Boggy Creek Farm

(A shorter version of this appeared in Saveur, in 2009)

 “Have you been to Boggy Creek Farm yet?” People kept asking me. It was like an ever-repeating mantra. But when I got there I immediately saw why this urban farm held such a special place in the hearts of Austinites. The food, for sure plays its part – the flawless vegetables, flowers, and eggs whose journey to market is all of a few hundred feet. It’s also the place, a 5-acre farm-jewel set in a scrappy neighborhood. And it’s the owners, Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler, who farm with such heart that they entice people into their world. Indeed, I have seen a sense of community unfold around Boggy Creek farm that rivals religious allegiance. Customers at the twice-weekly farm stand are seriously devoted to the place. I think of them, The Boggy Creekers.

“Customers think that we live in a dream and want to do what we’re doing,” is how Carol Ann sees it. And she’s right. There’s something in this confluence of place, people and food that touches us deeply and makes us want to be them. Or like them. At least around them. It’s a hard, good life and, at a glance, an enviable one. Their lives have meaning: they feed people.

The old white farmhouse sits in the middle of the property.  Long rows of flowers lead to it from the street, then continue around the house and down the other side. Remay tunnels might be protecting chicories from an icy winter freeze, while a shaded hoop house keeps bell peppers from scorching in the Magliette Calcio A Poco Prezzo summer heat, but everything else grows in the open. The sweetest corn grows skyward, cabbages are big and flat, the cauliflower are golden, and there are all those “weird little radishes,” as Carol Ann puts it. A border of roses and lilies might just break your heart – it did mine. Pause by the chicken house and Carol Ann can give you an account of each bird and its every antic since hatching. I love that the old porch is festooned with a swag of garden cloves, a sure testimony to the work behind the beauty. I’ve sat on that porch with Larry, a bb gun resting across his knees but ready for an occasional pot shot at the squirrel raiding the fig trees. He works hard, but has his limits. “The figs are mine,” he growls.

Despite the bounty of food, the farm kitchen is spare. Two cast iron skillets. An old dented espresso pot. A miscellany of silver and a few plates. The dining table is covered with seeds. Carol Ann and Larry feast on their vegetables, eggs, tofu, and wheat meat, but not meat. “We want to live a long time,” is their excuse, and I want them to, too.

I’ve been to hundreds of farmers markets, but Boggy Creek is different – it’s a farm that turns into a market, rather than a market that hosts farmers – and it’s truly a personal expression of its owners. Along with Carol Ann and Larry, assorted cousins, helpers and friends pitch in on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, washing vegetables in freezing water, chatting with customers, and extracting an occasional child from the strawberry patch. The faithful shop with intensity, then visit under the shade of the pecan trees. Carol Ann and Larry seem to be part of each conversation, of every transaction. They are the market. When it finally ends, everyone is exhausted.

“Why do you keep doing it,” I ask?

Carol Ann pauses to consider, then says, “Because we enjoy it. We enjoy the challenges – the change in the weather and the changes in the market. We enjoy each season. We enjoy trying to grow new things we’ve never heard of. And we enjoy the people who come out here. Given that people think this life is one they want, we’d better enjoy it!”

Boggy Creek Farm is at 3414 Lyons Rd, Austin TX 78702 or

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