the Birds, the Bees and the Apple Trees
at the Table in Lubbock, TX
Having an initial crash course in Waco about the complexity of our food system, we – the lovely ladies of the Texas at the Table: Project Go Road Trip – made a bee-line for Lubbock to learn about (food) banks, bees, and Baptists. Lubbock was the second stop on the Texas at the Table Road Trip to explore how people across Texas creatively address hunger in their communities – or more simply, exploring where food comes from, who gets it, and who doesn’t.
Day Three: Beginning our trek from the World Hunger Relief Farm in Waco, TX, we head to our second destination on the Texas at the Table Road Trip – Lubbock – and the “road” part of our trip commences. Happily loaded into our Ford Fusions, we start our journey for lunch in Brownwood, TX – home of Howard Payne University, college of one of our fine young ladies, as well as Steve’s Market and Deli. Steve’s is an unusual little nook for small town Texas – more akin to Austin eateries – and we happily welcome Dr. Bronner‘s soap and vegetarian fare wherever we go. Or at least I do – the gals were probably just weirded out. But here at Steve’s we also meet a wonderful woman who works with Keep Brownwood Beautiful and oversees the Brownwood Community Garden. The garden is funded through economic stimulus money, complete with in-ground irrigation and rainwater catchment, and sits on the back property of Salvation Army.
After lunch, we take to the road once again to arrive in Lubbock and meet our hostesses – Vangela and Tish and the wee little Connor. Over dinner, we co-mingle with folks from the South Plains Food Bank – where Vangela works. Then one final stop before heading home to Vanela’s – the library. The library is a notorious sleeping spot for many of the homeless in Lubbock. We drop off extra food from our dinner to the men sleeping under the overhang. I met a recovering hippie named Woodstock who sleeps at the library when he can’t find a ride home. We part ways as it begins to rain.
Day Four: Another bright and early morning. Heading to Kitchen of Hope, a project of the South Plains Food Bank, where many of the meals are prepared for the various Kid’s Cafe sites – an after-school snack and meal program for low-income kids sponsored through Feeding America, the national network of food banks. Kid’s Cafe in Lubbock also sponsors the summer lunch program. Next, we visit the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Lubbock, as they are hosting a youth summer camp for LDS teenagers in the area. We watch a film about the commitment to service in the church in response to the Gospel. Then Vangela shares her story, being a single-parent of a special needs child, losing her job, and needing the support of the Food Bank in tough times. Now she is able to give back. And so can these kids. They are spending their morning going door-to-door to collect canned goods for the Food Bank. Originally the kids were going to volunteer at the Food Bank, but due to a shortage, there isn’t enough food for volunteers to organize.
From the LDS church we head to the GRUB Farm, another project of the South Plains Food Bank, where we did some flood-damage control, after the recent hurricane rains. GRUB stands for Growing Recruits in Urban Business – a youth entrepreneurial agriculture program to train young folks how to grow fresh fruit and vegetables – 50% of which is distributed through the Food Bank, while the remainder is sold through a CSA. Local students who participate in the GRUB program also sell produce at local farmers markets. After the GRUB Farm had been in operation for a few years, a survey was conducted to assess whether the program was benefiting the lives of the youth who participated. Much to the amazement of those in charge, the youth knew how to grow vegetables but had no idea how to eat them. Thus started another important component of the GRUB program – cooking lessons as well as other value-added programs. The kids also sell GRUB Scrub, loofah soap that they have grown and made themselves. The GRUB Farm receives agricultural and technical support from Texas Tech – professors and students conduct experiments with season extension and vegetable varieties, which are then integrated into the GRUB program. Because so many youth work at the Farm, the site also participates in the summer meal program.
For lunch, we head to the main location of the South Plains Food Bank. Kitchen staff have prepared us a gourmet meal from food bank food – and we dine in elegance along many higher ups of the food bank – including the executive director David Weaver, who shares many stories of the people he encounters visiting the food bank. Meagan, who oversees volunteers, leads us on a tour of the Food Bank warehouse – showing us typical food boxes of dry goods, refrigerated goods, and fresh produce. The South Plains Food Bank is unique in that rather than distributing food to various social service agencies (which in turn distribute the food through direct social service) throughout the city, food is directly dispersed through the main food bank location. This poses problems in transportation – because the warehouse is located outside of town and bus access is severely limited.
With hearts heavy and bellies full, we head out towards Idalou, TX, to fulfill a life-long dream of Mallory’s – picking apples. We drop in announced to visit Cal at Apple Country Orchards, for an afternoon of apple-pickin’. City girls picking apples. Cal is patient and polite with us. Even entertaining us afterwards with some German Apple Cake as well as some of his cotton honey – and stories of bees and children. He tells us of his struggles to educate children about where their food comes from – a project made tougher by the presence of parents, who are quick to nay-say the yumminess of an Early Blaze apple or Armenian cucumber (a new found favorite amongst Road Trippers). In order to subvert the minds of little ones, he separates the little ones from their parents and has them eat. And the taste tells the rest of the story. That and Cal’s demonstrations of bee pollination, buzzing merrily amongst fruiting flowers. He charmed us too with his tales of bee life and raw honey.
Thanks to the overabundant hospitality of Vangela and Tish, we went back to their home for a dinner (at this point I should say that the majority of our meals were prepared and provided by the Food Bank kitchen staff). Then an evening on the town at a local coffee shop called Sugar Brown’s Coffee, where we made a new friend who happened to be a magician.
Day Five: A Saturday. Finally a weekend and some time for rest. Although, my – Bethel’s idea of rest seems to be vastly different than the rest of the gal’s. I prefer to sleep in until 8am. On a Saturday. Especially when there’s a farmers market to be gotten to. And so I rallied the ladies – much to their chagrin – and all headed to the Downtown Art Market. Random fact: Buddy Holly was from Lubbock. At the Downtown Art Market, we found vendors of all varieties, including: a lady named Emma who makes salsa (which we bought), many a jewelry maker, GRUB farm kids, Apple Country Orchard folks
(also bought some Armenian cucumbers and red raspberry preserves), and two lovely ladies making soap with wonderfully creative “flavors” like Ziegenbock.
Lunch was paradoxically taken at a local favorite, Spanky’s. Our meal consisted of fried mushrooms, fried okra, fried cheese, and French fries. Hey, some times you gotta keep it real. We ended our evening in style swimming in a gated community and dessert in a hot tub. At the home of the Food Bank’s executive director. There was also a deeply stimulating conversation concerning which ice cream flavors best embody the spirit of each Road Tripper. Example: Mallory – Blue Bell’s Birth Day Cake; Bethel – a mash-up of Homestead Heritage‘s Sorghum Pecan with homemade goat’s milk ice cream. Much sleep needed.
Day Six: Egg breakfast, complements of the Food Bank. Love infused into the eggs, complements of Tish. Worship at Second Baptist – church of Vangela and David. Us gals split up into two groups to speak at the college and Boomers Sunday school classes. Then we worship with Harry Potter – actual name Ryon Price, a graduate of Duke Divinity School and new pastor at 2nd B. Sermon entitled “Like A Good Neighbor” – not referring to State Farm Insurance, but rather reflections on the story of the Good Samaritan. Pondering the question who is my neighbor, but on a deeper level, for the question asked to Jesus implies that certainly they are people who are not considered to be my neighbor. There are people that we need not be concerned for. There are people who are not considered to be my brother or my sister. But Jesus answers the tax collectors question with a parable-infused question – in typical Jesus-fashion. A good teaching as we take to the road again – and attempt to understand on this trip, deemed a mission trip, that ministry is not just confined to the few moments we haughtily choose to deem as missional.
End Day Five 1/2. End Part Two.