The ANUME Foundation is a 501(c)3 Organic Farm and Foundation in La Grange,Tx.
As we age, most of us start to realize that time, energy, and resources are precious. Your soul starts to reckon with important questions, “do I stay on the cycle of just “doing” or do I stop, recharge and re-evaluate my life patterns?” ANUME Foundation was born out of this intense questioning of “how do I make a difference?”
Farming is an occupation where you can naturally connect to Mother Earth and more importantly, to your God. You touch the soil, hear the birds, smell the herbs, taste the vegetables and see the happiness it brings people. It’s a difficult occupation, but it mirrors everything a person goes through in life – hardship, celebrations, success, failure, prayer, and finally, realization that the most important thing about life is people.
Meet the ANUME Foundation. We are a growing, teaching and spiritual ground that incorporates and intertwines organic food with community outreach, nutrition and ecology. Born in March of 2014, ANUME Foundation had a primary mission – feeding people, especially those experiencing hardship and needing community support. Developing a business model of 75% total output donated to area shelters and 25% sold to area restaurants, we thought that we could impact people’s lives and encourage people to reach their optimum health. The goal was to introduce people to healthier food choices, cook more at home and develop an overall conscientious concern for a healthier lifestyle.
The ANUME farm is located in La Grange, Texas in Fayette County. Known for its beauty, churches and agriculture, it was a perfect place to begin an adventure.
Just weeks after purchase, Ronnie Vinson and I began cultivating and planting a garden in the existing soil on the 55-acre plot now known as the ANUME farm.
We started small with two rows of vegetables producing 90 pounds of food in a short 65-day window. Ninety pounds of food was too much for our family so we took it to the Houston Food Bank. Going there opened our eyes to the necessity of feeding others fresh, organic food. The staff at the food bank told us that they were not receiving organic food and it was a gift to receive ours. This ignited us to reach out to the A&M University, develop our Board of Directors and apply to the State for our 501(c) 3 non-profit status.
We thought it was important to seek advice from others on how to grow more food and relied on A&M University’s, Dr. Joseph Masabni, to educate us on plant nutrition and soil amendment. Soon after, we began attending organic conferences and one in particular, Dr. Elaine Ingham’s Study of the Soil Web. This conference significantly changed the course of ANUME. We began to understand how nutrients get inside plants so they can grow in the first place. This would change our sustainability as gardeners and direct us into the world of nutrition. Understanding how nutrients move through plants with electrical charge and microbes while learning what and when to feed plants grossly expanded our intuition, curiosity and desire to grow more food. At this particular conference we met with some of the most highly regarded promoters of organic food and applications. Bob Randall, John Ferguson and Mike Serrant became our friends and people who supported us with their knowledge, product and advice with regards to organic growing and nutrition. We were blessed.
Understanding how plants receive water and nutrients, we decided it was time to rid of our garden hose and move to a more sophisticated method of irrigation. In early 2015, we purchased a 12-acre irrigation pivot. It was the sure sign for all of us, including the community, that we were committed to our cause. Our growing fields resembled our business model where the land was divided into four segments and three of them would be growing for the food banks. We began more experimentation. We laid down hay in between the rows, wrapped plants with foil to defend against bugs, circled each plant with organic fertilizers and learned about cover cropping for the first time. We were producing food, however, we experienced many problems, namely, the weather. In 2015, we experienced more than usual rainfall that delayed our planting. That year, we also experienced more than usual weeds, pests and discolored vegetation. What seemed to be a curse soon became a blessing. Our problems made us want to meet other farmers and we started visiting farms in Austin, Houston and Fayette County. We met some wonderful farmers that offered us advice that further changed our direction and understanding of growing vegetables and herbs. We saw how they had volunteers, interns and garden club members work at their farms. At the time, we contracted one day a week with a landscaping company and had three very committed volunteers. Our Board members were also committed to helping us and Angela Schwarzbach, Vincent Velarde and John Ferguson gave so much time and talent to our operations. This encouraged us to reach out to even more people. We networked closely with universities and in the summer of 2016 had our first group of students from A&M, St. Thomas (Houston) and Louisana State universities spend the summer working and living at the farm. The internship program was a tremendous success. We taught each of them how to drive the tractor, plant, harvest, maintain farm equipment and learn daily operations. Relationships formed, people learned and the farm developed a personality of peace, harmony and growth.
ANUME was making great strides in its understanding of growing plants, working with community and learning how to manage a non-profit organization. However, we still lacked in our funding and expenses. We were driving to Houston & Austin back and forth making deliveries to area restaurants and their food banks. Decisions had to be made. We were spending large amounts of time and fuel with this logistic schedule. In the winter of 2016, it became clear that ANUME should be serving its neighboring food banks, shelters and crisis centers. We recognized the need for organic food in Fayette and Travis counties and began directly serving four food banks and shelters: AMEN Food Pantry, Schulenburg Food Pantry, Bastrop Family Crisis Center and Central Texas Food Bank. In early 2017, we added the Celebration House Food Pantry in Flatonia, Texas.
The volunteers and workers at the local food banks really care about people and about ANUME. Each week, we received lots of smiles, support, laughs, compliments and encouragement to keep it going. Today, we are proud to say we’ve donated 10,000 pounds of food in 2016 and our goal at the end of 2017 is to donate approximately 20,000 pounds.
We know that it takes lots of great help, community support and funding to keep us going. Our expanding education efforts to teach healthy eating and lifestyle habits have brought us many strong supporters. In 2017 we hope to raise over $150,000 in funds to support our mission. If you would like to visit us or learn more about our endeavors, please contact us for a tour and discussion. It would be worthy of your time, energy and resources. Together, we can change lives through organic nutrition.
Victoria Velarde, President