When You Wish Upon a Farm

Photography by Skip Connett

Green Gate Farms owner Erin Flynn has the sort of grace, elegance and beauty that isn’t immediately associated with backbreaking fieldwork and hog slop. Yet farming and raising animals have long been in her blood. Flynn—who operates the farm with husband Skip Connett—hails from a hardworking East Texas farm family. And though at one time she thought she’d left the farm life behind to pursue, with great passion, a city-centric life, a simple request from her husband found her tumbling back toward her roots.

As Connett’s 50th birthday approached, he voiced a wish to raise and barbeque his own pig. What followed was a move from Atlanta back to Flynn’s home state, a five-acre spread eight miles from downtown Austin and one little piggy that, eventually, was invited to dinner.

A passel of pigs later, Green Gate Farms has become known for its bucolic abundance, both animal and vegetable, and for Flynn and Connett’s wealth of farming knowledge—so much so that the couple has begun to roll their amassed swine, and non-swine, smarts into guided tours, workshops and classes for adults, kids and families. As Connett can attest, some things simply need a little wish to get the ball rolling.
“We find out what people want to learn, and then we put on an event around that,” says Flynn, who’s hosted everything from busloads of farm-curious schoolchildren, to family festivals and elaborate dinners in the field featuring the farm’s seasonal harvest. The recent seed-saving class conducted by farm interns Catherine Doe and Jetson Brown was enormously popular, Flynn notes.

And the wishes keep coming. When the establishment of a Green Gate Farms 4-H Club was suggested, Flynn thought it was a good idea, but decided to add her own twist by creating a less formal “5-H” workshop.
“They have ‘head, heart, hands and health,’” Flynn says. “I added ‘humanely.’”

Using a litter of piglets born last February, a recent batch of eager 5-H-ers learned the ins and outs of pig-raising—including proper care and tending, monitoring growth through weekly weigh-ins, even tasting feed (the kids’ idea). Flynn remains devoted to teaching respect for the animals, and includes the entire life cycle in the workshop—even death. (One pig was honored as the centerpiece for a Cuban-style feast enjoyed by workshop participants and their families.)

“It is so deeply satisfying,” Flynn says about hosting the classes and events. “We have school groups come in and if you get kids between five and twelve they are over the moon, thrilled to pull potatoes. And when they gather fresh eggs for the first time they scream with delight—they’ve never felt a warm egg before. It’s great to watch them get so excited.”

For a complete listing of Green Gate Farms’s events and classes, visit greengatefarms.net. Ongoing events: Fridays at the Farm, 9 a.m.–1 p.m. Families invited to picnic and explore the farm while the farm stand (Fridays, noon–6 p.m.) is being set up. Saturday Farm Tours, including fields, barn and livestock. $5 per person suggested donation.

Saturday, October 24: Feast in the Field, 3rd annual Austin Discovery School / Slow Food Austin feast and fundraiser with local foods prepared  by Ecstatic Cuisine. Tickets available at austindiscoveryschool.org.