The summer sun is scorching here in Texas, but our farms are still cranking out fresh produce. This week, we caught up with husband and wife team Shawn and Meredith Fagan of Fagan Family Farms, a USDA Certified Organic Farm located in Kyle, Texas. For the last six years, they’ve been supplying upscale Austin restaurants and wholesalers with fresh produce grown on their 2/3 acre plot. You can shop their Armenian cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, shishito peppers, and their sweet pepper medley on our marketplace now. Read this week’s Vendor Spotlight to learn how they got their start, the importance of organic farming, and what the Fagans will be growing for our marketplace in the upcoming months.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background, and how Fagan Family Farms began?
My name is Shawn Fagan, but most people just call me, “Fagan.” My lovely wife, Meredith, and I run Fagan Family Farms. We grow certified organic vegetables for specialty wholesalers, and many upscale restaurants in the downtown Austin area. We are one of the founding farms of the Central Texas Farmers Co-Op, and I am the board’s Vice President.
Meredith and I actually met in Austin, at the Bob Marley Fest in 2006. A couple years later, we moved to Colorado to give mountain life a try. We loved it. Then, in 2013, I got bit by the farming bug somewhere in Durango, CO. I learned of SPIN farming, and met a YouTube host named Curtis Stone. I became immediately obsessed with the whole idea of farming, and living as a farming couple. Meredith, was cautiously supportive. My parents caught wind of this obsession, and they made their move. They said that they had cheap acreage in Kyle, and we could start for free. Meredith’s parents had given us a little nest egg to buy tools and supplies. Meredith and I agreed that it was a really good opportunity, and the mountains were left in the rear view mirror. Based in Kyle, we have been farming year round since 2014.
In the warmest months, however, Meredith runs the show alone. I can be found working in Wyoming, Idaho, or Montana, leading mountain expeditions for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). I have a Creative Advertising Degree from the University of Texas, and I have done everything from owning a pizza restaurant, to designing landscapes for schools. At Fagan Family Farms, I am responsible for vision and implementation. I organize and direct all details of production and distribution. This includes everything involved in growing and selling nutrient dense organic vegetables in a sustainable way. I am also in charge of new business and brand management. When I’m not working, I enjoy running, climbing, teaching, consulting, and spending time outdoors with Meredith and the pups.
The other half of the farm operations and management are done by my lovely wife, Meredith. She also comes from a diverse background of skills that have included everything from high pressure ad sales and working in the brokerage industry, to hotel management and massage therapy. At the farm, Meredith wears many hats. Directly with the produce, she manages all harvesting, processing, cleaning, and packing. She helps with planting, weeding, seeding, and maintenance. She also finds time to manage all restaurant accounts, do all our bookkeeping, and independently run our entire microgreens operation. She is also a fantastic wife (full time), and helps manage me (part time). When she is not working, Meredith enjoys reading, sewing, restoring antique furniture, running, hiking, swimming, and spending time outdoors with me and the pups.
Fagan Family Farms is a certified organic farm, can you tell us more about the importance of organic produce and the benefits of supporting organic farmers like yourself?
Certified organic means your product is free of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, and other things you probably don’t want your children eating. These things are not only toxic to humans, they are also harmful to the soil and all the critters that live there. Many of these critters are essential to growing nutrient dense food. Certified organic is a tough certification. It means you have changed ALL of your practices to fall within the predesignated parameters. I, personally, feel that anything short of certified organic is just like being a couple credits short of a degree. It doesn’t mean you haven’t done a lot of work. It just means you haven’t done all the work. Getting the certification is difficult, but it is supposed to be.
We’d love to hear about how you got started with Farmhouse Delivery. What benefits does our partnership provide to organic farmers?
We started working with Farmhouse when COVID-19 hit. At the time, most of our accounts were restaurants, who were ordered to shut down. At the farm, we continued to produce. We were very lucky to meet the Farmhouse team, who were also dealing with a COVID-19 related feeding frenzy. We love that now everyday people are eating our produce through Farmhouse.
How do you think COVID-19 has impacted the way the community shops for and consumes produce? What would you tell them about supporting local producers and farmers?
I think COVID-19 has made people realize the fragility of our food system and our supply chains. Learning about, and supporting local producers is the solution to this issue as the future is uncertain. You probably shouldn’t rely on twenty other people in the supply chain to bring you something as important as nutrition for your family. Right?
What Fagan Family Farms produce can our members find on our marketplace today? Are there any other items they can expect to see in the future?
Right now, at Farmhouse you can find: our fantastic heirloom tomatoes, our sweet pepper mix, striped Armenian cucumbers, and shishito peppers. In the future, you can expect: radish, Japanese Hakurei turnips, onions, leeks, fennel, Parisian (round) carrots, beets, baby bok choy, radicchio, arugula, escarole, and lots of lettuce mix.