What is now the lively, noisy, vibrant, densely developed neighborhood of East Austin sits on the rich, dark alluvial soil of the Blackland Prairie, once part of the True or Tall Grass Prairie – habitat to the indigenous Comanches, and prairie-dependent species such as buffalo, antelope, badgers, prairie wolves, prairie dogs, burrowing owls and many others. This rich soil and a close-by hungry market has given birth to a collection of urban farms perhaps unparalleled in any other large urban center. Carol Ann and Larry were the first urban farm pioneers in the neighborhood. They bought the original farmhouse and surrounding farm on Lyons Road that has become Boggy Creek Farm, a cultural institution here in Austin. In fact, I was a Boggy Creek Farm customer long before I ever moved here. My family still teases me about the time I had to cram $125.00 worth of Boggy Creek Farm strawberries into a hotel room refrigerator. Besides the abundant, certified organic vegetables that come from their land, Carol Ann and Larry have nurtured and grown a movement. Whole Foods brought us organic, but Boggy Creek Farm brought us local and alive. Learning what just-harvested food tastes like, and how it makes us feel, has sprouted thousands of locavores, and many newly-committed local farmers, including the second wave of East Austin farmers. A more-than-generous mentor, Carol Ann and Larry opened their doors and their fields to Stephanie, and Rain Lily was born. When Dorsey Barger, co-owner of the East Side Café, decided she wanted to buy property on the East Side to grow more food for the restaurant, Carol Ann and Larry were there to offer advice and encouragement. The folks at Springdale Farms have been by for advice too, and we all visit each other’s properties to see what’s growing.
Larry and Carol Ann never imagined they would find such community in East Austin, much less that they would start a movement. The Blackland Prairie Concerned Citizens Association tells us, “The Texas Blackland Prairie is endangered. According to American Farmland Trust, the Texas Blackland Prairie is the 4th most threatened region in the country. America currently loses more than one million acres of farm and ranch land each year to development. Texas loses more land to development than any other state in the country. Information provided by the Texas Cooperative Extension indicates that agribusiness represents a $4.26 billion impact on Travis County. The value generated from producing, processing and marketing food and fiber continues to play a dramatic role and it is important to recognize agribusiness as vital to the continued efficiency and economic growth in Travis County.”
Dramatic, yes. Necessary, absolutely. And here we are, laughing, connecting, sharing, encouraging, keeping our fingers crossed, and taking back the prairie, one urban farm at a time.
The East Austin Urban Farm Tour
Sunday, April 17th
All proceeds benefit the Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance
* Farm Tours on the Quarter Hour at all four farms
* Farm-Inspired Tastings from 2 chefs at each farm
* Wine, beer & cocktails from local wineries, breweries & distillers
$35 per person – buy tickets here
Ticket price includes Grassroots Membership to FARFA