Just a few blocks north of the green line in Austin sits a farm where goats, chickens and bees live among urban dwellings.
Since 2011, GlennArt Farm (which is technically in the backyard of farm owners Carolyn and David Ioder) has been creating unique livestock experiences and cyclical farming ecosystems for those in the community.
Aside from livestock (including two goats named Beyonce and Cher), the Ioders also partner with the urban land trust nonprofit Neighborspace to manage the Harambee Community Garden just a few blocks from their own urban farm.
In a recent interview, Carolyn Ioder shared how land remediation plays a critical role in the maintenance of their farm and garden.
Were there any remediation efforts needed to begin your operations?
Not necessarily to start, but we have to constantly make sure the land is nourished in order for our garden to flourish and so the animals don’t get sick from their own wastes on the land.
We do a yearly remediation process called lasagna composting. We layer grass clippings, food waste, manure, leaves, newspaper, and we top it off with soil to seal it all in. We only have to do this to the entire property once a year and that’s all it needs.
In the community garden we manage, they had to remediate that land. I know that process involved a process similar to the lasagna composting method we used. They incorporated burlap in order to help seal in moisture. There is cement beneath that land in the community garden, so a raised bed of soil needed to be created.
How does remediation impact your operations on the farm?
Having livestock, you get manure options you don’t normally get. We have chicken and goat options (both are amazing materials for the soil). We bag both and have options to sell that to community gardens and farms on the West Side and beyond. Goat milk is also good for fertile soil and we have that as well.
What role does remediation play in raising livestock on the property?
Most people don’t have livestock on their properties and those that do probably don’t graze their animals. Here, we use grazing to balance out our livestock ecosystem. We can use the chicken manure to remediate the soil the goats live on and vice versa. Having grazing livestock also helps us remediate the community garden.
We rotate the areas where the goats and chickens graze so they aren’t over-grazing one area, and so they aren’t continually grazing on their own manure. The rotating method helps us have time to remediate that land while fertilizing another plot at the same time. We love cyclical systems.
What has your experience been like with city officials, as far as having livestock on residential land and needing tall grass and weeds for them to graze in?
The goats need grazing areas of over two feet high, but technically the city doesn’t allow for grass and weeds to be over 18 inches. We have a tacit agreement with the Department of Streets and Sanitation that as long as we keep the areas neat and tidy we can have it the length we need. It’s also a plus that our goats like to graze on what the city calls “weeds.” Alderman [Chris] Taliaferro has also been helpful in getting us permission to do certain things you can’t normally do in an urban setting. Luckily for us, the city and community see the benefit in our efforts and how we reuse and recycle to create this self-sustaining ecosystem.
What role does water play in how you remediate the land?
Luckily, we do have access to a water system for our efforts. I know a lot of other gardens don’t. In our sustainability efforts we do collect and use rainwater, as well. The burlap and cardboard we use to remediate help seal in moisture, so we don’t have to worry about the soil getting dehydrated.
Are there any ways you engage with the community as far as remediating and working the land?
We partner with some local eateries and with the local Whole Foods for our food composting efforts (that we use to remediate the land). They give us their scraps, which we use to not only add to our compost collection (that we use to remediate the soil), but we can also give some of those scraps to the livestock.
Aside from that, we offer tours of the farm and garden and have events like Goat Yoga that are free to West Siders (though we do have ticketed options for non-locals). People love seeing goats and chickens in an urban area, so it’s been very popular and educational for them.
What is your goal with your urban dairy farm and the work you’re doing in the community garden?
We believe taking care of your environment and remediation sort of go hand-in-hand. Our goal is to create ecosystems that can be sustained through repurposing. We try to repurpose whatever we can, however we can. Whether it’s feeding the animals or ourselves with what we grow in the garden, rotating soil and manure, grazing the livestock – it’s all cyclical. You could say our motto is reuse, recycle and remediate, because that’s really what we do here.
City Bureau supported the reporting of this story.