County sees growth in small ranches and farms
July 13 — More and more Texans are retreating from big cities to neighboring counties, with the desire to engage in small-scale farming.
One of the destinations was Henderson County. AgriLife extension officer Spencer Perkins told the board of commissioners at a workshop on the budget that he sees a lot of it in the course of his work.
“We have a great group of new people moving into the area, buying what we would call large tracts of land, dividing them into small ranchettes,” Perkins said. “Everyone has their own opinion on this, I just know that for me that represents a lot of visits to the site.”
Perkins said he recently met a woman who had just bought a property and advised her where the best places would be to put her house, garden and build a pen for a goat. He always meets with the ranchers about their problems, often heading to the Chandler area in the east or Tool in the west.
“We are getting busier and busier by the day,” Perkins said. “The only site visits are difficult. We didn’t even take the little things into account. “
He also answers many phone calls. Often times, the producer can take a photo and text him so he can pinpoint the problem without actually being there.
“Obviously, I need to use it and use it as often as possible to save money on county trips,” Perkins said. “When army caterpillars strike, I’m likely to receive fifty phone calls explaining why their hay pasture is disappearing.”
The Texas Farm Bureau defines a small farm as a hundred acre property on which the owner / operator has been an active producer for five years or less. Often they do not know where to look for technical and managerial assistance.
Several times they contact Perkins’ office.
“Everyone wants to plant vines, peach trees, plum trees or a little garden,” Commissioner 3 of Police Station Chuck McHam said of ranchettes and small farms.
One change in recent years has been the interest in farmers’ markets. Small farmers produce items for sale locally, whether they are fruits, vegetables or jams and jellies. The Athens area lacked it for many years, but now residents come to the city parking lot every week to view the goods.
In the early 1900s, the Texas Legislature passed laws authorizing the County Commissioners Court to provide and fund office space and to conduct extension work in agriculture and home economics with Texas A&M. The local office is heavily involved in these areas and the 4-H programs involving hundreds of students across the county.