By Emmy Ulmschneider
and Debbie Roland
If you’ve gardened for a while, you know you feel a certain connection to your yard, your garden, and your plants. Those of us who grow our own food from late winter until the first frost are going through a pretty tough time this year.
The frost (again) at the beginning of the year and the unbearable heat without rain were disastrous for us. We struggle to install shade cloths and tarps to save a harvest. If this is your first year trying to grow food, remember that isn’t always the case. For generations, West Texans have grown food crops.
We live on the Llano Estacado, the Staked Plains, an area with no surface water except for our ephemeral playas. But this has not always been the case. For about fifty thousand generations, (think of the Ice Age), the people who lived here were hunter-gatherers. But the land back then was different. During the ice age, there were lush forests and streams. As the climate changed, these forests and waterways gave way to drier grasslands, grasslands, and playas. Then, for about five hundred more generations, the native peoples farmed in arid areas that would support it, mostly along the Pecos River and the mesas of New Mexico and Arizona.
The area off the caprock just south and east of Midland and west and south of Odessa once had a much more vigorous stream and spring system than we do now. By the 1920s we had already begun to deplete some of the “easy” groundwater that the region once boasted. As our climate changed and the human footprint on the region changed, most of these early water sources disappeared by the middle of the 20th century.
West Texas began as a ranching community. Midland grew vegetables during World War I in a victory garden at the north end of what is now the I-20 Wildlife Preserve. And vegetable gardens were commonplace.
So why is local food important now? You might think first of the health benefits. Foods eaten fresh contain more micronutrients and taste better.
When you buy from local producers, you economically support our community and develop a relationship with your community.
In Midland, there is a farmer’s market every Saturday morning at the Museum of the Southwest.
In Odessa Parks Legado has a market once a month from June to September.
There is another Odessa market at the Medical Center Hospital, also once a month, in the evening from 6-8 p.m.
So get out there and support your local producers and markets, because that’s what this is all about.