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Senior citizens prefer card games indoors; gardening is best suited to the young and physically fit; and older people can’t tolerate the Texas sun. These are some of the unfair assumptions that the City of Austin’s Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens Program (SUACG) coordinator, Jake Stewart, tossed aside while helping to launch the Community Garden of Eatin’ pilot program last spring.
“I think that one of the lessons learned is: Don’t underestimate the senior population,” he says. “We were pleasantly surprised by how much interest there was and how quickly it caught on.”
Indeed, since the kickoff event, Stewart says that many older adults from the South Austin Senior Activity Center have taken ownership of the program by forming a steering committee, designing their own logo and T-shirts, hosting regular meetings, adding their own gardening beds and even working through the hottest days of the year. “I was most impressed with their toughness and their willingness to dive in,” says Stewart.
By C. Jeanette Tyson
Illustrations by Matt Lynaugh
Aunt Frances said to pull one from the bottom, so I did—dove through the murky syrup, hooked one with my fork and ate it straight from the jar. Crisp as a cotton sheet snapping on a summer line, just-this-side-of-cloyingly sweet…good…though not exactly the pickled watermelon rinds I remembered from my youth. I said this out loud.
“Well now…I didn’t make these,” my aunt said, with her own sweet/tart blend of pride and indignation. And that may just be the essence of the new fuss about pickling.
Community garden space is a precious and scarce commodity all across the country. Many popular community gardens have waiting lists filled with anxious gardeners twiddling their green thumbs for months hoping for a plot to open up. At the same time, millions of acres of privately owned land either grows wild or turns into inedible, costly-to-maintain lawns. It was from the landowner’s point of view that Adam Dell’s vision for Shared Earth took root.
As an enterprising venture capitalist, Dell had neither the time nor the expertise to turn his yard into a garden.
By Bill Albrecht
1 large beautiful Texas Hill Country backdrop
11 foodies excited about spending the day with other foodies from across the country for a culinary adventure
5 local spots offering fresh, locally produced fare
1 Sibby Barrett, Hill Country food guru and proprietor of
Onion Creek Kitchens’ cooking classes (juniperhillsfarm.com)
Last spring, Oriental medicine practitioner Dr. Paddy Tawada had a butternut-squash moment. This very much resembled a lightbulb moment, except the vision that lit up her imagination involved vegetables. Like many of us, Dr. Tawada—also known to her patients as Dr. Pea—had acquired more seedlings than needed for her garden. She thought if she planted the extra zucchini and butternut squash near the driveway, passersby could share in the abundance and help themselves to the extras.
Easy accessibility would be the key, and she wondered if other growers might be inspired to take a trusting leap, follow her lead and invite neighbors—and even perfect strangers—to stop, drop and gather. Since then, she’s been toiling away, not only growing food, but nurturing an organized food-sharing system now lovingly called Accessible Vegetables.
To get the project moving, Dr. Pea started a blog announcing her vision to all comers. She spent the better part of the last year gathering feedback and contemplating the best ways to implement a plan for community building and sharing, as well as negotiating challenges like the risk of unwanted disruptions and privacy issues.
By Eugenia Bone
Photography by Megan Schlow and Andrew Brucker
About 25 percent of all households in the U.S. preserve foods—the majority of whom live in the country and do so for all sorts of reasons: necessity, pleasure, health (a serious canner friend of mine once overheard a mortician say that in the past people used to have to get a body into the earth real quick, but nowadays a human body will hold for two weeks due to all the commercial preservatives it contains).
By Jason Minshew
Photography by Jody Horton
My goal is to persuade Austinites to reinterpret the relationship between a landscape and a garden. By applying the principles of landscape design to include plants that produce fruits and veggies, I create thoughtfully designed, productive urban landscapes that are as beautiful as traditional landscapes conceived and installed purely for ornamental purposes.
By Lucinda Hutson
Photography by Lucinda Hutson
Roasted veggies are a party on a platter, delighting the senses in a medley of color, texture and flavor. They warm the kitchen as they cook, filling it with wafts of sweet and seductive scents, making perfect winter fare. Better yet, they’re versatile and easy to prepare. Good seasoning is the secret. Fresh and dried herbs, spices and zesty condiments provide many dimensions of flavor, while roasting concentrates and caramelizes the vegetables’ inherent flavors.
Photography By Dustin Fedako
The Food is Free Project started in November 2011 with a single four-by-four-foot raised bed of winter greens in John VanDeusen Edwards’s front yard and a whiteboard and marker inviting people to post contact information if they considered access to natural, fresh food a human right. “Within two weeks, we had to erase that board multiple times because it was so full of e-mail addresses,” says Edwards, the project’s cofounder. “This was something that was really resonating with people.”
Austin’s newest supper club never meets at a hip art gallery. No bucolic dinners are served on the premises of the very farm that supplied the local produce. No innovative young chef has been spotted in the kitchen.
“And no,” says the new club’s founder, Shannon Kimball, “No money is involved.” Cook Here and Now Austin is indeed something different—a group of foodies who meet every three months in a home kitchen to prepare and eat a collaboratively cooked seasonal meal.
The original Cook Here and Now started two years ago when Marco Flavio, a San Francisco–based food fanatic, began gathering farmers market fans for communal fine dining. Flavio announces his monthly food themes and issues invitations via his blog; dinners for 60 routinely fill to capacity in just a few hours and Travel + Leisure recently named Flavio’s Cook Here and Now one of its “10 Best Secret Dining Clubs in the World.”
Shannon Kimball decided to inaugurate the 11th.
Composting was a way of life for Katy Eakin, until she got married and moved into her husband’s Travis Heights condo. With no green space to compost in and reluctant to add biodegradable waste to a landfill, Eakin froze her compostables and drove them, on occasion, to her grandfather’s farm. With such fierce dedication to decomposition, it comes as no surprise that Eakin would launch Green Bucket Composting, a progressive solution to a growing urban need.
Far from being profit-motivated, though, Eakin’s pursuit was born of necessity. When she came up with the concept, she and her husband had taken over operations at a farm that’s been in her family for over 100 years. “The thing is…it’s a cattle ranch right now,” she says with a smile. “And I’m the hugest hypocrite; I’m a vegetarian. So I’m trying to get away from raising feed cattle.”
Eakin started a few large garden plots on the farm and quickly realized that she would need more compost than she could generate.
The term vanilla is often used to describe something that is bland, or at least safe, and, well, pedestrian. The connotation is unfortunate, and more to the point, incorrect, because the story of vanilla—from its source to its history to the process that takes it from seed to sauce—is actually quite exotic.
Vanilla originated in Veracruz, Mexico, where it was cultivated by the Totonac Indians. Its production remained solely in Mexico until the mid-1800s when conquistadors, colonization and forced “globalization” led to the spread, exchange and export of the unassuming bean. Today, despite vanilla’s global travels and popularity, it’s still grown primarily in just four places: Mexico, Madagascar, Indonesia and Tahiti.
When Josh Hudgins was a kid, his family lived near North Lamar and Rundberg Lane—an area, at that time, considered outside the city limits of Austin. Things have changed a lot since then—the neighborhood is considered practically central now—but it was during his semirural childhood days that Hudgins first came to love both chickens and gardening.
“I planted my first garden when I was seven,” he says, “and built my first coop when I was thirteen. The two go hand in hand.”
The family moved to Indiana for a while, but Hudgins returned to Texas as a young man, working in his dad’s body shop. Still, he kept raising chickens and gardening as hobbies.
In the 1950s, my mother, Little Dove, spent a lot of time in the green kitchen of our house on the outskirts of San Antonio, even though she hated to cook. To encourage her in her often cheerless efforts, my father, Chief, bought her a special convenience: a self-standing roaster to be used primarily for cooking Sunday dinners. The rest of the week, it could double as a bread box. Chief liked versatile things that pulled their own weight. Money was tight, but if delicious meals were to be the result, he was willing to strain his budget to provide the equipment.
Austin designers of all disciplines often get opportunities to color outside the lines for clients. Rarer, though, is the chance to disregard the lines altogether—to truly go a little wild. Such was the luck of Rain Lily Design, a design and landscape company, when a Westlake Hills client commissioned the company to build a 38’x16’ rooftop garden project.
Though ubiquitous in New York City, structure-topping foliage is rare in these parts. Kim Beal, co-owner of Rain Lily Design, says she enjoyed the learning process and the challenge of bringing the client’s vision to fruition.
“The client was very informed, and had a great architect,” says Beal. “This was an intricately designed space from the beginning.”
The project’s architect—award-winning visionary Murray Legge of LZT Architects—is known for his love of unusual projects. “It was a cool project,” Legge says. “The roof is kind of vaulted, so the garden is hill-like—it echoes the surrounding hills. And it’s next to the pool, so it sort of looks like a whale rising up.”
By Lucinda Hutson
Photography by Lucinda Hutson
I design culinary gardens with special themes, as seen at Austin’s vanguard organic nursery, the Natural Gardener. Individual raised beds within a large, circular garden showcase Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean and Southeast Asian herbs. Visitors become acquainted with herbs from these regions by admiring them in a natural setting, and experience first-hand how they complement each other in gardens.