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Urban Oasis

Springdale Farm Helps Boost Austins Local Foodshed


by Emily Sides Paula Foore described her mother as clean and healthy, raising her and her siblings on wholesome, nutritious foods. After she died from cancer, Paula and her husband, Glenn, became even more focused on making sure their daily diet consisted of nutrient-dense, non-toxic choices. They began planting vegetables in January 2009 mainly for family members and the loyal six to eight men who have been working for their lawn maintenance business, Texas Trees & Landscapes, since it started in the early 90s. Their three daughters moved out for college and soon the garden started growing larger. I fell in love with it, said Paula. We had always followed our kids around for sports and all of a sudden we had more time. Four out of five greenhouses were taken down to make room for more crops to be planted. The chicken coops that had been turned into storage for lawn maintenance tools became a coop again when ducks and chickens were brought in. The almost five-acre property is tucked between residential houses in East Austin, directly behind an elementary school and just a block from a police

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March 2013 Vol. 43, No. 3

Photos by Emily Sides

We can grow things that stores cant stock because they perish so quickly. Its a treat to eat something so fresh and fragile. Peche [restaurant] is only three miles away. Thats a tight footprint.
station. Walk a block the other way and there is a car dealership and an auto repair shop. The urban farm is only three miles away from where Texas legislators meet at the capitol building. Ellie May, a two-year-old Australian shepherd, herds chickens into the safety of their predator-proof coop and greets guests when they arrive on Wednesdays and Sundays to buy fresh produce. When we started a garden, people would stop and ask, can I have that? said Paula of how they began selling to the public twice a week. Then one day Jesse Griffiths, owner of Austin-based Dai Due Supper Club, which serves local produce and meat, bought some heirloom tomatoes and hosted a dinner on the farm. When he asked about the mountain of big uglies, as Glenn calls heirloom tomatoes, Paula told him they were not going to be able to sell them all. He called other local food enthusiasts at other restaurants. Within 30 minutes, three separate restaurant owners were stopping by the farm. Paula thought they might be like the people from the television show Hells Kitchen, but said they have been very agreeable. They now sell to 13 local restaurants. She said they all have something to teach each other. If they like baby okra, they can pick it early. If they request something, they are willing to experiment and grow it. Local Sourcing We can grow things that stores cant stock because they perish so quickly, said Glenn. Its a treat to eat something so fresh and fragile. Peche [restaurant] is only three miles away. Thats a tight footprint.

Jessica Maher, co-owner of Lenoir restaurant, said they have been buying from Springdale farm for two years. Springdale farm is not USDA organic certified, but Maher and others understand their organic methods and philosophy exists nonetheless. We know our farmers, she said. Theyre paying people a living wage and practice responsible farming.
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Maher buys as much as she can locally, including hard wheat, corn meal, honey, eggs, cream and herbs. You get what you get and it goes away, she said. Produce is not perfect looking. Its not a big deal. Cut around it. If more people grew their own vegetables, theyd know thats how they get. It tastes good even if theres a little bit of brown.

March 2013 Vol. 43, No. 3

Fall is wedding season on the farm. Paula and Glenn raise awareness about farming when they host events on their farm that comfortably entertains 150, who gather around living flowers. Next to where the crops that the guests are chewing were grown and drinking a pear cocktail under the pecan tree, allows people to escape, even for just a little while, to a slower pace. We skipped two generations of farming to the point where we dont even see where our food comes from, he said. Once theyre on the farm, they get the farm-to-table concept. Flowers are good for pollination, too. Its the best of both worlds, aesthetic and utility, Glenn said. Their flowers once decorated the tables of an Obama fundraiser in Austin. Paula said she had no idea where her simple farm flowers were going and not until later that she found out where they ended up. The Foores have received support from the growing local food community in Austin. Early on, when she had problems with her beets, another urban farm owner came over to lend a hand. Last year was the beet year, she told Paula, just keep planting. Paula said that is the best advice, no matter what keep planting, because there will be bad weather, pest annihilation or just an off year. The Foores and their loyal workers pocket plant more than 70 different plants. With their small acreage, Paula said it would be impossible to maintain crop rotation, but they do rotate using brassica in the same plot. The shade from tall trees around the property has allowed them to plant lettuce and other plants that can thrive with less sunshine. Though they have not planted trap crops intentionally, they will let the pests have mustard greens to keep them away from other crops. Eating with the seasons, especially when it comes to salads, has become normal for the Foores. Darrelle, one of their daughters, said that she has become more aware of farming seasons. She said since the farm started, their food is more interesting. She found out she likes sweet potato greens in salads more than other greens. Its a pleasure to not go to the store to buy, said Glenn. When lettuce season is over, Im done eating salads. They employ a drip irrigation system using lawn sprinkler piping that gets water from a well. The dirt sometimes gets white from the salt in the water. Since
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We skipped two generations of farming to the point where we dont even see where our food comes from. Once [people are] on the farm, they get the farm-to-table concept.
they are using the sprinkler pipes, it lasts about four years. Their only worry is sediment clogging the pipe. If she notices a spot is dry, she knows they have to clean the pipes. Irrigation & Fowl Glenns pre-existing soil knowledge from working on landscaping has been very useful to maintaining healthy soil. After analyzing different sections of their soil, they will add rock phosphate, sulfur, green sand and molasses, depending on what the dirt needs. Their greenhouse is covered in plastic that helps keep plants warm in the winter, but must be ventilated when it is hot, either by creating more openings or using fans. They do not save most of their seeds yet, but they have been able to save their okra seeds. They also buy heritage chicken breeds. Their last batch was Rhode Is-

land Reds, which included a few roosters by accident. Chickens and farming just go together. We feed them fresh greens, Paula said, as the chickens pecked at celery bunches nearby. Their eggs taste better the more greens they eat. They buy replacement chicks to maintain good layers, but they do not get rid of the ones who are past laying age. They also have Indian Runner ducks, which are good foragers, and Khaki Campbells. They both lay well and everybody loves the fresh eggs. Every morning they collect about four dozen chicken and duck eggs, depending on the time of year. The ducks are an integral part of their insect management, but they are messier than chickens because they need water to get food down. They also have a tendency to drop their eggs everywhere. Ducks will eat insects, while chickens unsupervised on the farm will eat their produce. Glenn said his daughters use duck eggs when they bake. Others like them for curds and meringues because they fluff up well. The farm does not receive an agricultural tax exemption and the Foores said that their taxes increased 800 percent last year. They have not applied because the countys code requires the land to be used for primarily agricultural purposes for five years. Springdale farm has been around for three years. They hope to receive legislative support from the Food Caucus. (Eddie Rodriguez, their state representative, startReprinted from

ed a Food Caucus, the first of its kind in the United States to help relieve the food desert by allowing urban farms to expand their markets.) Springdale Farm was recognized by the magazine Edible Austin for 2012s Local Hero award. The Foores said they are grateful for the local food community that has been encouraging throughout their transition to urban farmers.
For more information on Springdale Farm visit www.springdalefarmaustin.com.

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March 2013 Vol. 43, No. 3