Guest post by Darryl Birkenfeld
I had read about Stephen Porter on the website, Local Harvest, for a couple of years. Last week, when I had work-related events to attend in the Midland, TX area, I had the privilege of visiting his farm. As I drove along county roads south of Interstate 20, I was surprised to find Stephen’s farm tucked in next to sandy rangelands and the ever-present oil and gas development. Turns out that this farm has a long history…it has been in the family for three generations (since 1927). The farm lies just north of Monahans Draw, on southern boundary of the Ogallala Aquifer that extends north, all the way up through the High Plains to South Dakota. Right from the beginning of my visit, I sensed that Porter Community Farm is located in a favored place.
Stephen wasn’t always a farmer. He once operated a music store in Abilene, ran a music studio, and played in bands down in Austin. But the experiences he gained working with his farming grandparents eventually brought him back to a calling that was a better fit for his life, starting in 1999. After some years of doing work for local ranches, Stephen decided to start farming. He purchased 53-acres from his mother, and immediately set out to move away from the almost continuous cotton regime that the land had endured since the late 1920’s. Instead, Stephen worked to implement more sustainable farming practices, rejuvenating the soil with composting, rotations, and cover crops. He also desired to build his business around an on-farm market for the community, which started in 2007. The next big step was starting a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in 2009, with only one subscriber. By 2014, Porter Community Farm now has 70 CSA members who are buying high-quality greens, vegetables, and eggs while they build a relationship to the land, their fellow stockholders, and their farmer.
To better serve his CSA members, Stephen delivers to a site in Midland twice a week from April to October. The rest of the year, members drive out to the farm to pick up their shares. And on the rare occasion that Stephen has surplus products, he will sell at the Midland Downtown Farmers Market. (To learn more about the CSA, visit this link)
Plowing, planting, irrigating, and harvesting in the southern Llano Estacado is not an easy life. When you meet a person like Stephen Porter, you immediately realize that local food production is a calling…a vocation. Residents of the Midland-Odessa area can be thankful that Stephen found a way to claim his heritage, and that he chooses, year after year, to live this unique vocation.