Our biggest issue ever!
We start off the new week with a lettuce farm expansion project, a look at Temple's train history and a program that helps soldiers become farmers and ranchers. Oh, and check out Caftan! Enjoy!
MONDAY, AUGUST 23, 2021
“We will be able to grow about 8 million heads of lettuce every year.”
Marshall McDaniel stands between indoor “fields” of lettuce being grown at TrueHarvest Farms near Belton. The farm is about to expand.
Expansion to provide room to grow
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple exclusive
Construction will start next month on a 3.5 acre indoor greenhouse that will more than quadruple annual production at a Belton lettuce farm.
TrueHarvest Farms currently operates a 54,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouse and the added growing space will allow the facility to expand its product line and reach new customers through service contracts and supermarkets.
“We will be able to grow about 8 million heads of lettuce every year,” said Marshall McDaniel, one of the owners of the farm. “The expansion is coming at an opportune time. We will be in Whole Foods next month and we are shipping lettuce to 12 states.”
The farm supplies Temple and Belton school districts with lettuce and sells produce at Sprouts, Brookshire Bros. and United grocery stores. McDaniel said the expansion is needed to meet a growing demand for pesticide-free produce.
TrueHarvest grows five varieties of lettuce, said Jason Maks, McDaniel’s partner. But that could be just the tip of the iceberg (yep, I said that).
“We’re growing FinStar from seeds we obtained in Finland,” Maks said. “It’s a member of the iceberg family but has better nutritional value. We also grow a Monte Carlo Romaine that has big, dark green leaves perfect for salads or wraps.”
Other products include Frisee, a Red Oak Leaf and Butterhead.
“Butter is our best seller,” Maks said. “We also package the Frisee, Red Oak and FinStar as a mix.”
McDaniel said the five varieties being produced were selected for their ability to grow in a Central Texas greenhouse environment.
As greenhouse space expands, so will the farm’s product line, McDaniel said.
“We’ll be adding some new products,” he said. “We get a lot of requests for spinach and arugula.”
The new greenhouse will be fully automated from seed to harvest. The current operation is about 75 percent automated, McDaniel said.
“Once the new greenhouse is operational, produce won’t be touched by human hands,” he said.
Riding the steadily increasing demand for locally grown produce, TrueHarvest Farms grows fresh and pesticide-free head lettuce in a controlled environment 365 days a year.
“The climate here in Texas makes year-round field growing of leafy greens impossible, and like the rest of America, Texas has relied heavily on lettuce trucked in from California and Arizona for a substantial part of the year,” McDaniel said.
Once expansion is complete, TrueHarvest will be distributing fresh, nutritious and safe locally grown lettuce to stores within a 250 miles radius of Belton, he said.
“The lettuce will be available to the customer in less than 24 hours of harvesting,” he said.
According to Maks, there is an enormous demand for locally grown and safe lettuce.
After seeding and germination, TrueHarvest Farm’s plants are placed in an automatic growing system. As the plants grow, they are moved automatically through the greenhouse toward the harvesting station.
Although TrueHarvest began lettuce production in 2019, its roots run far deeper.
Today’s operation evolved from a hay and pecan operation that started on the 1,000-acre Chet Dickson ranch west of Belton in 1979. The farm recently expanded its pecan orchard and also grows corn and wheat. But, the focus of McDaniel and Maks is lettuce.
They said their goal for TrueHarvest Farm is epitomized in their slogan: “Rooted in Belton, TX”.
The farm is located near the intersection of Wheat and Sparta roads.
“The turntable in Temple — along with the roundhouse — was taken out in the mid to late 1960s.”
This photo taken in about 1951 and submitted by Craig Ordner, archivist for the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum, shows the roundhouse and turntable in the local rail yard.
Railroad turntables kept trains moving in right direction
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple exclusive
Back in the 1800s, railroad companies decided they needed a revolution. No, guns and cannons weren’t involved — the railways simply needed a means to keep trains moving in the right direction.
If a train arrived in Temple carrying goods from Fort Worth, for instance, the locomotive needed to be turned to face the opposite direction for its return to Cowtown. Originally, tracks were laid in a big loop, but that consumed both time and real estate.
In 1832, almost 50 years before Temple became a city, an inventor named Charles Fox came up with a method of spinning locomotives around — the turntable.
Similar to a playground carousel, a locomotive drove up a railed ramp onto a platform, then the platform was turned so the engine faced the opposite direction.
Unlike turntables that play our favorite Led Zeppelin albums — those were invented in 1877 but were largely replaced with media players and smartphones — many railroad turntables remain in rotation today. Temple’s turntable, however, is long gone.
“The turntable in Temple — along with the roundhouse — was taken out in the mid to late 1960s,” said Craig Ordner, a railroad archivist for the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum.
A roundhouse — a building with a circular or semicircular shape — was commonly built near the turntable and was used for servicing and storing locomotives.
“The roundhouse was where they serviced the steam locomotives — it wasn’t used for diesels,” Order said. “There were stalls for each locomotive. The steam locomotive would drive up on the turnabout and the turntable would rotate, positioning it in front of one of the stalls, then the locomotive would back into it.”
While Temple’s turntable is a thing of the past, they remain a vital part of the rail yard at places like BNSF’s Milby Shop in Houston. Even with bi-directional trains of today, the turntables are used as a quick means of moving locomotives and rail equipment onto tracks headed in the correct direction.
According to BNSF’s Rail Talk, today’s turntables are electrically operated from a control booth that has been installed on the turntable. Operators in the booth ride and rotate with the equipment being turned.
The appeal of turntables today is pretty much the same as it was in the 1800s: they require the least amount of space to turn a locomotive in a different direction. BNSF’s 32,500-mile rail network still employs 33 working turntables.
In the early days of railroads, turntables first caught on more in Europe than in the United States. That’s probably because the “new world” had more available land than did France, Spain or England. But, according to Rail Talk, as American railroad networks grew, so did the use of turntables.
Railroad workers pile on the Temple turntable with a Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe locomotive in this undated photo.
Caftan’s music is an “eclectic mix of folk, blues and psychedelic rock. The Grateful Dead has been a big influence, and some people say we sound like Rush.”
Caftan has deep Temple roots
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
Like much of the music world, the band Caftan has been in hibernation, mostly because of COVID concerns. But, that doesn’t mean the group hasn’t been busy.
“The pandemic gave us some time to work on our music and record,” said Cory Kosel, a former Temple High thespian who had great success on stage. “We’ve put together some songs and recorded an album. And now we’re finally going to play live again.”
Caftan — Kosel, Jake Nice, Jonathan Bustos and Braden Socia — is scheduled to play Fire House Pizza in Belton on August 28. Two weeks later, their debut album Where You Lead You will be released on streaming services.
“It will exciting to get back on stage,” Kosel said. “We have another show coming up Sept. 24 at Wild Detectives in Dallas. Wild Detectives is a book store in the Bishop Arts District but they also have a music venue.”
Kosel and Bustos have been friends since their days at Temple High School. They played in rock bands together as teenagers but went their separate ways after high school.
“I had moved to New York City but moved back to Texas,” Kosel said Sunday afternoon. “We reconnected in Dallas and started playing again. We brought in Jake and John about five years ago and started working on music together.”
During the pandemic, the group made the trip to John’s music studio in Moody and started recording. Where You Lead You features five original songs in an Extended Play format. The band has already started working on its next project.
“Our next album will be full length, and we’ve got some songs ready to go,” Kosel said. “We’ll be playing music off Where You Lead You and some of the songs for the new album at Fire House.”
Kosel describes Caftan’s music as an “eclectic mix of folk, blues and psychedelic rock.”
“The Grateful Dead has been a big influence,” he said, “and some people say we sound like Rush.”
At Temple High School, Kosel made quite a name for himself in One-Act Play competition when Temple won a state championship in 2007.
“Cory won the individual award for best performer in Texas,” said Jody Donaldson, a longtime volunteer with the THS theater department. He was also named outstanding male actor in Texas that year, and in 2008 he repeated with both awards. Very few performers have won these awards in consecutive years.”
At the Fire House Pizza gig, Caftan will take the stage at 8 p.m., Kosel said. Two other Central Texas performers — Gabor Nicholson and Mateo Lopez — will perform at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.
“I have a lot of love for my hometown, and I hope folks come to see us play,” Kosel said.
If anyone would like a preview, check out their single, All in You, now.
A monumental week at Our Town Temple
Our goal is to publish five regular issues every week, plus breaking news and bonus material. Last week, we published seven regular issues and a special edition that were collectively viewed by a whopping 50,122 readers! That was at 7 p.m. Sunday night. It’s still going up.
That included our biggest issue yet — the August 19 issue entitled “Dancing in the Streets.” The issue featured a story about Temple sign spinner Albert Finley, and the article was viewed more than 12,000 times. Wow!
At Our Town Temple, we are more determined than ever to bring you extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, local events and memories of our city’s past.
We encourage you to subscribe to our e-News service. The free issues will disappear this week. We have to pay our bills to keep our business running, and your continued support would be hugely appreciated.
Thanks, Temple, and keep reading about Our Town!
“American farmers and ranchers are disappearing at an alarming rate. With an average age of the American farmer at 57.5 years old, our nation’s food security could be challenged over the next 20 years.”
A vegetable workshop is part of training during BattleGround to Breaking Ground, a program that helps soldiers and veterans become farmers and ranchers.
Programs helps soldiers see green
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple exclusive
A U.S. Department of Agriculture funded program is helping Fort Hood soldiers exchange tanks and helmets for tractors and feed-store caps.
BattleGround to Breaking Ground is operated by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and helps soldiers leaving the military start a new life in agriculture.
Last week, 36 active-duty soldiers and veterans — most with Fort Hood roots — took their first steps toward green acres by attending a workshop in Belton.
“Usually we have about a dozen,” said program manager Erin Kimbrough. “But we had a huge turnout in Belton. There is a lot of interest in pursuing a career in agriculture following a military stint.”
BattleGround to Breaking Ground is open to everyone, but the $1,500 course fee is waived for soldiers and veterans, Kimbrough said.
“The program consists of three phases that teach participants how to start, maintain and grow a farm or ranch,” she said. “Phase 1 was the one-day introductory workshop.
The workshop taught attendees agricultural business concepts such as start-up first steps, business plan development, possibilities for farming or ranching with a disability, financial funding resources, marketing and other resources to support business operations, Kimbrough said.
“They’ve completed that, now it’s time for Phase 2.”
Phase 2 is much more difficult.
Participants are required to take 16 weeks of online business planning courses with emphasis on financial planning, marketing, risk management and government programs that provide funding assistance and resources, she said.
“Phase 3 is where participants get their hands dirty,” she said. “It includes 100 hours of hands-on training with mentors, and part of the training will be at one of our two training farms.”
One of those farms is in south Texas, the other is right down the road in Flat.
“Our Flat farm is 74 acres and participants will receive training in growing vegetables and raising sheep, goats, cattle and poultry,” Kimbrough said. “We can also provide lessons in bee and honey production.”
Kimbrough said BattleGround to Breaking Ground is helping fill a void in farming and ranching.
“American farmers and ranchers are disappearing at an alarming rate,” she said. “With an average age of the American farmer at 57.5 years old, our nation’s food security could be challenged over the next 20 years. Thankfully, many veterans are pursuing self-employment and turning to agriculture-based enterprises to accomplish their goals.”
Kimbrough said many soldiers come from rural areas, and when they complete their military obligations, they want to return to these areas.
“Unfortunately, unemployment in rural farming areas is higher than in urban areas,” she said. “Many veterans struggle to transition to civilian life after leaving the military. Farming and ranching provides opportunities for self-sustainability and therapeutic healing.”
Kimbrough said BattleGround to Breaking Ground graduates receive certification that expands funding and financing opportunities through government loans and grants.
“The program really helps active-duty soldiers get a solid start in agriculture,” she said. “The program allows soldiers to spend their last 180 days of military service doing internships on a farm or ranch.”
What’s happening, Temple?
August 25, Wednesday - Open Mic Comedy, Corkey’s, 8 p.m.
August 27, Friday - Craig Howell with Somewhere in Texas. Bo’s Barn Dance Hall. 8 p.m.
August 27, Friday - Karaoke Night at Corky’s. 8 p.m.
August 27, Friday - Megan Brucker & Charles Edward Ott, O’Briens Irish Pub. 9 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - Totally Rad 80’s Prom Gone Bad, A murder mystery. The Venue by Inn on the Creek, Salado. 6:30 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - Comedy Showcase, Corky’s, Show starts at 8 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - People’s Choice, Bo’s Barn Dance Hall. 9 p.m.
August 28, Saturday - Full STEAM Ahead! Learn about optical illusions and how to make them. Bell County Museum. 11 a.m.
August 29, Sunday - Margarita madness. Corky’s. 1-5 p.m.
September 2, Thursday - Central Texas State Fair, Bell County Expo Center. Wade Bowen. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 3, Friday - Central Texas State Fair, Pat Green. Twisted Metal Mayhem Derby. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 4, Saturday - Central Texas State Fair, Flatland Calvary, Professional Bull Riding. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 5, Sunday - Central Texas State Fair, Aaron Watson, Professional Bull Riding. Bell County Expo Center. 5 p.m. to midnight.
September 11, Saturday - A Sami Show Arts & Crafts Market, Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Weird Science. Explore different adaptations animals have made through presentations, fun games, and activities. Bell County Museum. 11 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Pink Fishing’s Reeling in the Cure, 6th annual bass tournament. Proceeds benefit breast cancer patients and cancer research. Cedar Ridge Park. 6 a.m. Call (254) 681-0102 for details.
September 11, Saturday - 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb & Ceremony. Wildcat Stadium. 7-11 a.m.
September 11, Saturday - Rescue Magazine’s Pet Adoption Extravaganza. There will almost 400 Animals up for adoption and fun for the whole family. Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 12, Sunday - A Sami Show Arts & Crafts Market, Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m.
September 12, Sunday - Rescue Magazine’s Pet Adoption Extravaganza. There will almost 400 Animals up for adoption and fun for the whole family. Bell County Expo Center. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
September 15, Wednesday - Tiny Thinkers, Kids 5 years old and younger are invited to the museum to experience the State Fair! Bell County Museum. 10 a.m.
September 18, Saturday - Harvest Celebration. Bring your family and friends to enjoy grape stomping, food trucks, music, and wine. This is a ticketed event. 3 Texans Winery. 6 p.m.
September 25, Saturday - Fun at the Fair! Join us at the museum to for fun at the fair! View the newest exhibit and take part in fun activities - explore symmetry by decorating a popcorn bucket, build your own mini rollercoaster, race your family in duck races, and visit our petting zoo! Bell County Museum. 11 a.m.
September 25, Saturday - Dale Watson, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
September 30, Thursday - TLC’s Celebration of Crazy, Sexy Cool with Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Bell County Expo Center. 7:30 p.m.
September 30, Thursday - Funniest Comic in Texas semi-finals. Corky’s.
October 8, Friday - Painting with a Twist, 3 Texans Winery. 6:30 p.m.
October 9, Saturday - Shinyribs, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
November 6, Saturday - Chris Hillman, Texas Music Series,Cultural Activities Center. 7:30 p.m.
November 13, Saturday - Market in the Vines. Take a walk through the vines and shop with over 50 vendors! Free to the public. 3 Texans Winery. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Have an event you would like to promote? Email info to OurTownTemple@gmail.com with “What’s Happening” in the subject line. Keep it short and sweet — what, when and where. You may include a short description. You must include a phone number for verification purposes. The phone number will not be published unless requested by submitter.
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BIG MEDICINE BALL — 40-pound soft-sided Rage Fitness medicine ball. Great for Atlas drills. Like new. $40. (254) 624-4010
MAKE GREAT SMOOTHIES — Vitamin. Great condition. Comes with two pitchers. Also great for salsas. $200. (254) 624-4010
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PLYO BOX: Soft-sided, 20x24x30 plyometric box. Great condition. $40. (254) 624-4010
Subscribers get FREE classifieds up to 25 words. Email info to OurTownTemple@gmail.com
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FREE COFFEE WITH PURCHASE OF ANY BREAKFAST ITEM — Easy As Pie, 1217 S 1st St A, Temple.
To list your business in Our Town Deals, call (254) 624-4010