An Urban Farm in Austin, TX

Robyn Jasko

Robyn Jasko › Robyn Jasko is the creator of GrowIndie.com, which is all about food independence, diy-style. She ...

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Last summer, as we trekked across the country for the epic Homesweet Homegrown book tour, our journey would not have been complete without a stop in Austin, home of indie food trucks, retro bars, and a thriving farm-to-table restaurant scene. Our stop included a book signing party at the lovely Springdale Farm, tucked away within the city’s hip East Side scene, with delicious local treats and heirloom cocktails crafted by SOURCE, an Austin-based caterer with a farmer’s market philosophy. We were in heaven. It was all so good we are still talking about it.

Owned and farmed by Glenn and Paula Foore, Springdale Urban Farm has become a staple of Austin’s growing farm to table movement. The Foore’s grow more than 75 seasonal vegetable varieties on their nearly 5 acre property, with ducks and chickens roaming the sprawling landscape among fields of heirloom tomatoes, herbs and edible flowers. Every Wednesday and Saturday (from 9am to 1pm) guests are invited to visit their onsite farmstand and check out the farm, or attend one of their many outdoor soirees, which are getting quite a name for themselves among Austin’s hipster scene.

Everything on the farm is organically grown—the Foore’s rely on trap crops and their crew of ducks roaming around the property to help keep pests down.

“We mostly just try to keep the plants out of stress so that they can fight their own battles,” says Paula.

Although the property was originally used as a landscaping business, the Foore’s started Springdale Farm in 2009 and have evolved to become one of Austin’s most notable urban farms. Any given day you can find their vegetables on the plates of several Austin restaurants, including: Peche, East Side Showroom, Hillside Farmacy, Driskill, Trace at the W Hotel, Lenoir, Cherry Street, and Barley Swine… to name just a few.

“It’s a beautiful setting under the pecan trees and it’s conveniently located right in the middle of town—people love being on the farm,” says Paula. “We are 3 miles east of the state capitol. Chefs can drop by our market on their way to work. Neighbors walk and ride their bikes to get fresh produce and eggs. The food movement is growing. It is not just  a fad. Being right in the center of things allows more people to get fresh produce, see what’s going on, and learn what the food movement is all about. We can have more people ‘hands on’ because of our location.”

Springdale has been creating quite a buzz in Austin and beyond. A recent New York Times feature and cover story for Austin Monthly seem to be just the beginning for this relatively new urban farm. This fall, they are booked with several outdoor events and parties.

“We have a full fall schedule of weddings here, including our middle daughter’s wedding,” says Paula. “Our state representative, Eddie Rodriguez, who created the first ever Food Caucus, will be hosting a fundraiser here in October. And Homegrown Revival will be hosting a Thanksgiving supper club here on Thanksgiving, in the greenhouse!”

For our Homesweet Homegrown Austin event, we were also lucky to team up with Elizabeth Garrett, Director of the Austin’s HOPE Farmers Market, and owner of SOURCE, an artisanal catering company that uses only homegrown, seasonal ingredients. Garrett’s eye for detail and design shines through her presentation, complete with Mason jar containers and handstamped labels. Incorporating vegetables picked just hours before at Springdale Farm, Elizabeth and company created a stunning array of delicious hors d’oeuvres for our book signing event, with two types of garden-inspired heirloom cocktails featuring local Tito’s organic vodka to kick things off.

SOURCE has been making quite a name for themselves among the foodie scene for their creative menu, stunning presentation and hip, homegrown Austin vibe. Garrett also credits her partner and co-owner Michelle Letelier, who has a hand in the menu creations.

“Michelle is a fantastic chef and has a lot of experience catering, working with local farmers at the market, and making pâté with her sister’s company Pâté Letelier,” she says. “We keep our dishes simple, and primarily focus on small bites. The biggest hit at our last event was also the most simple: a skewer featuring watermelon, hot pepper and balsamic marinated cherry tomato, and mint. It was sweet and spicy and a fresh complement to more filling alternatives. We also made a cucumber chip with white bean and goat cheese pâté from Pâté Letelier, caramelized onion and crispy pancetta from Salt & Time. It was delicious.”

After becoming director of the Hope Farmer’s Market in 2009, starting SOURCE was a natural next step for Garrett and Letelier.

“As I became more involved with the HOPEFM, I became increasingly inspired by the food itself as a human connector and cultural catalyst,” she says.  “Growing, sharing, cooking or eating, food has the power to nourish our sense of community as much as it nourishes our bodies. Through the Market, we create a platform for these interactions and connections to occur.

In addition to Springdale Farm, Garrett and Letelier work with a number of local farms and Austin businesses to source their ingredients, including Antonelli’s Cheese Shop, CKC Farms, Comanche Oaks Farm, Easy Tiger Bake Shop, Engel Farms, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, River Bottom Farms, Round Rock Honey, RRR Farm, Salt & Time, Texas Olive Ranch, Wild River Ranch, and Windy Hill Farm.

“Everyone is always looking for the next best thing, and at HOPEFM we pride ourselves on being a “vendor incubator” of sorts. The rumor is that edible insects are up and coming, and we have an interested purveyor. I sampled some cricket cookies last week!”

The Heirloom Maria, a “farm to bar” cocktail

For our Austin Stop, SOURCE served up these tasty heirloom cocktails featuring Springdale Farm tomatoes and local Tito’s Organic Vodka.

Ingredients:

3 parts Tito’s vodka to 3 parts heirloom tomato juice

3 T serrano-infused simple syrup

Serrano pepper

Salt

Topo Chico (or soda water)

Method:

Make the simple syrup as far in advance as possible. I use 1:1 sugar to water. Chop a few serranos and let them soak as the solution cools, for at least a few hours.

Juice ripened heirloom tomatoes (a juicer is key)

Mix the vodka, tomato juice, syrup and salt.

Top with a splash of Topo Chico and a slice of serrano in each glass

Do you have an urban farm near you?

Photo Credit: Joseph Geiger