B5 Farm

Farmer Roundup!

Here at SFC, the team in charge of running our two farmers’ markets, administering the Farm to Work program, and supporting producers is called Farm Direct (as in, we bring the farm direct to you!) A lot of the work we do is behind the scenes as we fix equipment and online ordering systems, track invoices and reports for grants, and generally keep the wheel turning.

The best part of the job, however, is when we get to leave the confines of our office, strap on a pair of boots and get our hands dirty on a farm visit. Someone from the farm direct team personally visits each farm, ranch and growing facility of all the agricultural producers who come to our markets. We do this so we can ensure that you, our market customers, are purchasing the highest quality local food we can find.

We tour fields, inspect wash stations, and pet cows all in the name of maintaining the integrity of our markets. Since January, we’ve been on 9 visits, from Cat Springs to the Hill Country, and we want to let you in on what we’ve seen.

Animal Farm Flowers

In January the Farm Direct team took a two-hour drive and ended up at Animal Farm, a magical biodynamic farm. If you’ve been to our Downtown market you’ve seen Cas Van Woerden hiding behind his table of flowers, some of which his wife Gita grows in over 200 square feet of greenhouse space, and some of which she forages from the sandy forest circling their property.

Animal Farm produces arugula, peppers, Jerusalem artichokes, carrots, dragon beans and more with a lot of consistency due to their more coastal climate and plethora of controlled indoor space. According to Cas, the sandy soil needs added nutrients, and amending this with organic compost, spent mushroom substrate, and other organic inputs is time-consuming and expensive. Right now though, things are booming and Cas is looking to expand his arugula empire to more markets!

Animal Farm Arugula
Smith and Smith Chickens

Although the job of a rancher is never done, our very own Adrienne Haschke and Alex Canepa were able to sneak a little time to visit Colby at Smith & Smith Farms. Colby and his mother do most of the labor on farm, managing seven species of animals with different food and care needs. This type of work goes beyond 9-5, most days start around 6 am and don’t end until 11 pm.

Together they raise red wattle hogs, turkeys, chickens for egg and meat production, goats, a whole pack of farm dogs (including some sweet new puppies) and are considering adding sheep to the mix! As Colby’s mother says “we want to make this a green farm,” so they are planning to extend the scope of their rotational grazing by putting in additional fencing and planting native grasses and winter rye for the animals to eat. Find Colby this weekend at our Downtown market.

Smith and Smith Puppy
Engel Farm Peaches

Recently I (Amy Gallo) traveled west with fellow Market Manager, Ben Hasan, to Fredericksburg to visit two very unique farms, Engel Farms and Hat & Heart Farm (previously Oma and Opa’s Farm).

Our tour started at John Engel's fields where the last of the season’s Brussel sprouts were trying mightily to hang on after a warm spell, and where the next season’s melons were already underway. John is something of a maestro at fruit, so we swung by to see his blackberry and strawberry operations before heading to the real show: 400 peach trees growing at the top of Cherry Mountain Loop.

John will grow almost 50 varieties this year, most for market and some just for R&D. He is constantly improving and paring his peach lines, grafting new varieties onto hearty trunk and rootstock, while playing around with pluots, plumcots, apricots, and a whole mess of other stone fruits. You can find him currently selling these beauties at our Sunset Valley market.

Brad Ottmers

Over at Hat & Heart the love that Bradley Ottmers and Katherine Tanner have for the land is evident. Bradley knows the terrain like the back of his own hand, possibly because an Ottmers has been stewarding this land since the 1970’s. Initially a turkey operation, Bradley returned home and began diversifying what they have to offer. Now they sell a variety of vegetables, goat meat, chicken eggs, pickled products and specialty items like gigantic garlic scapes.

Although Bradley and Katherine are excited about pushing the boundaries of what their farm could be to a more sustainable, regenerative, and community-oriented space, it’s difficult being isolated and finding help to make their dreams come true. Find them this weekend at our Downtown market.

In addition to these biannual farm visits of our existing growers, SFC travels to each new farm applicant before they start at market. Sergio Torres visited a slew of new farms this spring, including F Stop Farm, Herban Austin, Garrison Park Market Garden, and Cassiopeia Farm. These farm visits are unique because we get a sense of the goals of each individual farmer and assess where we can help connect them to resources. Some farmers want to expand and are looking for land, some want to bring on more employees, and still others are venturing into this after their careers wind down and are looking to maintain operations as they are.

As most of our farms look to expand, so too does our Farm Direct team. In the coming year, we are planning on implementing our sustainability initiatives with a new scorecard system that will help inform our customers not only that the food they love is local and delicious, but also making the environment a healthier in the long run.

We are putting aside time to compile all the connections we have into easily accessible resource cards that we can hand out whenever a farmer has an inquiry or problem. We’re partnering with other organizations to offer financial assistance directly to growers, and bridging the gap between small scale local farmers and wholesale buyers.

Find all our favorite farmers, ranchers, foragers and foodies every Saturday, rain or shine, at an SFC Farmers’ Market near you!