Celebrating the Farm Fresh Accessibility Project

WHAT: Celebrating the Farm Fresh Accessibility Project – An Organic Partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank
WHERE: Heart of Gold Farms, 18220 Camino Real, Dale, Texas 78616
WHEN: November 22, 2014
WEB: heartofgoldorganics.com | facebook.com/heartofgoldfamilyfarm
MEDIA: For access, interviews and photos, email [email protected]

Heart of Gold Organics

Capital Area Food Bank of TexasAustin, TX— Snuggly nestled between Austin and Lockhart, Texas sits a six-acre aquaponic farm packed tight with rainbow chard, kale, basil and a variety of lettuce. Helmed by Mike and Vanessa Torres, Heart of Gold Organics is bringing a fresh approach to food sustainability and accessibility. The farm–one of only a few in the nation–has the capacity to grow approximately a half-ton of food each month with the sole purpose of donating it to charity. Wanting to share their passion and success, the Torres’ have made it their mission to help others become independently sustainable and depend less on a culture that puts profits before people. With this principle in mind, Heart of Gold Organics is proud to announce the launch of the Farm Fresh Accessibility Project–a partnership between the farm and the Capital Area Food Bank that aims to make freshly grown food accessible to the 300+ food pantries that the food bank serves. In the spirit of the upcoming holiday season of giving, Heart of Gold Organics will be hosting an afternoon fundraiser for the Farm Fresh Accessibility Project, inviting Central Texas out for a day of fun that will help sustain the longevity of the project and its participants.

10301123_494479274031606_4521419669639269833_nChanging the way people think about farming wasn’t always Mike and Vanessa’s mission. The fulltime filmmaker and photographer, respectively, stumbled upon aquaponic farming–a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by farmed fish or other aquatic animals supplies nutrients for plants grown hydroponically, which in turn purify the water–while trying to grow their own garden through a miserable drought. “I was looking for a way to conserve water and it seemed too wasteful to water my tiny garden every day only to have it fail,” Mike says. It didn’t take long for the Torres’ to start researching alternatives. At first the couple turned to hydroponics–the process of growing plants in sand, gravel, or liquid, with added nutrients but without soil–but found the method to be wasteful as well. It was after a trip to Europe that the Torres’ became inspired by the use and efficiency of aquaponic farming. “With aquaponics we use 95% less water and plant production is eight to ten times higher than traditional farming, making it a much more affordable and sustainable method for all,” Vanessa adds. Soon the Torres’ ever-growing garden provided them with much more than their family needed. Knowing that they had to share their abundance with the community, Heart of Gold Organics was born.

“Healthy food shouldn’t come at a premium,” Mike says. “Everyone deserves to have fresh vegetables on their plates, regardless of income or social status.”

With a surplus of homegrown, organic food on their hands, the Torres’ knew that their crops could make a difference in the lives of those in need. “Healthy food shouldn’t come at a premium,” Mike says. “Everyone deserves to have fresh vegetables on their plates, regardless of income or social status.” Armed with their firm beliefs, Heart of Gold Organics formed the Farm Fresh Accessibility Project in partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB), donating their entire harvest to CAFB. Through this collaboration, Heart of Gold Organics is flipping the script on the traditional agricultural model, providing a crop of freshly gown leafy greens to the food band about every 45 days, which then goes on to serve over 300 non-profit and social service agencies across 21 counties in Central Texas.

The need for fresh and healthy food is real across the Central Texas region. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, Austin and several areas surrounding the city have locations that are considered to be food deserts–rural towns or urban areas without access to fresh, healthy, affordable food. These areas qualify as food deserts by meeting low income–poverty rate of 20% or greater, or the median family income is below 80% of the area–and low access–at least 500 people or 33% of the population live more than one mile from the grocery store–community requirements.

The Torres’ are currently working on a program, complete with aquaponic system schematics and growing guides, to help teach others how to grow for the sake of good. “The great thing about this is that anyone can grow fresh and healthy food for their community, on a small and large scale,” Vanessa states. The family plans to hold workshops and give guidance on how to cook and consume the food they’re donating. “We’re excited to take Heart of Gold Organics to the next level, we’re working with sponsors to get this program off the ground as soon as possible,” Vanessa adds.

Central Texans can get a taste of what’s to come from the Heart of Gold Organics at their Farm Fresh Accessibility Project launch celebration on November 22. Visitors can listen to live music while dining on food truck fare and getting a first-hand look at the farm, complete with greenhouse tours, aquaponic farming discussions, hayrides, lawn games, and a petting zoo. Donations are suggested for admittance. For more information about the event and Heart of Gold Organics, please visit heartofgoldorganics.com.

About Heart of Gold Organics

Through the Farm Fresh Accessibility Project, Heart of Gold Organics provides organic, sustainably grown vegetables and tilapia to Capital Area Food Bank, serving 21 counties across Central Texas. They specialize in climate-controlled aquaponics and strive to be the most eco-friendly farm possible while providing fresh food to community-serving organizations.

Owned by husband and wife Mike and Vanessa Torres, Heart of Gold Organics seeks to promote self-sufficient farming practices for the community. After researching sustainable and productive farming systems, the Torres’ discovered aquaponics uses up to 95% less water than traditional farming methods. The Torres’ dreams grew into larger goals when they were able to provide food not only for themselves, but for surrounding communities in need as well.