Hydroponic Tomato Presidio Greenhouse facility in Marfa, Texas (Village Farms)

Hydroponic Tomato Presidio Greenhouse facility in Marfa, Texas (Village Farms)

After Rebuilding, Harvest Is Just Around The Corner At Marfa Greenhouse

It’s been two years since a hail storm took out the Village Farms greenhouses just north of Marfa. That storm ended up costing Presidio County $100,000 in lost tax revenue. But the company’s just finished rebuilding one of the damaged greenhouses and it’s harvesting time.

It’s payday and there are cars at just about all the parking spaces at Marfa National Bank. Workers have just gotten their paychecks from the tomato plant. Jose Castillo packs crates of tomatoes there.

“It’s the best day of the week,” said Castillo. “That’s why everybody is happy. Yeah, the pay is good; every two weeks get paid about a $1000. It’s alright, I ain’t complaining about it. Puts gas in my truck, food in my mouth so I’m pretty happy.”

Castillo has been working at Village Farms for 3 months. Like many of his co-workers, all of whom have work visas, the 18 year-old wakes at 4:30 a.m. to catch a shuttle from Ojinaga. He spends up to 16 hours on a shift, before heading home. He doesn’t get back until midnight.

“It was pretty tough; the long hours, waking up early, getting home late, waking up in a couple hours and coming back to work,” said Castillo. “Other than that it’s an alright paying job.”

And the harvest is around the corner. Now that it’s been rebuilt, the greenhouse is expected to produce up to 10 million pounds of tomatoes, in a year. So he won’t be seeing an end to those long days anytime soon.

Steve Ruffini, the Chief Financial Officer of Village Farms, says with the rebuilt greenhouses, he needs more staff.

“Bring on roughly 70 people,” said Ruffini. “That is somewhat seasonal depending on the planning cycle. When we’re planning and bringing new plants we bring on incremental people. But 70 full time positions year round.”

Castillo sees the need for more workers at the new plant.

“Yeah, like they hired some new people,” said Castillo. “They have some new people working in there and they took some people from the other plant because they don’t have enough ladies to pack the tomatoes. So they’re hiring more people. They’re needing more people.”

So most of the greenhouses are repaired, but damage from the hail storm remains. Marfa Independent School District gets $5000 from the state for every student enrolled. Twenty-two students left because of the hail storm in 2012. Superintendent Andrew Peters said that hurt.

“So twenty kids is $100,000 that we lost,” said Peters. “You know, $100,000 is a lot of money for a $3 million-4 million budget.”

The closing also hurt Presidio County.the tax base shrunk by tens of thousands of dollars.Of course, with the new facilities, tax dollars will flow back into county offers. But as for a return of students, the outlook is not as good.

“I just do not believe we are going to see a huge influx of kids coming anytime soon,” said Peters.

And that’s the reality that Superintendent Peters is planning for when the school year starts in over a month.

-Jefferson Yen

The Marfa Public Radio headquarters at located at 111 S. Highland Ave in Marfa, TX.

The Marfa Public Radio headquarters at located at 111 S. Highland Ave in Marfa, TX.

Dance on the Street, Support Your Public Radio Station!

Streaming issues – select the “Audio Help” below the Listen Now button for more options.

RIGHT NOW, we’re giving you a chance to put your dancing shoes on, enjoy some Texas tunes and support your public radio station while you’re at it!

Join us right outside the station from 5-8 pm for a dancing/tailgating party during Joe Nick Patoski’s Texas Music Hour of Power radio show.

The show explores the stars and unsung heroes of Texas music – Patoski’s also written for Texas Monthly, dug deep into Dallas Cowboys fever, and written a quintessential biography of Willie Nelson.

After the street party, head over to the historic USO Building (just a few blocks south of the station), for a show by the legendary Texas Tornadoes as part of the Viva Big Bend Music Festival.

Part of the proceeds from the concert go to benefit your listener-supported, non-profit public radio station.

The show kicks off at 9 pm with performance by Jay Boy Adams and Zenobia, and the Texas Tornadoes with Flaco Jimenez go on around 10 pm.

Give us a call for more information - 432-729-4578

Dawn in the Big Bend of Texas; it shares some tectonic and geographic characteristics with the Permian Basin, home of the country's highest-producing oil field. (Jim White III)

Dawn in the Big Bend of Texas; it shares some tectonic and geographic characteristics with the Permian Basin, home of the country's highest-producing oil field. (Jim White III)

Border Fracking Standoff: NY Court Ruling Likely To Affect Outcome

The Big Bend of Texas, so named for the way the region hugs a massive bend in the Rio Grande, is renown for its desert landscapes, open spaces and tranquility.

But parts of it lie within the oil-rich Permian Basin, the nation’s highest producing oil field thanks in large measure to fracking technology.

And now, Mexico is drilling at least 29 exploratory wells across the border from the Big Bend, a saying it wants to jumpstart fracking operations there.

Of course, fracking requires water. And in the Big Bend, some landowners are selling water for fracking, pitting some conservationists against private property holders, who also consider themselves to be good stewards of the land.


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A chart made by Presidio County Groundwater District manager Rudy Garcia showing the amount of water used by the city of Marfa (blue squares) and the corresponding level of the supply aquifer (purple squares).

A chart made by Presidio County Groundwater District manager Rudy Garcia showing the amount of water used by the city of Marfa (blue squares) and the corresponding level of the supply aquifer (purple squares).

Presidio County Water Managers Offer Answers, but Citizens Have More Questions

Two weeks ago a small group of citizens vocalized concerns over Marfa’s practice of selling bulk water to clients outside the city.

“Our water is too cheap. It needs to be expensive. We need water conservation. We need to think about that,” said Buck Johnston.

Two weeks ago the Marfa resident formed a small protest to block tanker trucks using city water for their oil and gas speculation. The protest worked briefly but soon the trucks were rerouted to other spigots.

Later, it was announced that no oil or gas was found. And though the trucks disappeared from Marfa city streets, the concern about water use in Presidio County hasn’t.


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Jeff Davis County Sheriff Rick McIvor says deploying National Guard troops won't solve the crisis at the border. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Jeff Davis County Sheriff Rick McIvor says deploying National Guard troops won't solve the crisis at the border. (Travis Bubenik/KRTS)

Chairman of Border Sheriffs Coalition says National Guard Troops Won’t Solve Humanitarian Crisis

Governor Rick Perry has announced his plan to send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border in response to the recent influx of Central American migrants.

Perry says the troops are needed to protect against threats from Mexican cartels and other criminals, but the Chairman of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition says it’s an unnecessary move.

Jeff Davis County Sheriff Rick McIvor spoke with us about Perry’s plan.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to infiltrate the area with a lot of troops,” McIvor says. “I think you put a lot of fear into the people that live in the area.”


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Dr. Adrian Billings, chief medical officer of Presidio County Health Services, speaks to attendees of a community health clinic in Marathon, Texas. Photo courtesy of the Denton Record-Chronicle. (2012)

Dr. Adrian Billings, chief medical officer of Presidio County Health Services, speaks to attendees of a community health clinic in Marathon, Texas. Photo courtesy of the Denton Record-Chronicle. (2012)

First Rural Medical Residency Opens on U.S./Mexico Border

There’s a crisis in the nation’s healthcare. The lack of family doctors, an issue throughout the U.S., is a problem felt most acutely in rural regions, which lacks doctors of all specialities. But a possible solution to make up this deficit has made its way to the U.S/Mexico border, opening here in Texas.

Rural Medical Residencies, where medical students are placed in rural settings for at least two years of their medical training, is a model currently used in a handful of places around the country. The idea is to train doctors in the places they are needed most.


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Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Community Correspondent, learn new skills and make new friends.

Become a Marfa Public Radio Community Correspondent

Never miss a city council meeting? Always finding interesting stories in the Big Bend? Go to a lot of community events or concerts? If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge and experience with Marfa Public Radio listeners, become one of our volunteer Community Correspondents.

We’re looking for engaged citizens from across the Big Bend. A Community Correspondent assists Marfa Public Radio with news gathering and producing stories from the community you live in.
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Mon. Jul 28 Interview: Dark Energy And The Expansion Of The Universe: New McDonald Observatory Director Leads Experiment For Answers

As a part of our Astro Series, Lorne Matalon spoke with the new Director of McDonald Observatory Taft Armandroff. As primary author or co-author of 41 peer reviewed journal articles and review papers, Armandroff is a widely respected research astronomer in dwarf spheroidal galaxies, stellar populations in the Milky Way galaxy and nearby galaxies, chemical evolution of galaxies and dark matter.

Talk At Ten is generally broadcast live at 10 am and repeated at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Marfa Public Radio Now Accepting Applications for the Fall Internship Program

Marfa Public Radio is looking for 4 interns for September – December:

  • Are you glued to current affairs, culture, new music and talk shows?
  • Do you like working as team player with tight deadlines, standing on the front line of information for the community?
  • Are you business minded and keen to sharpen your development and grant skills whilst supporting a non-profit?
  • Do you want to work with audio, editing and post production?

If you are saying yes then read on!

Located in Far West Texas Marfa Public Radio is looking for 4 interns to start this September 2014. We will offer you training and experience at an NPR station and give you the opportunity to work with skilled professionals. We provide furnished housing at no cost. 45 minutes from the border of Mexico, we are a small, hard working team of 6 with 20+ volunteers on site covering West Texas, the Mexican border and Big Bend National Park.

The region has a diverse range of people visiting and working together. The area nurtures and showcases a wealth of arts and culture events with Chinati Foundation, McDonald Observatory, Lannan Foundation and Ballroom Marfa to name just a few great neighboring non-profits. In close proximity to the border, the national park and oil fields our geography and environment is important to our community and our reporting.

Our mission is to provide radio that unites the community and promotes cultural enrichment through presentation and focus on the importance of art, education, science, quality of life and the local economy.

If you think Marfa Public Radio is the place for you, please contact us at k@marfapublicradio.org with your cover letter, resume and 2 references.

We will not consider applicants without these materials. Due date August 15.

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Thu. Jul 24 Interview: Viva Big Bend Coverage

Host Tom Michael speaks with Stewart Ramser, organizer of Viva Big Bend, and Beth Bellante about this year’s Viva Big Bend festivities.

Five towns, 60 bands and over 75 shows– the annual music festival Viva Big Bend is back! Marfa Public Radio has all the information on the hot shows catch and where to catch them.

Talk At Ten is generally broadcast live at 10 am and repeated at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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The EPA's ECHO website uses data from state pollution regulators to compare compliance and enforcement. (Dave Fehling/StateImpact Texas)

Texas Slams EPA Website that Compares State Pollution Enforcement

Compared to other states, Texas has a consistently higher percentage of major industrial plants with “high priority violations” of air pollution laws. Yet, compared to other states, Texas does far fewer comprehensive inspections of polluting facilities.

Or at least, that’s what data seem to show on website run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Not surprisingly, Texas, with a history of fighting the EPA at every turn, says the website has “tremendous potential” for being misleading, deceiving, and inaccurate.

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Hannah Texie Bailey, Elaine Harmon, Roseland Klein, and Francesca Altamura

Wed. Jul 23 Interview: Photography Exhibition at The Lumberyard, Marfa

Emerging curator Francesca Altamura, artist Hannah Texie Bailey and community supporter Elaine Harmon, discuss their upcoming exhibition.  Seeing and Hearing Memories is a photography/multimedia exhibition that explores an emerging genre, vernacular photography.  Photographs, candids and posed alike, taken by amateurs, make their way on to the exhibition’s walls reminding us of the past and ourselves.  The show also has a community evolvement aspect in which Marfa residents, both long time and new arrivals, share their own pictures for the show. Seeing and Hearing Memories opens at  The Lumberyard, Sunday, July 27, on Dean Street in Marfa.  An artist reception will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Talk At Ten is generally broadcast live at 10 am and repeated at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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