty farm breakfast, before heading out to work.
Pick figs all day, chat with the farmers and learn from them as you go. Drink plenty water, have a snack. Enjoy a late farm lunch, stay for a swim in the river (if water levels allow) or a snooze under the trees. Head on home tired but utterly content.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Knopp Branch Farm is a member of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. What is FARFA and what does it do? Judith McGeary, founder and executive director of FARFA, explains:
Even though local foods travel relatively few miles from farm to table, small local farmers and ranchers travel a long road littered with many challenges.Some of the leading challenges are government regulations. For decades, the official government policy for agriculture was “get big or get out.” As a result, small farmers using sustainable growing methods, artisan food producers and locally sourcing restaurants repeatedly run into roadblocks in a system designed by and for large agribusiness. The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance (FARFA) was founded nine years ago to provide a voice for the local food movement and promote common-sense policies that help family farmers to thrive and consumers to have access to healthy, unadulterated foods.
FARFA fought to pass a “cottage food law” that allows individuals to make low-risk foods in their home kitchens and sell them directly to consumers at places such as farmers markets, opening up new opportunities for both small producers and consumers. FARFA also successfully led a national movement to stop mandatory electronic tagging and reporting of all livestock, a program that would have devastated small-scale meat and poultry producers. In the latest legislative session, we have made progress in efforts to expand legal access to raw milk and to provide for fair property tax treatment for urban farms.
You can learn more and meet others from all over the state who are passionate about local foods and farms at our annual conference on September 25–26 in Bryan/College Station. You can also sign up for free email alerts on our website (farmandranchfreedom.org), to stay informed on what is happening in the local food movement and how you can make your voice heard.
Judith McGeary is the founder and executive director of FARFA, who is also an attorney, activist and sustainable farmer at mcgearyranch.com