What happened to Johnson’s Backyard Garden? Austin produce company goes dark

Local

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A popular community garden that serves several hundred people with local produce has stopped distributing to customers.

Brenton Johnson has been planting vegetables for nearly 20 years in the Austin area. 

His 200-acre farm has served Austin through a box subscription service, at the Mueller and Lakeline farmer’s markets, Austin Independent School District lunches and places like the Wheatsville Co-op.

People who use his product say they haven’t heard from him in weeks.

“The food has been great and the people there were wonderful,” said Chichi Armstrong. “We have been out to the farm.”

Armstrong says she’s been a member since 2015 and has been nothing but satisfied when the produced touched her tastebuds.

“I really liked the Johnson Backyard Garden because it was sizeable,” said Armstrong. “It had a commercial business as well.”

The farm is located in Cedar Creek at 4008 River Road, and the distribution center is located in south Austin at 9515 Hergotz Lane. Both locations sat empty Wednesday afternoon when KXAN visited.

At the end of July customers received a letter from JBG saying it would be taking a one-month pause on the CSA (Community Service Agriculture) program including deliveries, pickups and responses would be somewhat slower than usual.

The pickups were supposed to resume Sep. 1, according to the letter that went out to customers.

“In July they started putting in their newsletter that people leaving the business, and their farm manager left.” said Armstrong. “I went ‘ooof, something is not right here.”

At the farm in Cedar Creek, there are flowers blooming but no one to harvest.

Chichi Armstrong worries she’ll never see the money she just paid to renew her annual subscription.

“Of course I just renewed right before they went on their pause,” said Armstrong. “They’ve now got close to $600 of my money.”

KXAN reached out to the Austin Independent School District Wednesday regarding communications between JBG. The district said used the product up until March 2020.

“All JBG products served at AISD were procured through the district’s produce distributor, Brothers Food Service. We planned to offer JBG produce this school year, however, Brothers Food Service notified us in mid-August that the product would not be available,” said an AISD Spokesperson.

KXAN reached out to Brothers Food Service Wednesday and the company said it hasn’t heard from Johnson’s either.

Neighbor Farms to Support

If you’re looking for other local CSA options, here are a few.

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