Embracing the many aspects of living with a local focus is unquestionably a good thing—scouting farmers markets for fresh produce, learning to make yogurt, cheese, bread or other staples and dedicating time and effort toward fiber arts are all great steps in the right direction. But at The Good Earth Day School, its adjacent petting farm and Sassy Pea Market in Leander, sisters Janie Mote and Leslie Castaneda are helping their students and community experience the total-immersion version of the go-local lifestyle.
The pair opened the Good Earth Day School in 2006, and moved it to its current urban-farm location a couple of years ago. Inspired by Montessori and Waldorf education models, they sought to create an environment where “the kiddos,” as Mote lovingly refers to them, could partake in activities more common in childhoods of old. Students learn cooking, gardening, outdoor exploration, woodworking, sewing, animal care and even housekeeping. And they help prepare their own organic snacks. “We allow them to be involved and to make a mess,” says Mote (no doubt a factor in the housekeeping-skills portion of the day).
Meanwhile, the petting farm and market next door offer more opportunities for learning about local life. Little and big hands alike are welcome to pat, snuggle and learn about the lives and personalities of the resident sheep, goats, pot-bellied pig, and miniature horse and donkey. And Sassy Pea Market provides a glimpse into community-made crafts—from handmade toys, knitted alpaca items and handmade pottery, to vegan bath products and photography—as well as a selection of fresh yard eggs, grassfed beef and local, seasonal produce.
Recently, Sassy Pea Market introduced a farmers market on Saturdays, with local growers selling out of their cars in the parking lot—an endeavor the sisters are carefully fostering and hoping to grow into a thriving, ongoing event. They’ve hit obstacles along the way, but remain optimistic.
The sisters say their main goal, however, has always been to offer busy families the opportunity to experience a slower, more deliberate lifestyle that some only dream about in this fast-paced world. Necessity was the mother of this project, of course. The sisters know too well the difficulties of bridging the gap between living local and the reality of making it happen. “This came out of a need,” says Mote. “We’re both busy, working moms who had a hard time buying the right things and doing the right things for our family. We’re trying to bring that to the store—to offer it to school families and the public.”
The Good Earth Day School: Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Good Earth Petting Farm: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.
Sassy Pea Market*:
Tuesday–Friday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. (Closed 1:00 p.m.–2:00 p.m.)
10820 E. Crystal Falls Pkwy., Leander
School: 512-259-3922; Store: 512-259-4122