Each of East Austin’s urban farms has developed its own unique identity. The bountiful acreage and historic farmhouse at Boggy Creek Farm date back to the Republic of Texas era; HausBar Farms features a charming animal menagerie plus a bed-and-breakfast; while Rain Lily Farm is an important component of the popular Farmhouse Delivery service. Glenn and Paula Foore’s Springdale Farm is no different; in addition to a twice-weekly farm stand, the farm hosts a limited number of weddings and community events and is home to Chef Sonya Coté’s casual trailer eatery known as Eden East. And this year, the newest attraction at the 5-acre property is a product line called Springdale Handmade.
Historically, farm women created soaps and salves to care for their families, but what began as a late-fall soap-making experiment has quickly evolved into a distinctive selection of soaps, scented candles, scrubs, salves and body butters that bear no resemblance to the homemade soaps of the old days. “I’ve always enjoyed different aspects of preserving and I really love having a project,” says Paula. In the fall of 2015, she and longtime customer and local food advocate, Carla Crownover, tried their hands at making soaps. They enhanced the soaps with herbs, vegetables and flowers grown on the farm. While the soaps were curing, the friends designed wrappers bearing a new logo, and when the rustic-looking soaps were ready to use, they put a few of them out for sale at the farm stand just to see what would happen. The soaps were the hit of the holiday season— rapidly selling out anytime they were on the shelves.
The popularity of the soaps encouraged Paula and Carla to develop more items. Scented soy candles and body butters came next, followed by salves, scrubs and bath teas. “Developing these things has been a wonderful creative outlet for me,” Carla says with a smile. The duo read books and scoured the internet for ideas—adapting recipes they discovered to suit their needs and learning which items work best with hot or cold processing. Springdale Handmade products are made with all natural fragrances and essential oils in addition to ingredients sourced from small area companies, such as Austin Honey Company, Lost Pines Yaupon Tea, Texas Coffee Traders, Third Coast Coffee and Zhi Tea. In the process of development, Paula and Carla even found the perfect use for a bountiful crop of loofah (a vine in the cucumber family). New products are tested on themselves, family and friends. Even the farm dog, Ellie May, contributed to the research and development of Springdale Handmade’s natural flea-repellent soap.
The product line is evolving with the seasons, with gift collections for every major holiday or occasion. There is shaving soap for Dad, avocado face bars, sugar scrubs and bath teas for Mom, not to mention insect repellent and soothing calendula salve for gardeners—even a coffee soap for chefs to remove food smells from their hands. Once the Springdale Handmade product line was firmly established at the biweekly farm stand, Paula and Carla began to consider expansion. They will gladly create customized gift collections for bridal couples who marry on the farm, for example, and over the summer, Carla managed to place select products at locations such as Hillside Farmacy and Métier Cooks Supply. The new Austin Salt Cave spa requested soaps and bath scrubs made with their pink Himalayan salt. Those items proved to be so popular that they are now in regular production. Ellie May’s Working Dog Soap is on the shelves at places like Tarrytown Pharmacy as well as East Austin’s new Prime Pet store. Ellie May even tags along on the deliveries.
Weekdays, you can find Paula and Carla cooking up soaps, lotions and potions in the farmhouse kitchen, with the pleasant aromas wafting throughout the house. “We’ve told Glenn that he needs to build us a ‘she shack’ for our production so the house won’t always smell of essential oils,” Carla says, laughing. Sounds like a good plan, because it looks as though Springdale Handmade is here to stay.
By Virginia Wood • Photography by Andy Sams
Visit springdalefarmaustin.com or call 512-386-8899.