A June 16 tour of farms in the McKinney area offers the usual perks: Guests will get to taste local food, have cocktails and mingle with other people who bought tickets in the four days before the event sold out.
But this tour isn’t just for schmoozing.
The Farm Tour for the Farm Crisis Fund will take guests on a six-hour, three-course dinner, touring farms no farther than 30 minutes away from McKinney.
The goal is not just to eat, drink and explore area farms but to raise money for this new fund, which falls under the Seed Project Foundation, a nonprofit that "funds educational, agricultural and community initiatives that support sustainability."
“We are really trying to get this Farm Crisis Fund off the ground — farming, but local, within 100 miles,” says Meg Neubauer, executive director of the Seed Project Foundation. “It’s for natural disasters and economic crises.”
In agriculture, a lot can go wrong. Farmers can lose entire fields of crops from drought, fire or flood, and economic factors can cripple a small farm. The trade war with China has left American soybean farmers in the lurch after orders from China dried up.
The foundation started the fund last year, raising about $17,000 for local farms in crisis, and it hopes to raise more this year. The Seed Project Foundation started the fund after hearing requests from North Texans such as Matt Hamilton, president of Local Yocal in McKinney and a big player in the agriculture scene. Other people, including Robert Lyford (Patina Green Home and Market) and Graham Dodds (the Statler), are pitching in to put on the tour.
Guests will start off at McKinney Square, exploring Local Yocal’s new barbecue restaurant, then hop on a bus for the first farm tour. The ride will take them to Profound Microfarms in Lucas, N&P Farm and Dairy in Farmersville and McKinney's Pure Land Farm.
Along the way, guests will try dishes from Dodds, Lyford and Andrea Shackelford of Harvest Seasonal Kitchen.
Neubauer owns Pure Land, an organic pick-your-own fruit and vegetable farm in McKinney, which she runs with her father, Jack. She knows firsthand how rough it can be for farmers who experience disaster or lost crops.
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“Insurance takes months; you just need money right now to keep your farm going in a crisis,” she says. “We’ll have a very fast turnaround.”
A five-person board will oversee the application process, and farmers can apply at any time on the foundation’s website.
While the upcoming tour is sold out, you can still contribute to the cause on the site or join the Seed Project Foundation's mailing list to hear about future events. Neubauer says there's no shortage of farms in need of a helping hand.
“We can do this for years and not repeat farms,” she says.