Today’s post was supposed to be a list of all the things lately that are bringing me joy. And that list exists towards the end of this post… but I couldn’t write that post without first telling you how I ended up in the hospital trying to save money on my taxes…
Most of you probably know that farms are (or should be) eligible for a lower property tax rate than residential or commercial land. The concept seems simple enough, but the execution? Not so much. Bastrop County, where I live, has specific parameters for each type of agriculture. To qualify for a tax exemption as a vegetable or crop farm, the property must be at least 20 acres - a rule that makes no sense to me as VRDNT is a commercial vegetable farm on all other counts, except for the fact it's only 11 acres.
Even our Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller, has referred to me as an 'up-and-coming young Texas Farmer' on TV. But, oddly enough, neither his words nor my tax returns showing vegetable sales seem to convince the authorities to grant me an agricultural exemption. The only feasible way for me to receive the coveted exemption is to keep bees on the property.
Last year, I collaborated with a local beekeeper, but this year, the logistics fell through. The decision came down to either buying my own bees or risk losing my exemption (and face back taxes). Despite the hectic spring season and a million other things that needed my attention, the convoluted tax code made it essential for me to become a beekeeper.
After a crash course in beekeeping, I purchased 10 hives from an apiary in Houston. I returned home, unloaded all the hives in a thunderstorm (without getting stung once!), and started learning about my new buzzing tenants. All was going well until yesterday morning when the bees decided they weren't feeling as docile as before. I found out the hard way that I'm allergic to bee stings - three stings sent me to the ER with severe reactions. I’m okay, and the bees will stay.
Though it's frustrating to start a whole new agricultural venture just to fit an outdated tax evaluation system, I'm choosing to see the silver lining. I now have dreams of making mead, honey glazed carrots, and I'm meeting new people at the Bastrop Bee Club.
Bees are technically categorized as ‘livestock’ so after having been a vegetable farmer for the last 12 years, I'm somehow giddy at the thought of ‘bee’ing a livestock rancher. Last but not least, bees are just really, really, really cool. Digging into learning about how to take care of my winged livestock has just generally re-ignited my passion and curiosity in relation to insects.
Have you ever thought about eating insects? I've been following @mnforager on Instagram, whose posts about eating beetles (he made scones!) have made me keen on experimenting with insect flour. Growing up in Thailand, fried grubs and grasshoppers were common snacks. While I'm not eager to munch on a whole grasshopper, the idea of baking with insect flour seems intriguing.
Just in case you need a little more insect recipe inspiration, here is a collection of recipes. :)
I found myself riveted by the nutritional breakdown of insects in this article.
World Economic Forum: 5 reasons why eating insects could reduce climate change
As we face the challenges of the future, I believe that insects could be a significant part of our food system. They're a fantastic protein source, not just for us, but also for livestock.
Things That Are "Filling My Cup"
Living in the heart of the woods, I love the sense of connection I feel with all the living creatures here. When I'm stressed, I step outside and identify the first bird I see. This simple game brings me a lot of joy and helps me know our native feathered friends by name. If you want to start birding but don't know where to start, check out the Travis Audubon Society blog.
If you're a podcast fan, give Radio Lab's recent episode 'Corpse Demon' a listen. It's a real-life biologist's version of a Sherlock Holmes story with a happy ending.
I've also enjoyed an insightful interview with Trevor Noah by Jay Shetty. I was expecting it to be comedy, but was totally and pleasantly surprised that it was not that, but a wonderfully insightful and vulnerable interview. Somehow it just made me feel keenly sane and grounded.
At present, my top goal for the farm is to expand our CSA membership. Now in our 4th year, with production systems in full swing and an incredible staff managing the day-to-day operations, I feel confident that production isn't a limitation any more. My sales are approximately 50% wholesale and 50% retail (CSA and farmers market). While we're currently breaking even, to ensure long-term sustainability, I need to shift more of our wholesale produce to CSA memberships.
My ambitious target is to grow our CSA by another 100 members. To achieve this, I've been immersing myself in learning digital marketing. It's been challenging, but I hope you've been enjoying the improved content from us. Of course, word of mouth is the best advertisement, so please spread the word about us to the veggie lovers in your life or leave us a Google review. We appreciate your support!
Thank you for reading and being a part of this community.