Our Snailblazer Award is the highest honor given to recognize individuals that exemplify the Slow Food movement’s ideals of “Good, Clean, and Fair.” In honor of their considerable and distinctive work as organic food activists and pioneers of Austin’s urban farming community, Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler of Boggy Creek Farm received the inaugural Snailblazer Award during our Grub Trivia event on Sunday, July 21. When our Leadership Board discussed creating this award months ago, we knew immediately that we wanted to celebrate the incredible influence that farmers have on our food community- we can’t eat local food without local farmers. Austin does a great job recognizing our local food stars and chefs, but, especially in light of recent proposed changes to the Urban Farm Code, we thought it was time to acknowledge the dedication and significance of organic farmers like Carol Ann and Larry.
Beginning in the early 1990’s, a renaissance of agriculture in East Austin began just a few miles from downtown. In 1992, Carol Ann Sayle and Larry Butler bought five acres with a historic house from the 1840s.
East Austin, with its rich alluvial bottomland, attracted the farmers who followed Stephen F. Austin to Central Texas in the 1830s. The Smiths, Tannehills and others planted crops and built the large plantations along the Colorado River that eventually became the truck farms of the 1900’s. However, by the end of World War II, the farms became lots for houses and commercial enterprises as the growing population encroached on the once productive land. The beautiful soil, deposited over the millennia by Boggy Creek and the Colorado River was mostly paved over with asphalt or concrete.
The couple named their farm on Lyons Road after Boggy Creek. They began by rescuing the decomposing farmhouse and cleaning up the land, eventually bringing the farm back to life as one of the few truly urban farms in the nation.
Larry and Carol Ann host many educational tours and conduct new farmer workshops through the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA) where they trade insights, practical advice, and personal stories with wry humor and passion. They regularly employ interns who have definite plans to farm and share all of their knowledge, successes and failures with them. Many of the interns have gone on to start successful farms of their own. Grandson Carson started helping in the fields and the farm stand last summer and has been joined by his brother Jack.
Larry has created a number of signature products that ranged from hot sauces and jams to smoky bean dip and tomato products. The most popular of his creations has been the Smoked Dried Tomatoes that were featured on the Food Network and in Saveur Magazine. Not only have home cooks come to the farm stand, but, over the years, many local restaurateurs seeking local produce have attended the market.
The farmers won Edible Austin‘s Local Heroes Award in 2008, 09, 10 and 11. The Austin Chronicle gave them the “Best Urban Farm” award in 1994, which amused Larry and Carol Ann so much that they purchased and installed the award banner on the farm stand barn. After all, they were the ONLY urban farm in Austin at the time. They were recently honored by TOFGA with the Sustainable Agriculture Hero Award.
Over the years, Boggy Creek Farm became a place not just for amazing food, but also for fundraisers for organizations like Green Corn Project and AIDS Services’ Project Transitions. Twice, decedents of the Siegmund-Linscomb family, who owned the farm from 1902 to 1979, have gathered there.
“We feel like the farm is successful because we keep doing it, and we are passionate about the health of the soil,” said Carol Ann Sayle, co-owner of Boggy Creek Farm. “We’ll never get rich, but we eat well, get regular exercise (in all kinds of weather), and enjoy the company of our dedicated employees and the folks who come to the farm stand market days.”