KEEPING IT FRESH
Josh Casey founded Abilene Fresh to connect the Abilene community with fresh, locally-grown food. Operations began in 2020 but emerged out of a previous organization, Hug-A- Root Farms.
“I needed to eat better in order to stay well, and I developed a passion to help others do the same,” Casey said. “The key was expanding access to fresh, naturally grown food. In Hug-A- Root’s early days, we did this by installing community gardens. Over time, we realized that the way to get more farm-fresh food to more people was to connect existing local farms to local people. That’s what Abilene Fresh does. It bridges the gap be- tween farms growing food naturally and people who want and need good food, right here in our local communities.”
The mission of Abilene Fresh is to “provide access to fresh, local, naturally-grown food.”
The method is a food hub that puts consumers directly in contact with local, sustainably-grown produce from farms within a 40-mile radius of Abilene. Then, add out- reach, resources, training and donations.
“We get the food to you, and we also do much more than that,”Casey said.“We have programs that teach people how to farm. We partner with farmers to donate food to cancer patients and people work- ing hard to support their families. We connect local farmers to resources that help their farms thrive.”
THE LOCAL APPEAL
Buying food that’s locally grown is important to the community for four main reasons, Casey said: freshness, access, community and economy.
“When food doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles before reaching store shelves, it can be picked at peak ripeness and remain free of preservatives. Locally-grown food can remain in the field until it is perfectly ripe, making it as nutrient-rich and flavor- ful as possible,” said Casey. “There was a time when everyone knew where their food came from, when people had a real connection to the food they ate. People spent time together in every phase of local agriculture, from saving seeds to harvesting to pre- paring meals together. This type of connectedness helps us build deep, meaningful relationships with our neighbors.”
HOW IT WORKS
Abilene Fresh primarily operates through subscriptions, but occasionally, you can pick up a grab bag on a single-purchase basis.
Subscriptions provide customers with weekly bags of produce for 6, 12, 18 or 36 weeks. Bags are filled with a variety of seasonal produce from local farms.
Once subscriber bags are filled and food has been donated to local nonprofits, Abilene Fresh uses any leftover produce to offer $20 grab bags to the general public. The grab bags have 4-5 selections of locally grown vegetables.
ON THE HORIZON
New events, programs and connections are in the works for the organization. Casey looks forward to starting a tradition of an annual farm-to-table dinner and also wants to bring more local farmers into the system.
Thanks to a two-acre property donation from McMurry University, Abilene Fresh hopes to raise funds to create an educational farm to teach people about farming and provide Abilene with more green space.
“This property has great potential to be a wonderful resource for our community,” Casey said. “Abilene Fresh wants to revive the culture of food growing in West Central Texas and create a community in which we know our farmers again.”