When Springdale Farm owners Glenn and Paula Foore announced earlier this year that they’d sold their East Austin farm for development, longtime shoppers, including chefs, lamented the loss of its twice-a-week farmstand. Chef Sonya Cote was facing the loss of her restaurant, too.
Cote, who has worked with local farmers her entire food career, has for the past five years operated her Eden East eatery on the grounds of Springdale Farm, a 5-acre property that started as a landscaping company more than two decades ago and became an urban farm in 2009.
Cote, who also operates Hillside Farmacy, had grown close with the Foores over those years, and when they decided to retire , Cote and her partner, David Barrow, started talking with them about taking over day-to-day operations. PSW, the developers that bought the land, won’t start to build on the property for at least a few years, so Cote has signed a two-year commercial lease to continue operating Eden East and keep the farm and farmstand running.
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“I’ve always been close to the farmers, and I feel very inspired by growing things,” Cote says. “It makes sense to close the loop. To take on the farm seemed like the next evolution.”
Barrow has been working with the Foores and their longtime staff to learn the ins and outs of keeping the current crops going and planting again for the fall and spring, but Cote says he doesn’t call himself a farmer just yet. She says they are inspired by other chefs who farm, such as Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, who integrate agriculture and education into the dining experience.
“This place is a community gem,” she says. “We want to bring out as many people as we can to see the space while it’s still here.”
Springdale’s last day under the Foores’ ownership was June 30, which Cote noted was just a few days after Boggy Creek’s Larry Butler died. The East Austin farmer community, which also includes the nearby Rain Lily and Hausbar farms, has always been close-knit, she says: “We lost our patriarch.”
She knows she’s now the newbie in the group. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity. I’m still processing it,” she says. “I want to grow into this as a community and carry on Glenn and Paula’s legacy.”
The farmstand will be closed July 4, but it will reopen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 7 with all of the same products and produce customers would have found the week before, Cote says. In preparation for this transition, she says the restaurant has a reworked menu to add more a la carte options and will offer breakfast Wednesdays and Saturdays to serve customers who visit the farmstand.
Along with chef Kaycee Braden, who is now a business partner at Eden East, Cote says she plans to make some products, maybe herb blends or another culinary product, to sell at the farmstand.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” she says. “We want to maintain what they started.”