In the summer of 1998, Boggy Creek Farm co-owner Carol Ann Sayle, avid gardener Dayna Conner and Satay restaurant owner/chef Foo Swasdee were sitting in the back row of a garden club meeting. The three enterprising women began a quiet conversation that would eventually result in one of Austin’s favorite annual food and wine festivals: the “Grow Locally, Cook Globally” fall fundraiser.
The way Sayle tells the story, Conner mentioned to Sayle that she needed funding for a new nonprofit group she and friend Shannon Kemp had created. They were calling it the “Green Corn Project,” and its mission was to help Austinites in need grow their own organic food. Then Swasdee leaned in on Sayle’s other side to say that she was looking for a community service project. At that point, Sayle remembers saying something like, “I think we’ve got something here.”
It only took a few minutes for them to get on the same page. A fundraiser? At Boggy Creek Farm? Why not? Swasdee got busy recruiting local chefs. Conner and Kemp rounded up volunteers. Sayle and husband Larry Butler got the farm ready to host a crowd.
A few months later, a celebration of growing and cooking good food was born. The festival only featured three restaurants and drew only about 100 guests, but at $20 a ticket, it raised enough money to give the Green Corn Project a financial boost, and guests loved it. “People told us it was so much fun that we should do it again,” says Swasdee.
So they did. And over the next few years, the event grew. Eventually, Swasdee, Conner and Kemp passed their duties along to dedicated volunteers who promised to keep the nonprofit alive. Sayle and Butler have continued to host the annual fundraiser at Boggy Creek.
Although a few tweaks have been made to the event since 1999, guests at this year’s 20th fall festival on Oct. 28 can still expect a shady, relaxed and not-too-crowded stroll around one of Austin’s first homesteads (built in 1841)—complete with live music on the back porch, to-die-for food samples from about 20 local chefs, a play area for kids, a silent auction and plenty of free parking. All that for $40 (advance ticket price; children 12 and under are free).
Earlier this spring—using proceeds from the Green Corn Project’s 2017 fundraiser (along with other donations)—the group’s core members purchased soil, tools and compost, and led volunteers on “dig-ins” to plant or replant about 35 gardens.
In September, the entire process will repeat for another 30 or more gardens. That’s a lot of digging and planting, which probably explains why the Green Corn Project and Boggy Creek Farm have been growing so well together for all these years. “The only way to change the food supply is to get everyone to appreciate freshly grown food,” says Sayle. “You want your kids to eat vegetables? Get a garden. It’s that simple.”
By Renee Studebaker
For more information visit greencornproject.org