Strong Starts: Urban Farming 101

Do you know anyone in the Central Texas area who is looking to start farming or interested in building their knowledge surrounding sustainable foods? This great program series starts on July 9 and will be helpful for both home and small-plot food producers, including producers who grow for farmers markets or those who are involved in sustainable foods efforts or community gardens.


Program highlights include:

  • July 9: Business Planning & Management.  Business planning, interactive financing panel, and “infrastructure and income streams” training at certified organic Tecolote Farm.
  • July 16: Sustainable Ecosystem Management.  Approaching your farm as an ecosystem – soil health, organic pest management and field demonstrations.
  • July 23: Cultivation and Methods in Central Texas.  Everything you need to know to start your vegetable operation or orchard.  On-farm training at Boggy Creek Farm.
  • August 6 : Local Food System and Farmers’ Resources Showcase. Will show participants how to become informed, inspired and connected through presentations by food system insiders.
  • August 13: Sales and Marketing. Sell your harvest at local schools, grocers, and farmers markets. Explore Texas Market Maker and learn basic social media use for farmers.


Early bird pricing: $60 per day for 1-3 program days, $210 for 4 days and $225 for all 5 days

Regular pricing (June 29 and after): $65 per day for 1 – 3 days, $220 for 4 days $240 for all 5 days

To register, call 979-845-2604 or go to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Conference Services website at and enter “urban” or “farming” in the search field.

Free Parenting Workshop Austin


Happy families aren’t born…

              they’re made one day at a time.

Be part of this parenting experience based on the acclaimed Active Parenting Now offered on 3 different dates.  In this free, three-hour session, you will learn effective ways to:

  • use non-violent discipline techniques that work
  • improve communication with your children
  • teach responsibility and other important values
  • handle problems as they come up
  • cope with difficult topics such as drugs, violence, and sex
  • diffuse power struggles with your children
  • stimulate independence as your child grows older
  • encourage your children to be their very best!
  • appropriate for parents of children 5-12 years of age

First Session:

June 25, 2013, 2:00-5:00 pm
University Hills Library
4721 Loyola Lane
Austin, TX 78723

Other sessions offered:
June 26 and July 16

Dr. Crystal Wiltz
Extension Agent
Family and Consumer Sciences
Cooperative Extension Program
Prairie View A&M University
1600-B Smith Road, Austin, Texas 78721

RSVP to Angela Reyes at 512-854-9652 by 5:00 pm on June 21, 2013; space is limited, RSVP required to attend.

Gluten-free grains

You’re likely no stranger to hearing about gluten-free foods. Gluten is the protein found in wheat and other similar grains. There are a number of reasons why people are adhering to gluten-free diets–intolerances, allergies and illnesses like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease among many other autoimmune diseases.

Understanding what grains are gluten-free and learning how to prepare them is great knowledge for anyone, both those who eat gluten and those who don’t.

List of gluten-free grains, starches and legumes:

  • Rice (all varieties including brown rice, wild rice, arborio, sweet rice, etc.)
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Sorghum
  • Corn
  • Potato
  • Tapioca
  • Arrowroot
  • Beans & lentils

Thanks to in.gredients for donating samples of these grains to our East Austin Garden Fair


Get cooking! For each of the following, use a ratio of 1:2 (1 cup grain to 2 cups water or broth).


  • 1 cup dry=3 cups cooked
  • add a pinch of salt, splash of olive oil bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer on lowest heat covered for 20 minutes
  • Add to salads or add dried fruit, veggies, nuts and herbs (use in place of couscous) or as a standard side dish to complete your dinner plate
  • Prepare and use millet and amaranth the same ways

Brown Rice

  • 1 cup dry=3 cups cooked
  • add a pinch of salt, splash of olive oil bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer on lowest heat covered for 25-30 minutes
  • combine with a legume (bean or lentil) to receive the benefits of a complete protein
  • use up leftover rice by adding coconut milk, raisins, chopped nuts, cinnamon, cardamom and any other spices of your like for a simple rice pudding, which is a great healthy dessert option


  • 1 cup dry=2.5 cups cooked
  • wash lentils
  • bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer on lowest heat covered for 20-30 minutes
  • Use in soups, tossed into fresh salads or into grain salads

What are your favorite grains?

In-season spotlight: Artichoke

The Travis County Master Gardeners are up to great things in the demonstration garden right now. Have you ever seen an artichoke flower?


Artichokes are fiber rich and the number one highest anti-oxidant rich vegetable according to a USDA study. They also aid liver function and digestion.

Check out this post from Simply Recipes for how to cook and eat an artichoke. If you have a handful of them or see frozen artichoke hearts in your freezer section try making a soup like this one from Eating Well.

What’s your favorite way to eat artichokes?

Backyard Basics Open House – May 11

Come out on Saturday morning for a free intro to food preservation class starting at 10:30am. Learn the basics about freezing, drying, fermenting and canning to get going on preserving your summer bounty!

Backyard Basics
Saturday, May 11, 2013, 9am-1pm
Travis County AgriLife Extension Office
1600 B Smith Rd., Austin TX  78721


Backyard Basics is a free, family-friendly, gardening topic open house event!  Hands-on kids’ activities are available for the duration of the event. Stroll the garden and ask questions; experts are available for one-on-one discussions on the following topics:

  • composting
  • vegetable gardening
  • wicking beds
  • installing drip irrigation
  • raising chickens
  • identifying good/bad bugs
  • permaculture

In-depth talks offered every hour starting at 9:30 with Summer Vegetable Gardening, which includes basics of vegetable gardening, vegetables which can be planted now and thrive in the heat and how to protect other vegetables from summer’s heat.  Preserving Your Summer Harvest (our demo!) starts at 10:30 and covers the basics of canning, freezing, dehydrating and fermentation of vegetables and how to bring the vegetables back to life. At 11:30 learn about Backyard Chickens in this introduction to what is required to progress from baby chicks to egg producing hens.  Shelter, food, breeds will be a part of the talk.

Backyard Basics is presented by the Travis County Master Gardeners, a volunteer arm of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Travis County. For information, call (512)854-9600.

Go play outside!

by Brenda

How many times were we told, as kids, to go outside and play? A recent New York Times article cited several studies which showed improved performance from exercising outdoors, rather than inside. Participants of all ages enjoyed their workouts more and experienced greater physical benefit from the same exercise. Wind resistance and natural surfaces add enough challenge to take any exercise routine to the next level. Fresh air and sunshine just make everything better.??????????

Don’t have an exercise “routine”? Start off by stepping outside. Bluebonnets and Indian Blankets are popping up everywhere in the soon-to-be lush fields, and oaks and other trees are sprouting new, bright green leaves. The fresh Spring air may just lure you, as it did me, to go farther than expected, discovering hidden treasures like this pink-tinged lily blooming in the tough weeds on the edge of a cow pasture.


Nature parks are an amazing resource for exploring numerous trails available for all ability levels. From a short morning stroll with the children to a weekend backpacking trip, it can all be found around Texas’ rivers and wildlands. Check out LCRA’s great network of well-maintained, friendly parks for ideas on where to find walking and hiking spots of all types, and even places to perfect that yoga pose. You really don’t need any special equipment or a plan; just grab a good pair of walking shoes and a bottle of water to improve your health and mental wellness, right now. Do whatever sounds fun: walk, bike, run, hike – go play outside!

Free pressure canner testing in Austin

Do you have a dial-gauge pressure canner? Dial-gauge canners are great for canning at any altitude, though pressure must be adjusted according to your relation to sea-level. Here in Austin that means we process at 11lbs PSI since we fall in the 0-1000-ft above sea level category.


It’s important to test the dial-gauge every year because if the gauge reads high or low by more than two pounds at 5, 10 or 15 pounds pressure, you’ll need to replace it. If it is less than two pounds off in accuracy, you can make adjustments needed to be sure you have the required pressure in your canner. Read more about pressure-canning at the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Visit our website for more information on how to set up a free appointment to have your dial-gauge tested for free. (Non-Travis county residents are welcome to call, too.)