Lisa Seger leads me to the shadiest area at her goat dairy, Blue Heron Farm in Waller County. It’s a long picnic table with two benches set out under a huge tree. Since this is the coolest spot, it’s also where Seger’s 46 Nubian goats lounge. They lay under the table and benches, rub their faces against the wood, and most notably, climb atop the table to relieve themselves.
Before we sit, Seger, who’s running as a Democrat for the District 3 seat in the Texas House of Representatives, grabs a long branch and scrapes goat feces from the top of the table. The pebbles fly off the edge to the ground.
“Nope, this isn’t a metaphor for anything,” she jokes.
Seger is the first Democrat to run in District 3 since the 2010 redistricting put Waller County in the same district with a portion of Montgomery County. Republican Cecil Bell Jr. has comfortably represented this rural area since 2012, championing a platform of conservative values, but Seger, who has run Blue Heron for 12 years and produces goat cheese used by restaurants across the city, feels things need to change in her district.
“(Rep. Bell) focuses on things that are not the problem,” says Seger, who filed campaign papers in December and is listed as the only Democrat running against Bell. “He introduced four separate bills to ban gay marriage. That is not a problem we’re having in Waller County. Our problems are economic problems like everyone else’s.
“In the meantime,” she continues, “our school funding keeps getting lower and lower, and our property taxes, as a result of that, keeping going higher and higher. And I think if you ask people, they’d rather the legislature focus on that.”
Blue Heron has succeeded on a mission of sustainability, meaning no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides, plus rotational grazing to continuously rehabilitate its 10.5 acres. It produces cheese that’s used by Houston restaurants like Down House and State of Grace. But margins are thin. The farm has currently two employees—Seger and her husband Christian—and it pays for a satellite that receives a signal allowing for internet access, though speed and reliability are tenuous.
Access, and not just to the internet, remains a major issue for those living in a rural communities. Seger wants the state to invest in broadband and regulate it as a utility, and she also wants to find ways to improve rural access to health care, jobs, and food.
Food means farming, but Seger says obstacles remain there, too. Land values are high, she says, and at her local county level it’s difficult if impossible for small-scale vegetable farmers to get tax exemptions.
The message that sends to farmers: “If you need money,” says Seger, “don’t do this.”
Seger is likely facing an uphill battle for the House seat—anecdotally, a neighbor told her he looked over her campaign platform and respects her, but could never vote Democrat—though she says she wouldn't know just what chance she has. Whatever the outcome, Seger plans on keeping Blue Heron running at the same speed. Either she wins and commutes to and from Austin, hiring a part-time worker to help with the farm, or she loses and has only the memories of a campaign that began in December but is now just starting to gain momentum. But either way she’ll be happy with the fact that she ran, and maybe that’ll inspire others in the area to pursue politics.
“I’m hoping that however this goes down, the next time there’s an election I’ll be helping another candidate, because I think I’ve learned a lot,” she says. “I have a lot to offer. I’ll ghostwrite for people, introduce them to people I’ve met. Honestly, I’d like to see someone younger than me running. We need people in government who have to live under their policies.”