An Urban Farm Born of the Recent Recession Takes Flight in Austin, Texas
October 24, 2016 | Bethany Knipp
Glenn and Paula Foore say their urban farming style uses common sense and basic practices.
“We’re wanting, and we are getting, back to where we came from,” Glenn Foore says, referring to decades past when he says more families picked fresh vegetables from their own gardens.
The couple owns and operates Springdale Farm within the city limits of Austin, Texas, and grow about 75 different types of vegetables — including tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, arugula, zucchini, broccoli. The Foores grow the vegetables all 52 weeks of the year on just under five acres of land in the central Texas climate.
They started Springdale Farm in 2009, but the Foores bought the land where the farm sits in 1992 through an economic development program in east Austin. The land served as the site of their landscaping business as a part of the city’s program, which incentivized small businesses to come to east Austin through low-interest loans as long as the companies employed eastside workers.
The Foores maintained a busy landscaping business on the land until about 2007 when the company started to feel the impact of the recession, Foore says. That’s when Foore also became more interested in farming.
The process started slowly with the creation of a garden.
“We were trying to keep everybody busy so we sort of created work on our property here,” Foore says. “The guys could help out, we would help out and then everyone would kind of share the bounty, figuring that would kind of be helpful to their bottom line and their houses as well.”
He says that’s when one thing led to another.
“All of a sudden we started selling a few things on a little table out front on the main street,” he says.
One garden eventually turned into five plots that the Foores tilled and irrigated after their customers kept coming back over the years.
“We just decided to churn up another chunk of the land and started farming it,” he says.
The couple didn’t have a game plan for the farm, but both of the Foores had the knowledge to operate it.
Glenn studied horticulture in college and Paula studied biology. While Glenn operated the landscaping business, Paula worked as a teacher and coach. When the farm work started getting busy, Glenn persuaded Paula to slip out of teaching and help with the business.
Since the place has been operating, the Foores have kept their farm open to visitors, including school groups. At the same time, Springdale Farm has a twice weekly farm stand.
Although the Foores don’t believe in using chemicals on their vegetables, Springdale Farm is not a certified organic farm.
“Initially, I wanted to be a certified organic farmer because I felt that was the pinnacle in the industry,” Foore says. “You wanted to be in the top, you needed to be certified organic. That’s when I was green and gathering information.”
He says after talking with Austin chefs who wanted to use his vegetables and others grown by the community, however, he and his wife decided not to go through the steps to obtain certification.
Despite that, he says, “You can’t tell me I’m not organically farming.”
Foore says when he’s farming, he’s using practices that stem from what he was taught as a boy in northern Ohio.
“We compost on every row every time we plant,” Foore says. “That’s our fertility. We have raised beds. We monitor really hard. We know when it’s time to pull a crop and plant another crop.”
When he was a boy, Foore and his grandfather used to freeze fish they caught and put the entrails in the soil for tomatoes and peppers.
“We were sort of organically attacking this before we even knew what the hell organic farming was,” Foore says. “It was just common sense back in those days not to poison your food.”
With that experience, Foore is an advocate for returning to what he calls the roots of farming.
“That’s what this whole movement is about is just trying to find out where we were and how to get back to where we came from,” he says.