Tiffany Washington, also known by her farmer alter ego Nancy Farm Fancy, operates the only black owned farm within Austin’s city limits. She’s a food justice warrior, protecting her childhood home by planting a nutritional defense around her community.
The experiences of her past have greatly influenced her current path.
“I enlisted in the US Navy straight out of high school. I come from a family of community activists and military servicemen. As an Intelligence Specialist I deployed onboard the USS George Washington in 2004 during OIF/OEF. My job was providing research and information to higher ranking personnel.
While faced with the hazards of combat, I was also subjected to the ugliness of sexual harassment and racial discrimination while fighting for my country. This lead me on a spiraling path of depression, self-doubt, and a battle with PTSD that I continue to push through today.
Finding farming after service has provided the safe space for my healing and self-care while handling the effects of trauma. In today’s atmosphere, my farm has become a beacon of hope within my community. It allows me to continue my public service work with purpose.
Farming is the most underrated public service in the United States! Every community deserves the benefits of sustainable food practices, especially those used on small scale farms such as mine. Urban farming is the road to increased local food consumption. A healthier food system will emerge from the sharing of small farm culture.” -Tiffany Washington
Tiffany racked up experience before digging deep into her own ventures.
- She took an 18 week beginners course with Farmshare Austin.
- She completed a year long program, Battleground to Breaking Ground, for veterans at Texas A&M.
- She worked with a mentor, providing hands on training for 100 hours on her own property.
Tiffany signed her first commercial land lease in September of 2018. She worked with a local property owner willing to let her farm a quarter acre of their land. This tiny plot and founding place of Dobbin-Kauv Garden Farm is located in the neighborhood where Tiffany grew up. Unfortunately, that area and the folks who call it home, are now facing gentrification at an alarming rate.
Through that lease and the cultivation of the land, Tiffany’s mission is:
“to highlight and preserve Black Farm Heritage in Austin, Texas by growing quality produce, using organic practices. We connect families and communities with local Food and Farmers.”
The hectic life that surrounds a large family doesn’t prevent Tiffany from her public service. In fact, her kids inspire her to keep pushing, fighting for their neighborhood, and ensuring a place in society for small farms like hers.
“I have 4 children ages 13, 7, 5, and 4. Three boys and one girl. My kids are sponges, so they want to learn everything. I think I work for them sometimes because they tell me what to do on the farm all the time!
Also I’m raising 3 black boys in a very scary racial climate. They are able to see what it means to make a difference amongst adversity—building a purpose beyond color.” -Tiffany Washington
As a veteran who has turned to farming as way to further her own personal treatment, Tiffany has advice for anyone struggling with PTSD.
“Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. For years I struggled because of pride and the traditional idea that women of color are so strong that they never break. I come from a line of black women who’ve faced atrocities. That thought breaks me some days.
I depend on my friends, family, and doctors to support my growth. It’s okay to be vulnerable. There is someone out there who loves and supports you.
If you want to farm, go outside and get started. Seek out groups and local farmers. Volunteer. Take agriculture classes, business classes, and pull your britches up because this lifestyle is real.” -Tiffany Washington
As a small farmer, fighting the economic and cultural roadblocks that prevent many sustainable growers from prospering, Tiffany offers her advice to other food justice warriors.
- “Don’t be afraid to face your fears: the fear of being too young, too old, or too few in number.
- Go out there, seek the information, and get into action.
- Everyone should grow food regardless of farming aspirations.
- Start with a local Farmer. Call one up they’re probably in a phone book!” -Tiffany Washington
Tiffany is seizing this moment to reach out to the community and tap into resources for the farm.
“Crowdfunding is our current objective. It provides us the chance to have our community and neighbors involved in the journey and growth of the farm itself. I’m extremely classic, so I’m all about direct mailing letters and updates to our friends!
We hope to expand the farm to a full 2 acres in the next 5 years. This would include buying the entire property.
We hope to have a commercial kitchen to develop value adding products like baby food and freeze dried snacks. By connecting with resources and increasing sales, we will see consistent growth that could place us in a position to venture into Agritourism.” -Tiffany Washington
If you can, make a donation to Tiffany and her amazing vision. Today’s work and hustle will lay a foundation for future generations to thrive and support one another.