City fresh is the key to success for Springdale Farm

By Mike Barnett

City fresh.

That’s the idea behind Springdale Farm, a five-acre agricultural oasis in the heart of Austin.

Owners Glenn and Paula Foore have planted seeds to support a growing local food movement in the deep, rich soils of the Colorado River bottoms, located in an East Austin neighborhood just three miles from the State Capitol. Landscapers by trade, the Foores started growing food in 2009 when the local economy turned south.

1Glenn looked to his gardening roots—his grandfather grew tomatoes and peppers in northern Ohio—and found a new calling. Word spread around the Austin food scene of the quality of Springdale Farm tomatoes. Local chefs soon asked if they could host dinners at the farm. The Foores’ reputation—and the variety of produce they farmed—grew.

2“We really didn’t know too much about the food scene,” Glenn says. “We knew a couple of chefs that had some supper clubs that wanted to have a dinner here. One thing led to another…”

Those chefs are some of Springdale Farm’s best customers today. They seek not only outstanding quality, but diversity. Everything from arugula, carrots and fennel to black-eyed peas—75 varieties of produce sprout from the black, organic soil.4

“Restaurants want different things that they can’t find elsewhere. It’s not always possible or practical because you know what grows here. But we’ll try to accommodate or experiment,” Paula says.

But agriculture in the city has its unique challenges. The farm is surrounded by single family homes. No agriculture tax exemption means property taxes shot up 800 percent last year. Local health regulations are inconsistent. It’s hard for Glenn and other urban farmers to know what is permitted and what is off-limits when selling locally produced foods.

Glenn and Paula have started hosting weddings and other special events to improve cash flow. They also have a market at the farm every Wednesday and Saturday.

Their business is no hobby farm. It’s a grueling, full-time, labor-intensive job for the Foores and their crew, who work long hours in the heat and sun to ensure the freshest produce for their customers.5

Maybe it would be easier to sell out and move to the country. But Glenn said he would lose that two-way communication—that opportunity to grow trust with those who purchase his produce—that comes with selling directly to consumers.

“What we have the opportunity to do by being in an urban environment is get attention where other farmers don’t have that opportunity to get people out to their farm,” Glenn says. “If I moved out of town and had a hundred-acre operation, I don’t think I would be able to get as much interest in the community.”

 

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
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