Johnson didn’t always have an interest in farming despite growing up in south Alabama, where there was significant agricultural production. While his father worked with the Farm Service Agency and helped grant loans to farmers and his family always had a garden (his grandfather especially had a passion for his backyard garden), Johnson paid little attention to the farming community around him. He attended college at Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., and decided to change his major from mechanical engineering to agricultural engineering, where he took classes in commercial vegetable gardening. He had aspirations to work on a “hippy” organic farm, but his grandmother, Mama Nell, begged him to get a “real job” first. Thus, he worked for the government for a few years in Oregon and Wyoming.
While working for the government in Wyoming, Johnson came to Austin on a business trip and immediately fell in love with the culture. When he was looking for a place to move, Austin seemed like a great fit. With the move to Austin, Johnson’s hobby moved with him – gardening. When he moved into a house on Holly Street, he started a garden and slowly began bringing his produce to the Downtown Farmers’ market to make a few extra dollars. His hobby led from one thing to another, and over the course of a few years, gardening turned into farming, and their Community Supported Agriculture was born.
The crew at JBG has a lot of passion for farming itself. They are always paying close attention to each step in the growing chain and trying to ensure that each step is as high quality as possible or feasible, which makes their product so special. Johnson is always on the path to improve their production, which begins first and foremost with the selection of varieties and planting timelines. They put a lot of energy into the overall care of the plant and are constantly thinking about soil, fertility, harvest conditions and post-harvest handling. They are never complacent with their farming practices and are always looking for ways to improve and grow. For example, they grow without the use of plastic mulch, and they use a refractometer to motor the brix levels in some of their vegetables.
JBG sells at over 18 farmers’ markets. They began selling at the downtown farmers’ market in 2005, and they are now selling at markets in Austin, San Antonio, Waco and New Braunfels. They also have a small farm in Denton, from which they get produce for several markets in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Johnson met Jack Gilmore at one of the many farmers’ markets and frequently sees him and the JAK team at the markets, buying the freshest and most seasonal of produce for the restaurant.
Photo credit: Scott David Gordon
Johnson's Backyard Garden is commited to bringing high-quality organic produce to the community. JBG's produce is sold at over 18 farmers' markets including in Austin, San Antonio, Waco, New Braunfels and the Dallas-Fort Worth area (for the full list, click here). For more information, visit www.jbgorganic.com or call them at (512) 386-5273.
1 head cauliflower, shaved to the size of uncooked rice
3/4 c olive oil
1/4 c sherry vinegar
1/2 c green onion, chopped
3/4 c black olives, chopped
1/4 c capers
1/2 c red peppers, roasted and chopped
1 c feta cheese crumbles
salt and pepper, to taste
Mix together all ingredients, and let stand for at least 5 hours before using.