Johnson’s Backyard Garden Brings Organic Goodness to The Home

Posted January 21, 2014

Johnson’s Backyard Garden Brings Organic Goodness to The Home

Eating well and staying fit are important components of life at The Settlement Home. It is crucial to us that our children are exposed to good, nourishing food, so that they can make healthy eating a lifelong habit. For a number of years, we have been extremely fortunate to be able to provide our kids with organic, quality produce provided by Johnson’s Backyard Garden.

JBG is a local, organic farm run by wonderful people who are on a mission to provide great, organic produce to Central Texas. We caught up with farmer and JBG founder Brenton Johnson about the great work they are doing and how they support The Settlement Home.

TSH: Your mission is to provide your members with the best quality, locally grown, organic vegetables possible. Why do you think everyone should be a part of better eating?
BJ: Back in 2004, I started JBG in the backyard of my East Austin home on Holly Street.  When I did this, I wasn’t thinking about serving the Austin community – I mainly wanted to grow vegetables for myself and my family.  It was important to me to know just how the vegetables were grown, and I didn’t want my kids to eat unnecessary and potentially harmful chemicals.  Plus, on a personal level, I wanted to eat vegetables that taste really good!  There is nothing like eating vegetables fresh from the garden – the taste is so much better than produce that has traveled miles to get to you or has been sitting in storage for weeks. 

Now, as a farmer, those two motivations are still with me.  I choose to grow organically because I believe it is better for the health of our customers and the health of our overall environment.  I also want to provide people with the freshest possible produce.  It’s simple – when vegetables are fresh, they just taste better.  From the beginning, I have also worked to make JBG available to the whole community.  The local food movement is very strong in Austin, but there are large sections of our community that have been left out of this; often, it is because the cost is too high.  At JBG, we have been working to find ways to remove this cost barrier, and our partnership with The Settlement Home reflects one of these efforts.  Thanks to the generosity of our CSA members and the Austin community, we have been able to deliver our fresh organic vegetables every week to The Settlement Home for three years now. 

TSH: How has JBG grown over the years?
BJ: JBG started as a garden plot in my backyard on Holly Street.  Now, it is a 200-acre, certified organic diversified vegetable farm.  I started off growing food for my family but quickly became hooked on it.  In my small backyard garden, I was able to have a CSA of 30 people, and I also sold at the farmers market Downtown.  I realized that I loved growing food for people and wanted to be a farmer.  Thanks to the support of the Austin community, we now have a thriving CSA, a wholesale program that serves restaurants and grocery stores, and we attend about 15 farmers markets.  I contend that there is no better place to be an organic farmer than in Austin.  Getting vegetables through a CSA is different than what most people are used to, but the good thing about Austinites is they are open to trying new options that better serve them and their community.  Plus, in Austin, you can grow year-round, so this means we can provide our CSA members with a share of just-harvested organic produce every week of the year. 

TSH: JBG and its members have been donating produce boxes to The Settlement Home for several years. Many of our kids have not had quality produce in their life until now. How does it make you feel to be able to introduce good food to a child?
BJ: I love the fact that more children now have access to fresh produce thanks to our partnership with The Settlement Home.  As a community, I think we should be doing all we can to increase access to fresh produce, and this is especially important when it comes to children.  I am also glad that children at the Settlement Home are learning to cook with these vegetables.  Having these skills will serve them for a lifetime, and I am proud of the small role that JBG plays in this.  Again, I need to thank the members of our CSA who have consistently donated to our program with The Settlement Home – their generosity is a testament to what we can do together. 

TSH: Why is it so important that kids know about healthy, quality organic food and farming?

BJ: When kids learn about healthy eating and how to cook, it is very empowering.  Again, I salute The Settlement Home for their on-going efforts to provide such education.  Kids who learn these skills will be able to make good choices about what they eat for the rest of their lives, and this will affect their overall health, energy level, and quality of living.  When you start eating this way when you are young, it becomes ingrained, and, as we all know, it is much harder to change your habits as you age.  I also think too many children in this country grow up not knowing how their food is grown.  This is true of children from all different backgrounds and socio-economic levels.  If we give kids a connection to their food, it can have a lasting effect on the personal choices they make and on the health of our environment as a whole.

Again, we thank the great people at JBG for making organic, local produce a staple in our children’s diets. This partnership has given our kids the ability to experience new and different produce, find out where food comes from and learn how to cook.

Now that we have you hungry, you can bring quality food to your table too by becoming a JBG CSA member or by visiting their booth at area farmer’s markets. Click here to visit their website for more information.

Here are a few photos of our JBG produce!

Beautiful carrots, salad greens and more.

We always get excited when our boxes arrive!

Produce delivered by the wonderful people at JBG.

This might be the most colorful box yet! Beautiful!

Salads with JBG greens and carrots.

Kale and collard greens with garlic and bacon.

Each box contains a variety of produce.

Baked kale chips.