Tecolote Farm’s David and Katie PitreApr 25th, 2012 | By Cecilia | Category: guest bio, the show
Having grown up on a citrus farm in California, Katie Kraemer Pitre thought farming was a perfectly reasonable way to make a living.
David Pitre, meanwhile, grew up in Texas and studied philosophy in college. It was a deep and abiding respect for the land and “coming from a family that had a near obsessive love of good, clean food” that lead him to become a tiller of the soil.
The couple met in California when David was working on a farm there.
Before farming near Austin, the couple farmed in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of Alaska with its long summer days and deep glacial soil, and in central coastal California.
Katie said she followed David back to Texas where they looked for land they could farm. They chose the Austin area because of a population that was already showing signs of a love of fresh, organic and local food.
They purchased 12 acres of Blackland Prairie about 14 miles east of Austin, and named their farm Tecolote, which is the Spanish word for “owl.”
When they moved onto the property owls were in abundance as they are to this day.
Katie and David raised their three children on the farm: nineteen-year-old Zachary (who was just one year old when the farm took root), fifteen-year-old Julia Claire, and Henry, who is nearly thirteen-years-old.
Blackland Prairie soil is heavy black clay that’s perfect for cotton — a crop cultivated in that area and picked by hand through the 1960s–but more challenging for vegetables. Katie said she was just naive enough to think farming in Texas would be the same as farming in California.
Live and learn.
They were certified organic in 1994 and shortly thereafter started their Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA), whereby eaters helped to pay for the cost of farming via subscription. In exchange for the fee consumers paid, they received baskets of fresh, organic produce on a weekly basis.
Tecolote Farm has the longest continuously running CSA program in Texas.
And for the first ten years of operation, word of mouth advertising provided them with as many subscribers as they could feed. In fact, they had up to a 10 year waiting list for their CSA. At the time they started selling direct to the public via subscription, there were very few urban farms or CSA programs. Today, there are more farms and more places for consumers to find local organic produce, so there’s room on the subscription list again.
David and Katie are gearing up to feed even more people than before, thanks to purchasing more acreage about 12 miles from the farm, along the fertile banks of the Colorado River. In addition, they’ve started to accept SNAP cards (Supplemental Assistance Nutrition Program–formerly called food stamps). And David says they’re also developing a program whereby they’ll get good food into the hands of more people who have a hard time affording it. David said it will be a collaboration between his current subscribers and the farm–making the vegetables available at cost–to the new low-income members.
When asked why he would intentionally break even (if that), David said, “I’m a farmer. I feed people.”