Region 7, 8 Reps Tour Karnack Organic Farm
By: Kevin Schmidt on April 15, 2016
From The Marshall News Messenger
Published on April 13, 2016
KARNACK ‐ "Fresh is best" and "buy local" were the mantras Tuesday as Region 7 and 8 Education Service Centers officials toured Doodley Dee's Organic Farm in Karnack ‐ in the hopes of encouraging East Texas schools to buy local, organic produce in the future.
"We want to get the word out to our schools that they can buy local," Region 7 ESC Child Nutrition Coordinator Elaine Revell said Tuesday. "This farm grows a lot of produce that meets our regulations. The advantages of buying local and organic are that our produce is more fresh, there's a lower cost, better quality and we are supporting the local economy."
The trend of buying local and organic is on the rise as the Farm to School legislation gains momentum.
In 2014, 73 bills and resolutions were passed or introduced across the nation, furthering the efforts of the grassroots farm to school movement, according to the National Farm to School Network.
Efforts to increase farm to school policies are on the rise in Texas as legislatures tout it as a way to promote community health and boost local economy.
"State governments play a crucial role in the growth of farm to school," Helen Dombalis, Policy and Strategic Partnerships Director with the National Farm to School Network said in a statement. "The success of states like Alaska, Oregon and Texas is having a domino‐like effect across the country, paving the way for more state legislatures to encourage farm to school initiatives through policy."
Revell said Region 7 ESC is set to host a Farm to School event on April 27 at its location in Kilgore in order to introduce local farmers to school officials and open up the door for conversations.
Doodley Dee's Organic Farm Owner Kevin Schmidt said he is already working with two East Texas schools, Jefferson and Karnack ISDs, to provide fresh produce.
Schmidt said Marshall ISD officials are set to tour the farm today.
"He's told us today, we can let him know what we want and he can grow it," Revell said of Schmidt.
His organic farm, which has been open for about two and a half years now, will be set to produce about 200,000 plants a month in the next three months as he builds additional greenhouses, he said Tuesday.
The certified organic farm grows pesticide free produce through its aquaponics system.
"We have coy fish and catfish in tanks and we feed them organic fish food, which creates organic fish poop which is then pumped into the greenhouses to fertilize the plants," Schmidt, a Bossier native, said.
"We use about 500 gallons of East Texas rain water every day to water the plants. Our water is stored in these 30,000 gallon tanks. We have created our own, closed, ecosystem."
In addition to the produce, Schmidt, a former builder turned "gentleman farmer," said he recently planted fruit trees and expects the farm to have plenty of apples, plums, peaches and pears in about two years' time.
"We are the only certified organic farm in this area," he said. "We are working on getting our GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification now. We also have the only aquaponics facility in the area. The benefits from eating organic is there are no pesticides, herbicides or adverse chemicals in the food."
Revell said the ability for students to visit the farm and see how their food is grown is also an advantage of buying local.
"What a buy in," she said. "For our kids to be able to come out and take a tour. They are more apt to eat it if they see where it comes from. Some of our students have never even seen fresh produce."
Revell said between both Education Service Centers touring on Tuesday, about 147 schools were represented.
Officials from nearby Elysian Fields ISD also joined in on the farm tour Tuesday.
Schmidt said schools can place their orders and his farm will deliver the produce promptly.
"We harvest it, rinse it, dip it in cold water to seal the pores which keeps it fresh longer and keeps it more crisp, then we rinse it again and box it up," he said. "Sometimes I even deliver it myself on my weekly trips to Marshall."
For more information about Doodley Dee's Organic Farm, visit www.doodleydeesfarm.com or call (318) 402‐1811.