2014 AFWA Grant Winner: Growers Alliance of Central Texas

Late last year, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance announced their 2014 grant winnersNew Farm Institute at Green Gate Farms, Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture, Fresh Chefs Society, Growers Alliance of Central Texas (GroACT) and Anjore. To highlight the many sides of Austin’s flourishing food community, we’re showcasing the exciting efforts from each of these wonderful organizations.

We’ve already caught up with Austin’s own Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture and Fresh Chefs Society, and now we’re highlighting how the Growers Alliance of Central Texas is uniting area farmers and producers.

Austin Food + Wine Festival: How does Gro-ACT build greater communication between Austin area farmers and the local food community?

Gro-ACT was founded in 2010 with a few potlucks and a simple listserv for Austin area growers/ farmers only. We wanted the ability to “talk shop” online because our schedules as farmers are so busy that making it to the potlucks isn’t always possible. It is amazing how useful the listserv has become since then. We have the ability to organize potlucks, meetings, bulk purchases and just to ask each other questions about everything farmy you can imagine.

The potlucks and meetings have also been amazing (imagine all the farmers cooking it up… worlds best potlucks!). They are another chance for us to socialize and talk shop with other growers while visiting each other’s farms.

Gro-ACT will be seeking designation as a non-profit with the funds from the AFWA grant. How will this help Gro-ACT meet its goals in the local community?

Receiving the AWFA grant has been a game-changer for Gro-ACT. Being able to apply for non-profit status opens up a whole new world of grants and community support that we were not eligible for prior. Growing and producing delicious and nutritious food for the Austin area is our top priority. The more farms we have allied together, the stronger our voice becomes when advocating for positive change in our local food system.

Can you tell us a little about the Farmer Medical Relief Fund that you recently launched?

All Gro-ACT members or direct family members are eligible for a grant of up to $1000 (larger amounts awarded in special cases) in relief of lost wages due to a medical ailment. The application process is online and simple for families in need.

We have to give all of the thanks and credit to the awesome crew of Farm Grass Fest for raising the funds to kick start this program. Please check out the web site for sponsorship, www.farmgrassfest.com or just come on out to the hear the music your self Sunday, May 3 at Simmons Family Farm in Neiderwald, TX.

How do you hope Gro-ACT will enhance Austin’s sustainable food community moving forward?

As a farmer and an eater, I truly believe a healthy community is one in which small farms are thriving. Gro-ACT hopes to provide a more unified and powerful voice in guiding issues that impact growers in Central Texas.

We recently polled our Gro-ACT members to find out what we all see as priorities moving forward. The number one response was a beautiful, permanent farmers market — somewhere with clean, indoor restrooms and a roof so that rain or shine, the customers come out. We believe Austin is missing an integral piece of the food community puzzle with out one.

We have already established a wonderful foundation for communication amongst Austin area growers. Now, we have the ability to move forward with the help from the AFWA grant.

As the beneficiary of the Austin Food & Wine Festival, the Austin Food & Wine Alliance (AFWA) relies on a portion of festival proceeds to support its culinary grant program, educational programming, fundraising events and operations. As a 501c3 nonprofit, the AFWA hosts signature fundraising events like Official Drink of Austin, Live Fire!, Great Austin Food Race, Wine & Swine and more. In addition, the Alliance is committed to inspiring and supporting high school culinary students from all over Central Texas by hosting the annual Culinary Arts Career Conference with more than 600 students being able to attend at no cost.