For the sixth year, local farmers have created pieces of art — including paintings, photographs and sculptures — for a Farmer As Artist exhibit at Prizer Arts & Letters, an art gallery at 2023 E. Cesar Chavez St.
As the exhibit has grown, so has the number of contributors. This year, 23 local farmers will show at this exhibit, which is open from Sept. 8 to 28. You’ll see works from Boggy Creek Farm, Millberg Farm, Tecolote Farm, Urban Roots, Johnson’s Backyard Garden, Munkebo Farm, Farmshare Austin, Agua Dulce, Joe’s Organics and ANUME Foundation Farm.
The opening reception, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday.
Barger is the co-founder of Eastside Cafe who went on to start HausBar Farm in 2009. Seven years ago, Gustavo came to live on the farm when he was two days old, Barger says. “He arrived in a box from the hatchery. I had to drive to the post office to pick him up,” she says in the campaign. “When I got him back to the farm, he jumped out of the box and took over the whole farm with his enormous personality, his huge heart and his gift for making people feel loved.”
On any visit to the farm, you’ll see Gustavo following Barger around the East Austin farm, keeping tabs on the rotating seasonal crops, which are sold to local restaurants.
It’s a sweet story in real life that Barger knew would make a sweet book, so she teamed with her mother, Barbara Adams, a painter, to create “On Gustavo’s Farm,” a new children’s book coming out this fall.
The authors are hosting several events in coming months to celebrate its debut, including a private dinner at 6 p.m. Oct. 13th in the farm’s outdoor kitchen space with chefs Michael CastiIlo and Emily Davis. The first general book signing event is “Cocktails with Gustavo” ($125) at 6 p.m., Oct. 20 that will feature drinks with Paula’s Texas Spirits.
At 10 a.m. on Oct. 27, HausBar will host a kid-friendly book signing ($100 donation for 2 adults and up to 2 kids) that will include the Tiny Tales To You mobile petting zoo, a book signing and “Gustavo on the Go” coloring activity station.
Barger is selling copies of the book and tickets to the book events through Indigogo over the next month, but the book will be available in other locations in November.
Back in 2014, Orsak and I made the journey over to Caldwell to judge the town’s annual kolache baking competition, and now Orsak is getting into the kolache business herself. Through her new cottage business, she’s selling Old School Kolaches, as she’s calling them, by the tray.
You can pick up to four flavors — apricot, pecan, fig, poppyseed, prune, peach and apple — for delivery to South and Central Austin at atmemorystable.com. A tray of 24 kolaches (or two trays of 12) costs $60, including delivery.
We tried these kolaches in my Relish Austin livestream last week, which is now sponsored by H-E-B.
Last weekend, we were among the customers who tried to get there early enough to beat the heat to buy some groceries for the week. Like all the area farmers’ markets, this one has vendors selling everything from meat and seafood to knife sharpening.
Many of the prepared foods vendors offer samples, which is a big appeal for my young shoppers. Just like when we go grocery shopping at the regular store, the kids were with me to help decide what foods to get for the week, and this trip was no different.
We sampled and browsed the dozens of booths for about 45 minutes before it was time to seek cooler temperatures, but we had quite a haul. Here’s a look at the cool stuff we ended up taking home.
It’s safe to say we went on a sampling frenzy. I spent $50 on products I hadn’t tried before, as well as a couple of produce items and kombucha. It was a fun way to spend the morning with my kids and pick up some culinary treats at the same time. We didn’t have to buy so much stuff, but those vendors are working hard out there in the heat.
Plus they are making some really delicious stuff. I could have spent another $50 just on the way back to the car.
There’s still plenty of room for growth, which is one of the reasons H-E-B continues to host it Quest for Texas Best competition to find the best food products in the state.
For the fifth year in a row, the San Antonio-based grocer has put out the call for entrepreneurs to submit their products to this contest. They’ve even made Super Bowl ads about it. Each year, they give away tens of thousands of dollars to the winning companies. Last year, the Dripping Springs-based Skull and Cakebones won the top prize of $25,000, and the Manor-based Tamale Addiction won second place and $15,000. (Teo Gelato won the grand prize in 2015, and in 2016, Texas Pie Company and Kitchun won grand prize and first place, respectively.)
Of more than 700 applicants this year, nine finalists in this year’s contest are from the Austin area. They’ll compete August 9 and 10 at the Central Texas Food Bank against 16 other food companies from around Texas for $70,000 in prize money and a spot on H-E-B shelves. The Central Texas businesses are Barbecue Wife, Pennymade, Afia Foods, Loving Libbie Memorial Foundation, Mmmpanadas, Pretty Thai, 38 Pecans, Tiny House Coffee in Buda and Sing and Shout Foods in Cedar Park.
“Over the past five years of this competition, we have tasted more than 2,700 of the most creative Texas-based food and beverages in pursuit of Texas’ very best, selecting 125 finalists since 2014,” James Harris, director of diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity at H-E-B, said in a release. “Each year keeps us on our toes with innovative products, and this year is no exception. We are proud to continue a program that gives small business owners the opportunity to share their pride and joy with H-E-B shoppers across the state.”
According to the release, the Quest for Texas Best is a signature program for H-E-B’s Primo Picks brand, and since its inception in 2014, the competition has yielded more than 432 new products on H-E-B’s grocery, bakery, deli and market shelves across the state.
Other finalists for this year include: 1885 Coffee Co., Bellefontaine, Bellville Meat Market, Bernard’s Game Day Foods, BIG Little Fudge, Cappadona Ranch, Chef Rey Inc., Collin Street Bakery, Deanan Gourmet Popcorn, Deep River Specialty Foods, Mad Hectic Foods, Mirth Soup, Nuts and Cows, Story of My Tea, Texas Black Gold Garlic, Tio Pelon’s Salsita.
According to the event website, “The Big Bake Sale for Social Justice is a community-driven fundraiser created to benefit groups and organizations that fight for civil liberty, equality, and social justice for all people.”
A similar bake sale in San Antonio recently raised $11,000 for legal aid for families that have been separated during recent enhanced immigration enforcement on the border.
The volunteers who are organizing the Big Bake Sale for Social Justice in Austin have raised tens of thousands of dollars for natural disaster and other community crisis relief efforts through Austin Bakes, another citywide charity bake sale.
The citywide bake sale will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on August 4 at the venues below, and the group is seeking partners now. To learn more or sign up to participate, go to thebigbakesale.org.
Eldorado Cafe – 3300 W. Anderson Lane
Crema Bakery & Cafe – 9001 Brodie Lane
Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ – 11500 Manchaca Road
Jo’s Coffee – 1300 S, Congress Ave.
Bennu Coffee – 2001 E Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Hops and Grain – 507 Calles Street
El Taquito – 130 Louis Henna Blvd. in Round Rock, TX
Cote, who has worked with local farmers her entire food career, has for the past five years operated her Eden East eatery on the grounds of Springdale Farm, a 5-acre property that started as a landscaping company more than two decades ago and became an urban farm in 2009.
Cote, who also operates Hillside Farmacy, had grown close with the Foores over those years, and when they decided to retire , Cote and her partner, David Barrow, started talking with them about taking over day-to-day operations. PSW, the developers that bought the land, won’t start to build on the property for at least a few years, so Cote has signed a two-year commercial lease to continue operating Eden East and keep the farm and farmstand running.
“I’ve always been close to the farmers, and I feel very inspired by growing things,” Cote says. “It makes sense to close the loop. To take on the farm seemed like the next evolution.”
Barrow has been working with the Foores and their longtime staff to learn the ins and outs of keeping the current crops going and planting again for the fall and spring, but Cote says he doesn’t call himself a farmer just yet. She says they are inspired by other chefs who farm, such as Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, who integrate agriculture and education into the dining experience.
“This place is a community gem,” she says. “We want to bring out as many people as we can to see the space while it’s still here.”
Springdale’s last day under the Foores’ ownership was June 30, which Cote noted was just a few days after Boggy Creek’s Larry Butler died. The East Austin farmer community, which also includes the nearby Rain Lily and Hausbar farms, has always been close-knit, she says: “We lost our patriarch.”
She knows she’s now the newbie in the group. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity. I’m still processing it,” she says. “I want to grow into this as a community and carry on Glenn and Paula’s legacy.”
The farmstand will be closed July 4, but it will reopen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 7 with all of the same products and produce customers would have found the week before, Cote says. In preparation for this transition, she says the restaurant has a reworked menu to add more a la carte options and will offer breakfast Wednesdays and Saturdays to serve customers who visit the farmstand.
Along with chef Kaycee Braden, who is now a business partner at Eden East, Cote says she plans to make some products, maybe herb blends or another culinary product, to sell at the farmstand.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” she says. “We want to maintain what they started.”
Larry Butler, one of the pioneering farmers behind Boggy Creek Farm and a well-known figure in the local food community, died Thursday of liver cancer. He was 70.
In the early 1990s, the former TV repairman and his wife, Carol Ann Sayle, started one of the country’s first urban farms, located on a historic East Austin property along Boggy Creek, and for more than two decades, they ran a farmstand that continues to have a dedicated customer base of families, neighborhood residents and the city’s top chefs.
Sayle and Butler met on a sidewalk in Oak Hill in 1973. She was moving her art studio into a row of businesses where he had a TV repair shop. With three children from previous marriages, they married in 1976 and blended their families easily with the former spouses, Sayle says. “Larry would go hunting with Wayne,” her ex-husband, who died last year, she says. “They coached Little League together.”
In the 1980s, they wanted to embark on a new career of growing food. Butler had grown up in Gause, where Sayle says he rode a horse named Palm to and from elementary school, so that’s where they looked for land to get started. They found 45 acres to start an organic farm, and a few years later, the couple bought the East Austin property and continued to farm at both locations.
They first started selling their produce in 1991, from a card table set up in front of Wiggy’s on West Sixth Street. Later that year, they had a bumper crop of tomatoes, which they sold to Whole Foods, a relationship that lasted until the drought of 2011. After two years of selling produce in front of the liquor store, the Boggy Creek farmers started selling at the Sustainable Food Center’s first farmers market at the corner of East Seventh and Robert Martinez Jr. streets. By the late 1990s, Butler was a fixture at the Westlake Farmers Market on Westbank Drive across from the high school, Sayle says. He moved with the market when it went to Sunset Valley, but then they decided to focus all their sales efforts on the East Austin farmstand.
More time at the farm meant that Butler could pursue another passion: food preservation. Butler loved to can, smoke, jar and otherwise preserve the food they grew, and he was known in particular for his smoke-dried tomatoes. He sometimes taught classes in the farmhouse kitchen, and in 2002, he appeared on a Food Network show that featured his jams and sauces.
Butler’s aging father lived on the property for a number of years, and to make him more comfortable before he died, Butler built a dogtrot-style house behind the farmhouse. A tireless extrovert, Butler loved to give tours, explaining the historical architecture of both the new and old homes, why the soil needed the kind of compost they used and what the government should or shouldn’t be doing about subsidies.
The couple meticulously researched the history of the farmhouse, which was built in 1841 and is as old as the French Legation. Butler loved to tell customers about the letter from Sam Houston that indicates he ate dinner in the house they lived in, located right next to the farmstand.
After the drought in 2011, customers’ habits started to change, Sayle says, especially as food delivery options increased. “He was worried about the future of the farm,” Sayle says. “We spent our last week reassuring him that everything was under control and that we loved him and that everybody’s OK.”
Butler’s son, Tom Butler, is now overseeing the Gause farm, and Sayle’s daughter, Tracy Geyer, is helping with operations at the urban farm.
Butler died Thursday at home. Sayle says they are planning a wake from 4 to 7 p.m. on July 15 at the farm, but until then, the farmstand will have regular hours, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. “The farm is a beast of its own and has to be fed. The farm goes on,” Sayle says. “It’s open right now.”
Paula Foore, co-owner of the nearby Springdale Farm, called Larry a “wonderful mentor.” “He was always so generous with his farming information and tips. A true legend. He will be sorely missed by our entire community.”
Eden East chef Sonya Cote, who has cooked frequently at Boggy Creek, said that the week before he died, Butler was giving tours at a fundraiser to replace the farmhouse’s windows. “We lost our patriarch,” she said. “Just last weekend, he got to tell us about everything he built. I was humbled by the experience.”
“(Carol Ann and Larry) have been the center of the plate, the heartbeat of the local food scene,” former Statesman food writer Kitty Crider said on Friday, just a few days after stopping by the farmstand to buy tomatoes. “Quiet celebrities, they opened their farm to tours, to fundraisers, to national chefs. On my kitchen counter sit four varieties of their tomatoes. I think I will go eat one — standing over the sink — in memory of Larry.”
He’s the guy with the Northwest Kiwanis club who runs their annual peach fundraiser. Twice a year, the civic group sells boxes of peaches — in July from East Texas and in September from Colorado — and they are reliably the very best peaches I eat all year.
The money goes to dozens of local groups that the Northwest Kiwanis supports, including Austin Child Guidance Center and Any Baby Can.
The peaches, which come from McPeak Orchard in Pittsburg, Texas, are only sold in 22-pound boxes, but they include instructions on how to freeze them so you can enjoy them for months to come. Each box costs $47, and you can order them online at nwaustinkiwanis.org/peaches for pick-up between 8:30 a.m. to noon on July 7 at Anderson High School.
At the Taste of Mexico event earlier this month, I tried a handful of new local food products that you’ll hopefully be seeing on store shelves soon.
Serving a delicious trio of aguas frescas was Alegria, which makes the refreshing drink in hibiscus, cucumber-mint and melon. The drink is currently sold at some neighborhood corner markets, like the Rosedale Market, but with less sugar and more flavor than other aguas frescas on the market right now, you’ll see this product more widely available this summer.
The same is true of Pancho Bigotes Salsas, a creamy salsa company out of San Antonio, with makes a spicy, rich salsa verde with serrano, garlic and cilantro. The company also makes a “chimi hot” version with fresh chiles de arbol and no cilantro, but they are both welcome additions to chips, tacos, scrambled eggs and sandwiches. (I bought a jar at the event it was so good.) Most creamy salsas you can buy in grocery stores now are on the sweet side, but this one isn’t, thanks to the vinegar, spices and egg. With any luck you’ll find this good-on-everything sauce in supermarkets soon, but for now, you’ll have to buy them online.
I discovered Sweet Tsopelik on the rooftop of Mexi-Arte’s popular annual party. This local Mexican candy company uses traditional ingredients, such as peanuts, coconut and amaranth, to makes treats like alegrias, a crispy snack made with amaranth, agave nectar, pecans, pumpkin seeds, raisins and lime juice. The company, which sells at the HOPE Farmers market from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays, also produces tamarindos, palanquetas and mazapanes.
El Norteño Foods makes a line of beef jerky that’s worth checking out, especially if you like the popular Mexican-style jerky called cecina or are looking for a spicy jerky that’s low in sugar. The jerky comes in several flavors, including mango habanero, and they all include a little packet of hot sauce. The meat sticks, which come in lime and habanero flavors, don’t have the hot sauce, but they well-spiced on their own. Find these at convenience stores throughout Central Texas and some H-E-Bs.