“Why do farmers farm, given their economic adversities on top of the many frustrations and difficulties normal to farming? And always the answer is: “Love. They must do it for love.” ~Wendell Berry, Bringing it to the Table: Writing on Farming and Food
My two year-old daughter recently has begun waking up saying, “Chicken?” “Duck?.” Many Saturday mornings we pile in the car and drive a few minutes to Springdale Farm where I buy beautiful farm fresh produce like carrots, beets, cauliflower, or greens. We pull the tops off the carrots and take a handful out to feed the chickens. Little Maggie gets so excited putting a carrot top through the fence while a chicken pulls it away. She looks for the sweet farm dog, Ellie Mae, and pats her gingerly. We walk the length of the beautiful farm with the rising sun highlighting the path. This sanctuary is incredible and even more amazing since it is right in the middle of East Austin.
Springdale and Austin’s other urban farms have so much to offer our community. We all know that providing locally grown produce for our families is wonderful, but more than that, the farms provide numerous teaching opportunities, community building events, date nights, and getaways.
The importance of green spaces and introducing children to farms and gardens cannot be overstated. Sustainable Food Center’s Bianca Bidiuc discusses the benefits to children in her article, “How Do Gardens Impact Our Health?” She writes:
“Gardens and green settings have a meaningful impact on children. Studies have found that children with ADHD who play regularly in green play settings have milder symptoms than children who play in built outdoor and indoor settings. Children and youth living in greener neighborhoods have lower BMI scores. School food gardens, in particular, lead to increased openness to, preference for, and intake of fruits and vegetables.” http://sustainablefoodcenter.org/latest/gardening/how-do-gardens-impact-our-health
When children visit these farms, they get to interact with nature in a new way. They learn how food is created and that beans aren’t grown in cans. Then, they are more likely to experiment even with foods they normally resist.
Austin’s urban farmers love seeing families exploring and learning about what they do. They want people to come to shop and experience the farm during markets and events and most are very happy to answer any questions you might have. Also keep in mind that these farmers are trying to keep the farms functioning by providing markets and events. If you go, consider purchasing a few fresh veggies to support their efforts.
When you go, just keep a few things in mind to be respectful. Remember that this is where the farmers and their families live and work so it probably isn’t preferred to drop by unannounced. I always think it’s best to go when there is a market or event happening rather than showing up at any time. Keep an eye on your child while at the farm and unless invited, do not walk in the rows as it could easily disturb growing plants. Don’t let the children climb on farm equipment (even though it looks really exciting!). Finally, make sure to have fun while you are out visiting, seeing all the animals, and running around in the green space.
Want to check out several farms at once? The East Austin Urban Farm Tour is coming up on Sunday April 17 from 1 pm – 5 pm. Visit Boggy Creek Farm, HausBar Farm, Rain Lily Farm (not included in the list below since there are typically not times to visit the farm) and Springdale Farm as a part of the tour. Each farm will feature guest chefs from some of the best restaurants in Austin preparing food sourced from the farms. Children under 10 are free. Tickets will sell out so be sure to reserve your spot early.
Urban Farms with Weekly Farm Markets
Located in East Austin, Boggy Creek Farm is located on five glorious acres. The oldest house in Austin is located on the farm and it is really very beautiful. There are lots of chickens to gawk at and near the chicken coop is an area with a bunch of toy trucks for the kids to enjoy.
Farm Stand Hours:
Wednesday through Saturday: 8 am – 1 pm
If you’ve gone to the Travis County Exposition Center (think Rodeo Austin) you’ve probably passed Green Gate Farm. They have a small weekly farm stand and offer a variety of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) packages. You can choose from vegetable, meat, flower, or egg CSA’s. There is an option to host events including birthday parties at the farm. But, one of the coolest things about Green Gate is that they host camps for children ages 5-15! The summer camps center around various themes such as Fine and Found Arts on the Farm, Creative Cooking and Livestock Love.
I recently visited the farm with my family during their weekly farm stand. The volunteers were extremely knowledgeable and friendly and we got to walk around and visit with goats, huge pigs, chickens and bunnies. There was a camp happening while we were there and the kids even helped us at the farm stand.
Farm Stand Hours:
Tuesdays 3 pm – 6 pm
Fridays/Saturdays 10 am – 2 pm
Located on Springdale Road, Springdale Farm is a beautiful oasis of freshly growing vegetables and flowers. The farm stand is indoors and the weekly displays are works of art. Springdale now accepts SNAP and provides double dollars on SNAP produce purchases. If you ask inside, the farmers usually have carrot or beet tops available that can be given to the chickens. Eden East is a food truck located on the farm and is now serving breakfast during market hours. Eden is a terrific date night location as well but is open only on the weekends so be sure to make reservations. Springdale is a beautiful location for weddings and photo shoots or just relaxing on a Saturday morning.
Farm Stand Hours:
Wednesdays/Saturdays 9 am – 1 pm
Other Farms to Check Out
This is a program where new farmers are trained through an intensive season on the farm, located just outside Austin. This is a particularly important mission as many Texas farmers are beginning to get older and are retiring. Farmshare looks to train a new generation of farmers who care about organic food security. Join the newsletter to stay up to date on events or stay in one of the farm tents for a couple nights. It looks like a fun place for glamping! Book your stay by clicking here.
Another East Austin Farm, HausBar is a great getaway location for that special night away from the babies or as a place to send your out of town guests. They also host many events so check their page for upcoming opportunities to see the farm. Book your stay by clicking here.
A farm with a mission. Urban Roots, a nonprofit, uses food and farming to transform the lives of young people. They offer paid internships to youth ages 14-17 and then donate 40% of the produce and sell the other 60% at farmers’ markets or through their CSA program. Sometimes there are events like their Open House where you can visit the farm. Keep an eye on the website for upcoming opportunities.