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What’s a Food Shed? 


Photo:  by Emmy Ulmschneider at Flying Y Farms, Tarzan, Texas  

By Emmy Ulmschneider and Debbie Roland, Master Gardeners 


As Master Gardeners we are both interested in raising some of what we eat.  AgriLife Extension has taught us how to make that possible from amending the soil to harvesting healthy food.  (A new Master Gardener class begins in January and registration is now.  Visit to register.) 


What about what we don’t grow?  Are healthy options available from local growers?   


I (Emmy) grew up in a northern community where summer food produce was locally available.  All summer long, local farms had food stands where the best food products, from early spring greens to fall pumpkins and squashes were available.  When I moved to Midland forty years ago, I bought from retail stores but that slowly changed over time with the advent of local farmers markets and even until 2018 local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) options.  Now, many of us enjoy weekly or monthly local food markets with a wide variety of seasonal produce from artichokes to zucchini and locally produced meats and cheese. 


Around the country there has been a growth in sourcing food grown or raised in a sustainable manner.  But could that be happening here? The answer is yes.  One of the leaders in this effort is Ogallala Commons a nonprofit education and leadership organization that reinvigorates commonwealth to build vibrant Great Plains communities. These communities in the High Plains overlie the Ogallala Aquifer which unites eight states from the Midland-Odessa area to South Dakota, almost the Canadian border.  One of their goals has been to rebuild local food systems.   


In 2006, through social media, they have been bringing awareness to and celebrating local food production.  (See )  

They have divided the geographic area above the Ogallala Aquifer into foodsheds based on the idea of a watershed.  We are in (no surprise here), the Permian Basin Foodshed.  ( )   


If you have visited any of our local farmers markets, you know the breadth and variety of the food products available.  Each week we can choose from local cheese, meats, eggs, and mushrooms to flowers, vegetables, fruits, and baked goods.  All locally grown!  It is a joy to be able to thank and shake the hand of the person who has produced your food.  We have written previously about our local farmers markets,  but on November 15, 2023 you might have a chance to hear about our local foods in person when Ogallala Commons hosts the Permian Basin Field Day on November 15, 2023 in Tarzan, Texas the home of Flying Y Farms.   


The event will provide information, ideas, and inspiration for food producers and gardeners who want to grow in the Permian Basin region, as well as networking opportunities to support successful growing and marketing of local food.  For more information contact Darryl Birkenfeld at    Register online or see the full agenda at: 


And Debbie and I are going and look forward to seeing you there!  


If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.   Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at Click on “Resources”. 


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