Back to the Future

Austin's agrarian past rises again

Paula Foore (front) and a volunteer weed the garden at Springdale Farm.
Paula Foore (front) and a volunteer weed the garden at Springdale Farm. (Photo by John Anderson)

Springdale Farm

755 Springdale, 386-8899
www.springdalefarmaustin.com

In 1992, Glenn and Paula Foore took advantage of a city of Austin development initiative designed to encourage small business expansion in East Austin. Through that program they purchased 4.83 acres in the 700 block of Springdale Road as the home for their landscaping and lawn maintenance company, Texas Trees & Landscapes. The city block on Springdale Road had previously been home to the Emmaus Christian Fellowship. The religious group left behind a small house, some outbuildings, a greenhouse, a garden, a grape arbor, some fruit and pecan trees, water wells, and a concrete baptismal font. The Foores turned the house into their office, and the fertile property became home to tree seedlings, bedding plants, shrubbery transplants, and piles of quality compost enriched by leaves and lawn clippings. The business thrived.

Though gardening was certainly part of Glenn Foore's Northern Ohio background, the Texas A&M-trained horticulturist never thought of himself as a farmer. But in the last few years, three situations converged to prompt Glenn and Paula Foore to reconfigure their business and repurpose their East Austin property for a new endeavor. With their two older children finishing college and the third heading off to family alma mater Texas A&M this year, the Foores contemplated making lifestyle changes once they were faced with an empty nest. "We were also becoming more concerned about where our food was coming from and determined to be more careful about what we ate," Paula recalls. On the heels of these contemplations and concerns came last year's economic meltdown and subsequent recession that prompted many of the Foores' clients to cut back on such luxuries as landscaping and lawn maintenance. "We wanted to eat better, we already had this good land, and then we had a crew that needed to be kept busy. We looked at each and said, 'Let's plant a garden,'" Paula says.

The Foores and their crew planted a 1-acre fall garden for a 2009 community-supported agriculture program that quickly had a waiting list. They turned one of the old outbuildings into a chicken house for the 50 hens that provide fresh eggs for the hungry CSA members. In addition to the CSA, the Foores also operate a farm stand on Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. They are new to the food end of the horticulture business and are quick to give credit to other farmers in the neighborhood for all their help. "Carol Ann [Sayle] and Larry [Butler] have really taken us under their wings, really mentored us, and we are so grateful for that. It's wonderful to have them just around the corner when I need to ask questions," Paula reports. "Carol Ann insisted we open our farm stand on Saturday mornings, too. She said we need to make our neighborhood a shopping destination, and I'm glad she feels that way."

Glenn and Paula couldn't be more pleased with the positive response to their new endeavor. The landscaping and lawn maintenance business continues, but the property is "morphing into farming more and more," according to Glenn. Summer crops are going in, and they are cultivating new beds as quickly as they can to meet customer demand for fresh produce. They are also working with an architect to build a home on the property. "Now that we're farming and have all these chickens, we really need to be here all the time," Paula explains. "We can't wait."

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