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A Walk on the Rural Side

Want to feel like you’ve escaped the urban sphere for an afternoon and ventured out into the rural wilds? Fortunately, you don’t have to drive very far to see crops in the fields, spend quality time with the chickens and soak up some springtime sun. East Austin is home to several urban farms, each just a hop, skip and jump from the city, yet a world away, and many of them welcome visitors. Here are a few of our best bets.

Springdale Farm, 755 Springdale Rd., (512)386-8899

Tucked away just three miles east of downtown, Springdale Farm is a cheery spot with spreading oak trees, rows of multicolored crops and a big green lawn for little legs to run around.

Springdale Farm Gate

Boasting not only chickens, but ducks, too, Springdale Farm welcomes families with open arms. “It’s lovely to see kids meeting the farm animals, and checking out the plants and flowers,” says Springdale Farm’s co-owner, Paula Foore. “I love that.”

There’s also a cheery green market building and a friendly farm dog named Ellie May. What more could you want?

Inside Springdale Market

Market days are Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm, but visitors are welcome to come at other times as well. Springdale also boasts a picnic area with plenty of tables, and Eden East, a locavore restaurant on the property with quite a little buzz surrounding it, is slated to open by May.

Boggy Creek Farm, 3414 Lyons Road, (512) 926-4650

A perennial family favorite, Boggy Creek Farm is a rural breath of fresh air just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle (and just a few blocks from Springdale Farm). Fields of greens, strawberries, broccoli and much more pattern the landscape of this five-acre plot. There’s also a chicken coop (and the occasional hen wandering around outside), as well as logs for climbing on and even a few toy tractors and trucks to push around.

Chicken coop at Boggy Creek Farm

Market days are Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm. You can pick up some organic veggies for dinner (not to mention eggs straight from the coop) in the open-air market, and even grab some croissant from a local baker to munch on while you stroll.

Fresh, organic veggies at Boggy Creek Farm

HausBar Farms, 3300 Govalle Ave., (512)577-4731

Just down the road from Boggy Creek Farm is an urban oasis that serves as home to a plethora of plant and animal life, including rabbits, ducks, goats and donkeys. HausBar Farm holds family events often (check their Facebook page for updates), and its owners love to see kids on the farm.

“You get to see the farm through their eyes all over again,” says HausBar Farms co-owner Dorsey Barger. “Their entire faces just light up with the magic of this discovery of how we get food. It really takes you back to that.”

Although they don’t have set open hours, they welcome families to stroll down the fence line and say hello to the animals anytime.

“The property is situated such that animals can go right up to the fence,” says Barger. “You can come up and tickle a donkey’s nose. If you holler their names, they’ll come see you. Our donkeys love people.”

Green Gate Farms, 8310 Canoga Ave, (512)484-2746

Slightly farther afield, but still only 8 miles east of downtown, is Green Gate Farms’ urban farm. There’s a historic barn, pretty much every farm animal you could think of (including lambs, pigs and ducks) and even a Children’s Garden. Talk about a kid’s dream come true!

“Fridays at the Farm” (held every Friday beginning at 10 am) give families the chance to explore the farm on their own while staff and volunteers are busy setting up the farm stand, which opens at noon. If you would like a little more structured day, farm tours happen every Saturday at noon. No reservations are necessary, and the cost is $5 per person (free for CSA members).

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If you’d like to see several of these farms in one day, there’s a great opportunity coming up on April 14. The East Austin Urban Farm Tour will visit four farms, including Rain Lily Farm, Springdale Farm, Boggy Creek Farm and HausBar Farms, and it sounds like it will be one big party.

“There will be amazing food and drink from the greatest local chefs [...], and some of the most amazing restaurants,” says Barger. “It’s a super-fun event.”

The cost is $45 per ticket for advance sales (purchase online here) and kids under 12 are free. For the grown-ups, there will be local beer, wine and cocktails from local mixologists on offer, too. The event benefits the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a national organization that supports independent family farmers.

Lauren Walz is a freelance writer and editor and mama to a two-year-old girl. While she’s quick to brag about being a fifth-generation Texan, Lauren moved to Northern California in 2004 after graduating from UT Law and lived in the Silicon Valley area until last spring, when she and her family were drawn back to Austin. Lauren is busy getting re-acquainted with her old stomping grounds and is astonished by how the food and wine scene has changed in Austin in the past 8 years. Lauren also blogs about cooking and parenthood on gourmetveggiemama.com.