Spotlight: HausBar Farms
One of the best things about letting our menu change with the seasons is that we have a better understanding of the ingredients we use. We could call any major produce supplier and have peaches delivered to our front door any day of the year. But if we’re patient and wait for their growing season, we’re rewarded with a fruit at the peak of its flavor and nutritional value.
Using seasonal ingredients makes our job easier; we can let their natural sweetness shine through our ice creams rather than having to add a bunch of sugar. It’s also led us to build relationships with local producers, like HausBar Farm, who share our commitment to providing fresh flavors in a sustainable way.
HausBar has provided us with fresh ingredients like mint, beets and carrots from its two-acre farm in east Austin since we opened. Dorsey Barger and her wife, Susan Hausmann, started their urban farm in 2009, out of what Dorsey describes as her calling.
“Farming became my life, not really through a choice of mine,” she said. “It sort of grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.”
Dorsey first started tending garden as a co-founder of Eastside Café on Manor Road. The restaurant was one of the first in its scene to organically grow several of its menu’s ingredients in its own backyard.
“As I began to grow the vegetables at Eastside myself and spent my day outside working in the crops as opposed to bussing tables and filling waters, it just took over and became this driving passion for me,” Dorsey said.
Her education in sustainable farming consisted of a lot of reading, shopping at farmer’s markets and conversations with producers that she worked with while at Eastside Café. She was stirred by journalist Michael Pollan’s words about food justice and the environmental damage of today’s food production, and realized she wanted to help educate others.
“We’re here because once I learned about what a modern industrial agriculture is about, I became really disheartened by it and wanted to do what I could to, in a small way, not be a part of that,” Dorsey said. “And to let other people come and see what it’s like to have things growing naturally.”
Tucked into an east Austin neighborhood, you may miss the farm altogether if you’re not keeping an eye out for their donkeys behind the fence. They may look like they’re lazing in the shade, but all HausBar Farm animals have a job. As part of the farm’s commitment to sustainability, they use no gas-powered equipment like tillers, tractors or lawn mowers. The donkeys mow and fertilize the pastures as well as protect the smaller animals and produce from predators.
Each of the 51 garden beds was dug with pitchforks and shovels by HausBar’s committed staff. In our cold weather season, those crops grow broccoli, cauliflower, kale, bok choy, beets, radishes, chicory, radicchio, carrots, and the list goes on.
Besides starring in our ice creams, HausBar’s produce has shaped menus in some of Austin’s new and most notable establishments, including qui, uchi and uchiko, Congress, Swift’s Attic, Bufalina, fixe and Fukumoto. The farm keeps busy as more restaurants see the value in ordering fresh, local ingredients and building relationships with their suppliers.
“I think Austin is a great example,” Dorsey said. “Companies like Lick are a great example of this growing awareness.”
Produce at HausBar Farm isn’t harvested until it’s ripe and ready. Dorsey sends a list to her customers of what she has available that week, and every morning she wakes up to a fresh list of requests from restaurants. The day is spent feeding the animals, tending the garden, and harvesting to order. At lunchtime, everyone stops working to enjoy a family meal together. Dorsey has worked with some of her employees for nearly 20 years, starting at Eastside Café. Names aren’t used here; everybody is called “hermano” and “hermana” (brother and sister, in Spanish).
“We are so connected, we are so immersed,” Dorsey said. “Farm to table - we’re talking about 15 feet. That connection between farm and table for us is a daily ritual. That’s lunch.”
Once lunch has ended, they pack up their orders, divvy them up and begin distributing the fruits of their labor to the best restaurants around town. When they return to the farm, it’s time to feed the animals once again and start preparing themselves for the next day.
Establishing itself as an urban farm was a learning process for both HausBar and the city. Now that the evolution of the urban farm ordinance has settled, Dorsey can focus on educating others on what they do as a sustainable, organic farm, as well as continue educating herself on how they can grow things more and more naturally. The farm holds workshops and gives tours, as well as allows anyone who’s staying in their neighboring guest house to pick their own herbs and veggies for their meals.
“That’s the thing I’m most proud of, is not only being able to grow things, but being able to share the experience with other people, as well,” Dorsey said.
Although Dorsey and Susan considered expanding the farm and raising heritage pig and cattle breeds, they’ve decided to stick with their “tiny two-acre farm.” And with it, they reconnect people to their food in a big way.