Establishing Sustainable Agriculture - Community Development in Elgin Texas

Project Overview

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

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism
  • Sustainable Communities: community planning, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, infrastructure analysis, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, public policy, urban/rural integration, sustainability measures, community development

    Proposal abstract:

    Elgin, Texas is at a crossroads – a pivotal point in its history. Community leaders and residents are eager to
    maintain their agricultural roots. After all, around and underneath Elgin is some of the richest black farmland in
    the world. Elgin is home to the first commercial organic feed mill in Texas and many hundreds of acres of farms
    including organic farms producing fruits, vegetables, poultry, and other livestock. Yet the suburbs of Austin
    encroach from the west and so Elgin must make some hard decisions. How will it grow and sustain its
    community? Can it be the breadbasket for Austin where millions of dollars are spent annually on organic
    produce? How can it balance its agricultural and commercial desires?
    This project is a key step in achieving that balance. This project will result in concrete policy changes that will
    provide the framework for Elgin to integrate sustainable agriculture and sustainable community development.
    The groundwork has been laid – in the City's recently completed Comprehensive Plan, the citizenry and the
    leadership have made it clear that they want to find this balance.
    This project will identify specific policy options for adoption by the Elgin City Council that directly support
    integration of sustainable agricultural and community development. Through examination of zoning, land use,
    economic incentives, community education and outreach, the City Council will have an opportunity to enact
    practical and reality-based policies that will increase the number of sustainable farms, agricultural value-added
    businesses and processing and distribution centers. This project will also set Elgin on a trajectory to begin
    keeping much of its money home by creating jobs and new businesses for residents to live AND work in Elgin.
    The long-term benefits of this project include zoning changes that will encourage new ways to allow businesses
    to choose Elgin by looking at zoning through the lens of new industries. For example, the downtown Sustainable
    Fiber Mill, a small business making yarns from local sheep wool, had to get a variance to be sited in town
    because it was considered “industrial”. The first mobile poultry slaughterhouse is being planned for location in
    Elgin. If zoning and other policy requirements can be met, the plant will serve small farmers and families
    throughout Central Texas significantly increasing access to sustainably raised poultry.
    This is a pivotal moment – and its likely only a moment. The policy framework that will result from this project is
    essential for the people and businesses of Elgin to achieve their goal of integrating their agricultural roots with
    their commercial needs and desires.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    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. 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. Complete by July 2012

    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.