From the street, Rain Lily Farm looks like a typical prewar bungalow. You wouldn’t know there’s an urban farm there at all, and for most of the property’s history, there wasn’t. Before Stephanie Scherzer and wife Kim Beal bought the property in 2001, the triangular 4 acres that fanned out behind the East Austin rent house were covered in trash, junked cars and brush. Bordered by Boggy Creek on the north, the land was never developed due to flooding concerns—not even after Boggy Creek was straightjacketed into a safe (albeit ugly) concrete runoff channel.
Now the bungalow is updated and surrounded by mounds of purple larkspur, crimson snapdragons and pink phlox. Studding the lawns and acreage are thriving peach, palm, pecan, olive and nectarine trees, with artichoke plants and shrub herbs tucked here and there. Pulling into the circular drive, you can see dozens of rows of tomato plants in the main field, bordered by beds of mint and cilantro. The greenhouse and well house are behind the bungalow, and farther back are the fields that form the tip of the triangle, now planted with lima beans and tomatillos. In the center of the drive, there’s a stage for Shakespeare on the Farm, a free and accessible theater event that Rain Lily has been hosting for the last eight years.
When Scherzer and Beal bought the property, farming wasn’t even on their radar. “What I wanted was a house on a fairly big piece of property,” Scherzer says. “We were just starting our landscaping company, Rain Lily Design, and we thought we might need the space. Once that was up and running, I started growing food—at first just for us. Once we carted off all the trash, we realized we had a pretty decent amount of land. So we brought in goats to clear off the brush and brought it all under cultivation.”
East Austin has some of the richest soil in Texas, and soon Scherzer was dealing with bumper crops—producing far more than the family could eat. “None of the options were a good fit,” she says, “I couldn’t sell enough with a farm stand, and the farmers markets took too much time. So, I started Farmhouse Delivery—it was a natural progression.”
Farmhouse Delivery takes the bounty of local farmers and delivers directly to consumers, like a customizable CSA program box. Now in its 13th year, the company operates in Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio—delivering not only herbs and vegetables, but locally produced meats, cheeses, honey and meal kits.
“Our meal kits are the only ones on the market that use entirely locally-sourced ingredients,” Scherzer notes. “I work closely with Central Texas farmers and ranchers, so we can get everything at the peak of season. It keeps the price competitive while keeping the quality high. Matt Taylor is our chef, and he’s amazing.”
A typical day at the farm sees Scherzer up at 6 a.m. with their two daughters—one an infant needing to be fed, the other a 6-year-old needing to be readied for school. “Then I water the plants in the greenhouse, walk through the fields and take a look at everything, feed the chickens, turn the irrigation on and set my iPhone timer so I remember to turn it off!” Then it’s off to Farmhouse Delivery, where she puts in about 50 hours a week. “Usually on a Wednesday we’ll pick everything that needs picking, and I’ll take it with me to work; today I took in twenty dozen eggs,” she says. “We change out the crops seasonally: In winter we do lettuce, kale, collards and mustard greens; in spring, tomatoes and beans; and a cover crop in the summer.” The newest additions to the farm “family” are the olive trees, which are taking off spectacularly along the creek frontage. “We cured our first batch last year,” Scherzer says. “And this year’s crop is going to be even better. The olive trees love it along the creek shoulder—concrete rubble, hot sun and thirteen inches of rain a year. They love it.”
When she gets home from work, Scherzer does it all again, starting with feeding the baby. “I guess you could say, everything I do is about connecting people with their food!”
914 Shady Ln.