Do you know how many working farms are operating inside your own town or city? The number just might delight you. In an effort to celebrate urban farming inside the Austin city limits, the East Austin Urban Farm Tour, in its eighth year, exemplifies the best of the best of local sustainability.
I attended the event this year on Sunday, April 9, and learned so much not only about this great city, but about urban farming efforts across the country. It takes a special kind of person to be a farmer these days, and those who work in the profession rely on their local communities. Everyone from restauranteurs to your casual farmer's market browser helps smaller, local farms stand on their own two legs.
Paula & Glenn Foore
Springdale Farm is one of the more well-known farms along the tour due in large part to their local community involvement. They run a farm stand open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9AM to 1PM.
They also run the Springdale Center for Urban Agriculture, a nonprofit organization "formed for the purpose of promoting sustainable agriculture in urban areas, growing connections between people and local food systems, fostering community, and teaching the arts of sustainable living."
Currently, SCUA is working with local chefs to grow "heirloom and heritage varieties of vegetables and herbs not grown" in the Hill Country region of Texas. This project is working toward understanding the types of foods that can successfully be grown locally as opposed to outsourcing those varieties.
Springdale Farm is beautiful in its size, and it was fascinating to see the rows and rows of summer plants ready to bloom along with the various other vegetables already sprouting. The tomato and pepper rows, in particular, were a personal favorite as I cannot get enough of Cherokee Purple tomatoes in the summertime.
Springfield had a delicious lineup of local restaurants and companies, and all of them served up amazing fare influenced by or using ingredients fresh from the farms featured.
- Argus Cider
- Eden East
- Friends and Allies
- L'oca D'oro
- Lost Pines Yaupon Tea
- The Hightower
- Tito's Vodka
- Wahaka Mezcal
Some favorites included the Greengo from Tito's and the Hightower, which was a cocktail using Tito's Vodka, cucumber, ginger, lime, and Kina L'aero D'or.
Justine's Duck Fat Brioche Farm Egg Salad was literally from heaven above, so fresh and creamy, and Chicon's Choucroute Garnie (Beef Sausage, Kraut, Springdale Farm's Vegetables & Herbs) was just the right amount of heat and spice.
However, my favorite was Hightower's Grilled & Fermented Cabbage, Farm Greens, Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette, Pecan & Beet Crema, and Smoked Pepitas. It highlighted the fresh, farm flavors of the tour and really showcased the possibilities of the ingredients it featured.
From there, it was on to the next farm, Rain Lily Farm.
Rain Lily Farm
Stephanie Scherzer & Kim Beal
The quaintest and sweetest farm in terms of design was Rain Lily Farm, which is understandable when you consider that it's part of a "design and landscape company that specializes in native Texas plants and sustainable practices."
Specializing in organic vegetables, dairy from their goats, and fresh chicken eggs, Rain Lily was a sweet surprise along the tour.
Their use of wheels throughout the farm for design brings out the personality of the owners' mission for the farm.
Rain Lily had the friendliest mitten-pawed farm cat roaming around and their rows of vegetables and flowers are segmented in a charming way.
Like Springdale, Rain Lily had some seriously tasty vendors on-site, including quite a few of personal favorites.
- Buddha's Brew
- Dai Due
- LeRoy & Lewis Barbecue
- Lick Honest Ice Creams
- Olive & June
- Strange Land Brewery
- Texas Sake
- Treaty Oak Distilling
Notable creations have to include LeRoy & Lewis' Peaceful Pork, a Smoked Jowl with Charred Broccoli, and Juniper's Grilled Gnocchi with Spring Onion and a Marsala Glaze. And can anyone make a list without including Dai Due? I would bathe in the Strawberry Whipped Lard that accompanied their Housemade French Bread.
Rain Lily had, by far, the most delicious overall roundup of creations, but the winner in my book was Lick Honest Ice Creams' two flavors, Flowerfetti and Bay Leaf & Strawberry. The Flowerfetti used Hausbar's edible flowers and lavender greens combined with Rain Lily's fresh lemon balm. The Bay Leaf & Strawberry featured a custard base made using Rain Lily eggs with bay leaves and strawberries floating throughout.
As far as beer goes, Strange Land Brewery is a favorite of mine here in Austin and it was fantastic to be able to sip on them while taking in the chicken coop area, fenced in with little trees that looked like a miniature Jurassic Park set.
Boggy Creek Farm
Carol Ann Sayle & Larry Butler
Boggy Creek Farm isn't just a farm, it's an Austin institution. The Farmhouse at Boggy Creek (b. 1841) is one of the two oldest homes in Austin still standing. In fact, President Sam Houston even attended a wedding supper on the premises in 1841 following its unveiling. How's that for Texas lore?
In 1992, when the current team gained stewardship over the farm, they began restoring the farmhouse, as well as revitalizing the farm. They have since built a loyal following and their Farm Stand, open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 8AM to 1PM, except in August, always has a fresh variety of items that are consistently updated.
Like the previous two farms, it was hard to pick favorites at Boggy Creek, though a few vendors really stood out as using the fresh ingredients perfectly.
- Dolce Neve
- Live Oak Brewery
- Sala and Betty
- Texas French Bread
- The Austin Wine Merchant
- Twisted Skillet
- Weather Up
Major props go out to the Twisted Skillet's Chilled Spring Onion and Potato Soup, and Wink's Savory Potato Bread Pudding. A good bread pudding is hard to pull off, but they managed to make a comfort food even better. Texas French Bread's pimento cheese was everything the Southern staple should be, plus more.
Weather Up's Bloody Mary was the best Bloody Mary I've ever had -- its base was so fresh and seasonal, you could taste almost every single spice. Talk about using vegetables in an exciting way you want more of!
HausBar Urban Farm & GuestHaus
Dorsey Barger & Susan Hausmann
HausBar was the last stop on the tour, and in terms of the animals, we definitely saved the best for last. The farm not acts as a sustainable urban farm with its vegetable offerings and countless animals, but it also acts as a vacation rental. If you're ever in the market for the most perfect AirBnB, you found it.
The mini donkeys were adorable where we learned from a kind volunteer that they are some of the best watch animals you can have on a farm.
I also learned that inside Austin city limits, every hoofed animal has to be a mini version, which was interesting since I was particularly on the hunt for goats because I mean, goats.
After oohing and aahing over the animals at the farm for a bit, the food and drink were waiting! HausBar had a yummy lineup of vendors and one of the best cocktails of the entire tour.
- Brewer's Table
- Counter 3.Five VII
- Dripping Springs Vodka
- Emmer & Rye
- Lauren's Garden Mix
- Old Thousand
- Paula's Texas Spirits
- Texas Keeper Cider
- Wimberley Tea
- Zilker Brewing
Notable mentions include Old Thousand's dish featuring edible flowers was a cloud of creamy softness that was fried to perfection on the outside and Uchi's Swiss Chard and Egg Wrap. Brewer's Table lemon-y foam on top of the beer served was a refreshing little treat and I definitely wanted more.
However, the real winner was the Tortellini from Emmer & Rye with a filling so fresh and creamy, it put other ricotta ravioli fillings to absolutely shame. I didn't just eat the tortellini, I drank the buttery sauce, too. So there's that.
If there's an event like the East Austin Urban Farm Tour in your area if you're not local to Austin, by all means you should take advantage of it. Not only will it give you a chance to interact with the people who create the food at your favorite farm-to-table restaurants, but it just feels good knowing where your food comes from when you can put a friendly face to the name of the farm.
The country needs more celebration of urban farmers, small farmers, and agriculture in general. There's nothing as American as a Texas-grown tomato warmed from the sun, pulled straight from the vine and bitten into like an apple.