Eden East to Offer Contactless Produce Pickup
Owners Coté and Barrow pivots plans after months of hard knocks
The inimitable chef Sonya Coté and her husband, partner, and farmer extraordinaire David Barrow of Eden East farm (formerly Springdale) were hit hard in the last two months, but there is still time to enjoy the many fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.
With the cancellation of SXSW, annual James Beard dinners held at the small sustainable urban farm were nixed. Shortly thereafter, they lost the 11th annual East Austin Urban Farm Tour (EAUFT), which would have taken place April 5. Before the pandemic, Eden East was slated for closure on May 30, but that's now pushed to summer 2020. Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, Eden East will return to full farm and restaurant operations until it closes. They are collaborating with StoryBuilt, the developer former Springdale Farm owners Glenn and Paula Foore approached to acquire the land in 2018. Together, they say their goal is to eventually reopen the restaurant as a brick-and-mortar in the farmhouse on the property, along with a microfarm and farmstand, on Springdale Road.
"The farm has been growing food for a long time," said Coté. "The Foores created a magical place here with extremely healthy soil. For it to not be here anymore is quite heartbreaking. We understand development and all of this was out of our hands, but we have grown to love this piece of dirt so much over the years."
While this is happening, Coté and Barrow are transitioning the majority of the farm to a new property on Main Street, just blocks north of downtown Bastrop. They will fully switch farm operations to that new property once the Springdale property closes. For now, Coté and Barrow are pivoting their farmstand business model to include contactless pre- order seasonal produce bags for pick up (it's currently "one in/one out" at the farmstand), and an online CSA ordering system will launch imminently.
"We have pivoted our business model a bit to offer 'no contact' bags," Coté said. "As a bonus we are working around the clock to create value-added goods – pickles, rose honey, kimchi, and more – so our community can have some semblance of normalcy through these difficult times."
Coté has taken the necessary steps to prevent COVID-19 in her restaurants as well. "I have personally closed both Eden East restaurant and Hillside Farmacy. I've switched over to full-time supporting the farm in its pursuits now. We are also feeding Hillside Farmacy and Eden East employees with farm produce as we can." She added, "We really wanted to go out with a bang. We are extremely saddened by the cancellation of EAUFT – because it was the last year for this farm, and we were honored to be a part of it."
Barrow said, "Your local farms, specifically urban farms, aren't looking at the bottom line, they're looking to build something proper and give value back to food. Local food and closer food, anything that is grown in your backyard, in an urban farm, or a farm that's within 50 miles of the city, is proven scientifically to be more nutritious than something that has been stored and traveled over a longer distance."
Coté added, "It builds community, it gets your neighbors talking to each other. To be able to come to this place, pick out veggies, talk about what they're cooking and how they prepare things, and what they're growing and what we're growing. It's just like a great community piece."
On the closure of the farm, Coté said, "When we leave this property, it will be a sad day. David and I both have strongly advocated for small family farms, local farms, and urban farms for years, and it is such a weird coincidence that this pandemic is proving how vital multiple food sources are for a city like Austin – the urban farms, the rural farms, the small family grocery stores, and the large ones in town are all essential to feeding a city."
Check out the curried yellow corn grits recipe, courtesy of Eden East Chef Owner Sonya Coté, in Chronicle Cooking. For info on pickup orders, email email@example.com and check their social media for updates on the farmstand.
Eden East755 Springdale Rd.