From a 30 by 50 foot backyard garden to one of the biggest organic farms in Texas today, Brenton Johnson’s passion for vegetable production runs deep.
When Brenton and his wife started a backyard garden in East Austin, their goal was simply to have enough vegetables to feed their family. However, one thing led to another, and before Brenton realized it, the garden had taken over his entire backyard.
The beginnings of a business
Not knowing what else to do with his bounty, Brenton decided to sell his produce at the local farmers market. He had such success his first year that he started a CSA – community supported agriculture. And, for Brenton, it meant that 10 Austin-area families payed in advance for 10 weeks worth of produce. The up-front funds enabled Brenton to buy all the seeds and other inputs needed plant and raise the crops for his customers.
Next step: more land
Having expanded to his front yard, too, Brenton realized that his business exceeded his small, urban yard. So he began looking for land upon which to expand. However, as one of the fastest growing cities in the country, land in and around Austin wasn’t cheap.
Brenton’s searches led to a piece of property that seemed perfect. Well, perfect except for the price tag: $2.2 million. Not ready to give up just yet, Brenton decided to have a conversation with the landowner.
“Lucky enough, I think that she could see the glimmer in my eye, and she said, ‘I'll sell you this farm for $275,000.’ I could hardly speak,” Brenton said. And so began today’s version of Johnson’s Backyard Gardens.
Farm Credit was there to help
With land in hand, Brenton set out to build up his business. This, however, was full of its own challenges. For one thing, as Krishna Raghavan, operations manager at Johnson’s Backyard Garden remembers, Brenton’s financing was complicated with loans from a variety of sources. Looking to streamline the finances and save money, Krishna reached out to Capital Farm Credit. To Krishan’s great relief, loan officer Mark Rutledge was able to restructure Johnson’s Backyard Garden’s loans, simplify their finances, and all within the span of just one short month.
Mark was inspired by and excited to work with Brenton and his team. “What really impressed me the most is Brenton’s passion, his drive and his imagination for what can be done,” Mark said.
A long way from an East Austin garden…
Over the years, Capital Farm Credit has proved an important partner for Johnson’s Backyard Garden. “Farming is an extremely capital intensive business,” Brenton said. “We have large refrigerated coolers; we have a fleet of trucks; and we have over a hundred employees. There's no way that we'd be able to run our operation if we didn't have the support of Capital Farm Credit.”
Today, Johnson’s Backyard Garden sells at 20 farmers markets in Austin, provides produce for nearly 2,000 CSA customers and sells to large grocery store chains such as Whole Foods.