Green Gate Farms in Peril?
Roberts Resorts plans to replace the Eastside farmland with RV lots and manufactured homes
Green Gate Farms, one of Austin's only certified organic community-based farms, announced this week that Arizona-based developer Roberts Resorts plans to replace the farm land with luxury RV lots and manufactured homes.
A meeting at Green Gate Farms this Tuesday convened city of Austin Food Policy Manager Edwin Marty; the farm's partners, including Sustainable Food Center (SFC) and the Multicultural Refugee Coalition (MRC); and community members to discuss strategies to save the farm.
"Our plan is to rally the community, to let the community get involved with changing policy and having a say in preserving this historical site. This farm is named for the Bergstrom family. Our property has historical significance," Erin Flynn, co-creator of Green Gate Farms, said.
Established 10 years ago by Flynn and her husband Skip Connett, Green Gate Farms is one of the city's urban and community farms. The farm was transformed from the Bergstrom Family Farm, built in 1902, to the current five-acre family farm. Located eight miles east of Downtown, the farm is mainly supported by its 125 community-supported agriculture (CSA) members.
To ensure local access to healthy foods, Green Gate operates a farm stand three days a week that accepts SNAP and WIC food vouchers. The farm's Workshare Program also enables community members to work in exchange for organic foods.
"I think there's this misconception that local, organic food is a done deal. It's thriving, everybody's buying it, and that's not what's going on. There's this real disconnect between the marketing of local food and the actual situation farmers are in," Flynn said.
Back in mid-March, Roberts Resorts bought 250 acres of land in East Austin, which includes Green Gate Farms and low-income neighborhoods High Meadows and Hidden Valley. With this newly acquired land, Roberts Resorts plans to add 500 manufactured homes and 120 luxury RV lots.
Flynn says the city's involvement has already made a positive impact, as Roberts Resorts recently gave Green Gate Farms a three-year lease. However, Flynn is hoping to explore new possibilities to preserve the land including an agricultural conservation easement – a deed restriction to maintain farmland and prevent development.
"Austin does not have any policies to protect farmland. Every farmer is at the mercy of the developer that buys the land, and it doesn't have to be that way," she said.