When your farm sits in the heart of a residential neighborhood, bordered by an elementary school and surrounded by urban activity, it’s only natural that you and your land would become a hub of the community. And when your farm is a small one, measuring crops in square feet rather than square acres, community is a vital way to remain profitable. Community runs deeply through all aspects of Rain Lily Farm in east Austin.
The farm sits on an oddly-shaped parcel of land whose eastern limit is the Boggy Creek watershed. It is perfectly suited to its purpose as a landscaping company and local farm, and every square foot here is put to good use. Owner Stephanie Scherzer has created a luscious patch of garden where poppies cast shadows over kale, green beans shade the lettuce, and artichokes and olives grow together like a Mediterranean salad. Flavorful Ark of Taste heirloom vegetables, which are culturally or historically linked to Central Texas, grow in thoughtful companion rows that make the most of the limited space.
It’s a perfect setting for the many events that take place on the farm and tie Rain Lily closely to the community around them. The local Slow Food chapter holds dinners along the garden several times per year, as do other supper clubs and area restaurants. A local Shakespeare company performs plays here twice annually, with the audience looking on from beneath the breezy oak trees.
Stephanie and her partner Kim lead tours of the grounds to schoolchildren, teaching them about bio-intensive growing methods that enrich the earth and eliminate the need for fertilizer. Teens enrolled in the Urban Roots program have the opportunity to engage meaningfully in sustainable agriculture and nutrition, and volunteers learn hands-on how much you can accomplish on a small plot of land in an urban environment. There are also canning workshops!
All this civic involvement proves both personally rewarding and financially successful. The indelible experiences the farm provides lead to a broader knowledge of the availability of local produce to everyone who sets foot there. Once people become aware of how accessible it is to have truly delicious food, they want it! Stephanie Sherzer also co-owns Farmhouse Delivery service, a CSA initiative whose customer base in the Austin area is thriving. Each piece of Rain Lily diversifies its involvement in the Austin economy, making it a key to the east Austin community.