Establishing Sustainable Agriculture - Community Development in Elgin Texas

Final Report for CS10-081

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2010: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Texas
Principal Investigator:
Amy Miller
City of Elgin
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Project Information

Establishing Sustainable Agriculture and Community Development

Gather information about agricultural activities in the Elgin area. Work with local farmers and help them connect with each other. Research policy options, policies and programs in place in other communities that support agriculture and sustainable community development. Document where agricultural activities are happening, where farms are located, what land is considered agricultural in the Elgin Texas area. Provide educational resources to the community both online and through films or print materials. Share information collected through these research efforts in an engaging and dynamic online fashion to encourage community interaction and connections between farmers, restaurants and individuals. Bibliography citations supporting literature review City of Elgin SARE grant 7-30-12 Gleaton, Caroline S., and Carl G. Anderson. "Facts about Texas and U.S. Agriculture." Texas Cooperative Extension. May 2006. (accessed April 23, 2011). Pollock, Candace. Sustainable Community Innovation Projects Funded Throughout the South." Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education. January 27, 2011. (accessed April 23, 2011). Wilbur Smith Associates. Elgin Comprehensive Plan. Comprehensive Plan, Elgin: City of Elgin, 2009, p.14. US Census of Agriculture. Lyson, Thomas. Civic agriculture: reconnecting farm, food, and community. New England: Tufts University Press,2004, p.85. Montgomery County, Maryland. Department of Economic Development: Agricultural Services. March 2, 2011. (accessed April 23, 2012). Chester County Economic Development Corporation. Next Generation Farmer Guidelines. May 2011. (accessed April 2012). Chester County Economic Development Corporation. Small Business First Program. June 2009. (accessed April 2012). Chester County Economic Development Corporation. Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund. March 2010. (accessed April 2012). Chester County Economic Development Corporation. Small Business Administration 504 Loan Program. April 2012. h Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation. 11). Hillsborough County Agriculture Industry Development Program. Wayne County Planning Department Agricultural Development. New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. Agricultural Districts Law Summary. January 26, 2011 (Accessed April 2012). New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets. April 2012. (Accessed April 2012). Madison County Agriculture Economic Development. City of Cleveland, City Planning Commission. Zoning Code Updates. (Accessed April 2012. City of Fitchburg. The Fitchburg Land Development Guide. (Accessed April 2012). Baltimore City Planning Commission. "The Baltimore Sustainability Plan." City of Baltimore. April 2009. (accessed April 23,2011). City of Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support. Homegrown Minneapolis. 2011. (accessed April 23, 2011). Texas Department of Agriculture Young Farmer Grant. Texas Department of Agriculture Young Farmer Interest Rate Reduction Program. The Bastrop County Citizens’ Advisory Committee and The Citizens of Bastrop County. (2006). Opportunity Bastrop County. Retrieved 1 May, 2011, from Environmental Stewardship: City of Elgin. (2006). City of Elgin Chapter 11: Zoning. Retrieved 1 May, 2011, from The City of Elgin: City of Elgin Economic Development and Capital Area Council of Governments. (2008). Elgin, TX: 2008 Retail Trade Study. Retrieved 1 May, 2011, from The City of Elgin: City of Elgin Park and Recreation Department. (2011). City of Elgin Parks, Recreation and Open Space Master Plan. Retrieved 1 May, 2011, from The City of Elgin: The Trust for Public Land, Capital Area Council of Governments, Envision Central Texas. (2009). Central Texas Greenprint for Growth Conservation and Economic Opportunity for Bastrop County. Retrieved 1 May, 2011, from Capital Area Council of Governments: Wilbur Smith Associates and TRC Engineers and IPS Group. (2009). Elgin Comprehensive Plan. Retrieved 1 May, 2011, from The City of Elgin:


The agriculture sector is responsible for 26% of all jobs in non-metro areas in Texas. Elgin is 19 miles east of Austin in central Texas. A farming community from its inception, Elgin has a few major manufacturers – three brick companies, two sausage manufacturers, small manufacturers such as Accurate elastomer Products, and INR Machining. The majority of the population (apprx 8100 folks) drive in to the Austin metro area for work. In the last twelve years hundreds of acres of farm land have been sold and developed for single family housing. During community visioning meetings and the recent comprehensive planning process there has been vocal and consistent community support for preserving agricultural uses and helping Elgin to keep its identity separate from the Austin metro. Elgin hopes to expand economic development opportunities for businesses engaged in all aspects of the agriculture system. Through this grant, Elgin identified specific public policies that provide a guide to support sustainable agriculture and community development. Through the grant a community survey was conducted to capture information about the farming practices in the area, where inputs were coming from, what supports were needed, and farmer interest in connecting with restaurants. The grant also supported creating GIS maps of vacant parcels 1 acre or greater within the city of Elgin. These might be used in the future for agriculture purposes. Maps showing the location of farms, and members of the river valley farmers market were created. Maps from the Elgin comprehensive plan that illustrated agricultural property and where future zoning might protect that type of use were also completed. The maps, survey information, farm contacts, and more are all captured on the website

Project Objectives:

As listed in the proposal 1. Provide clear policy options to Elgin City Council related to land use, economic incentives, land use mapping to examine zoning to enable policy changes to be enacted to support permanent integration of sustainable agriculture and community development into the economic development plan. Recommend specific changes to the City code, the Elgin Comprehensive Plan, and state and county legislation. 2. Examine zoning options using land-use mapping and recommend zoning changes to support integration of sustainable agriculture and sustainable community development. 3. Coordinate and facilitate public meetings to discuss these policy options and educate and seek input from the community about the policy options that would support sustainable agricultural and community development. 4. Provide educational outreach to enable replication of our process and wide understanding of our solutions. Provide information via YouTube and social media. Share project information at Central Texas food and development related events. 5. Develop a preliminary plan for a business incubator to support sustainable agricultural businesses including farms and added value production.


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  • Karen Banks


Materials and methods:

Community meetings were conducted to allow farmers and community members to visit with each other. At these meetings several questions were addressed in small groups. Questions included what are the strengths Elgin has for economic growth based on agriculture? What does or might block progress in growing Elgin’s agriculture based economy? When you think about Elgin and agriculture, what are the opportunities for employment, education business etc.? What is needed to move Elgin’s agriculture future forward? A survey of farmers was conducted online that addressed the following questions: determine farm size, source of inputs, top three ways to sell products, what new agriculture venture would you like to see in Bastrop county? What one thing would make your operation more successful? What one thing would strengthen your work with local producers? Researcher Karen Banks assessed local plans and polices in place, conducted policy research about what was happening in other parts of the country to support sustainable agriculture and community development, created GIS maps of vacant parcels 1 acre or greater in the Elgin area, created maps of the farms in the area, maps to show locations of river valley farmers market members, worked with planning firm to secure electronic files of maps form the comprehensive plan that addressed agriculture space and where that space might be preserved in the future. Community planning meetings were held with farmers, community leaders, the Elgin Economic Development Corporation, and City council representatives. Worked with Texas organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) Sue Beckwith of Shades of Green Farm built the online site which provides an interactive online presence for the sustainable agriculture and community development efforts in Elgin.

Research results and discussion:

Maps Agricultural land use in the Elgin city limits and ETJ Agricultural land in Travis and Bastrop counties River valley farmers’ market members and markets Local Farms & Local goods Agricultural land Bastrop, Travis, and Williamson counties Undeveloped parcels Undeveloped parcels: Occupied and vacant Undeveloped parcels: Elgin CCN Agricultural Land use and Elgin CNN MEMO - SARE Sustainable Community innovations Grant Plan analysis MEMO – SARE Sustainable Community Innovations grant: Policy Recommendations The city council heard a final presentation on the project from Ms. Banks at the July 20 city council retreat. The council discussed the following as areas to target while moving forward with the project. Agriculture zoning, education and awareness, partnerships local farms & restaurants, business dev. resources, farm to table, preserve open space, in fill lots Mary Christian Burleson project – agriculture, preserving open space, pursue possible future partnership with the Lost Pines & Prairies Land trust, and continue working with the Mary Christian Burleson Preservation and Education Foundation to develop a working farm on the property and preserve the homestead.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary:

Education/outreach description:

Ms. Banks research has been placed on the website Promotional materials for the website include book marks and table tents. The sustainable places movie series continues through September.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Local farmers are working together more as individuals and through the River valley farmers market. The River valley farmers Market has increased in membership and doubled its annual income during 2011. The 2012 calendar year is looking equally strong. The partnership between the River valley farmers Market, the City of Elgin and the Elgin Main Street Board has increased access to local food and awareness of local food. The city continues its sustainable places movie series in summer 2012 with four movies screening through September. City staff will be working with City council and local partners to begin implementation and moving forward with the items discussed at the July 20 retreat. (see outcomes / impacts section) The City of Elgin was selected as a Sustainable Places project committee by the Capital Area Council of Governments. The Capital Area Texas Sustainability (CATS) Consortium, through a grant from HUD and a regional partnership of local governments and other stakeholder groups, is developing a new approach to planning in Central Texas through the Sustainable Places Project. The project will examine several growth scenarios for activity centers in Austin, Dripping Springs, Elgin, Hutto, and Lockhart. An innovative analytics tool is being developed to identify the long-term effects of the various scenarios on municipal budgets and the health of communities. Elgin will use this analysis to develop plans that take advantage of aligning housing, jobs, and transportation options in a way that complements existing community values. Working with TOFGA, participated in a resaturants7 farms networking event where farmers and restaurant owners shared the benefits and challenges of using local foods. TOFGA conducted a farm tour in Bastrop county which was promoted to Elgin residents. Mayor Marc Holm and council member Stacey Van Landingham attended TOFGA annual conference in 2011 and 2012. Amy Miller Community Development Director presented project report at the Bastrop county green expo, hosted by Keep Bastrop county beautiful. Miller will be presenting at the Texas Farm and Ranch, farm and food conference in Bastrop September 10-11, 2012 Overview of SARE grant and suggested next steps presented to the Elgin city Council at their planning retreat on Saturday July 20, 2012 by Karen Banks.


Potential Contributions

The community will continue to work on and implement sustainable agriculture and community development policies and programs. Consumers will have greater access to information about local food and options for accessing local food in the Elgin area. City of Elgin plans to work with farmers to develop business relationships with restaurants in the Austin metro area including possible boutique crop demand from specialty restaurants. Future policy may be a model for preserving agricultural uses, supporting agricultural within the city limits, and preserving agricultural and open space in the Elgin area.

Future Recommendations

Research on community policies, programs and overall efforts in the area of sustainable agriculture and community development should be continued. Funding support to help implement policy or programs and create models that could be replicated in other areas would benefit communities throughout the nation that are interested in this type of development but do not have the resources to determine what has been successful and what could be implemented in their town.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.