Tim Miller is Growing With Nature (podcast)Mar 2nd, 2017 | By Cecilia | Category: Featured Articles, podcast, the show
Tim Miller is a conservationist turned gardener turned farmer. And he’s still a conservationist.
We met in the late 1980s when I rented a plot at Austin Community Gardens in Austin, Texas; he managed the six acre organic site back then. Today Tim works from home as an organic farmer and has about four of his nearly five acres in cultivation.
And what does he grow?
“Oh, as far as vegetables, it’s from A to Z, and about 150 fruit trees,” he tells me as we sit in his dining room/office after a lunch of mixed greens and tomatoes harvested from plantings in his hoop house, and cabbage from the field that he boiled and seasoned. Everything on our plates had been picked less than 30 minutes before we dined.
Millberg Farm is in Kyle, Texas, about 20 mile south of Austin, Texas on Interstate 35. From this compact parcel, Tim runs a Community Supported Agriculture program, hosts classes and holds plant sales.
I visited in mid February; when I arrived a group of young farmer wannabes had just finished helping Tim plant bunching onions. He’s generous with his time, and always willing to help others learn how to work with nature and not against her.
The majority of Millberg Farm crops grow from seeds saved from previous year’s plantings. He wastes nothing and is always on the lookout for new, efficient and innovative ways to produce food, and extend the growing season. In 1991, his first year farming in Kyle, Tim supplied the second grade class of a nearby school with “two varieties of tomato seedlings — hundreds of them.” The students, grew the plants, took notes, documented when they watered, fertilized and how much, and turned their results over to Farmer Tim. From their findings, he discovered tomatoes that — with care — can withstand Texas winters. “And twenty years later, a lot of those kids are gardeners,” he exclaims with obvious pride.
He’s also proud of the fact that he is certified organic and has never spent a penny on insect control. He plants trap crops that draw pest insects to them and away from his vegetables and fruits. And when it comes to water, he is extremely conservative. Aside from minimal supplemental watering — which he does with captured rainwater — he lets nature keep his crops hydrated.
“By taking care of the soil, and working organic matter into it, you can improve water retention, and go longer periods without rain.” Crop selection is highly important; choosing plants for their drought resistance is key to success. In addition, Tim says he spends most of his effort cultivating crops from October to June, when the weather is less harsh, and rain is more plentiful. Although, he said because he does works with whatever water nature provides, he has become comfortable with having a lower crop yield than farmers who regularly irrigate their plantings.
But Tim Miller is willing to make that trade off because he knows he’s supplying his community with good, clean food, and doing his part to keep Mother Nature in balance.
For his efforts in water conservation, Tim was awarded with the 2015 Producer/Farmer Blue Legacy Award for Water Conservation in the entire state of Texas by the Texas Water Development Board.