One tree at a time, coffee shop and bar wants to change Austin

Jan 08, 2018
Sean Peppy Meyer, center, puts tobacco into a hole after planting a tree as Brian Egan, left, and Orion Gallagher, right, watch near a field on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail in December. Meyer, sustainability specialist at the Buzz Mill, is leading an effort, in partnership with the Trail Foundation, to help plant trees along the trail. Deborah Cannon for American-Statesman

Care for a tree with that cup of coffee?

The Buzz Mill, a coffee shop and bar located off of East Riverside Drive, will add fruit and nut trees — planting and care included — to its menu, starting later this month.

By buying a tree, says Sean Peppy Meyer, the venue’s sustainability specialist, customers can offset the loss of trees cut down when their homes, apartments and offices were built. At the same time, they can create a leafier Austin, one with more shade, more roots to slow erosion, and cleaner air, says Meyer, who lives with a menagerie of goats, chickens and pigs on a small urban farm off of East Riverside Drive.

Trees need time to mature, and the real payoff won’t come for several decades, but projects like this, under the umbrella of the new Buzz Mill Forestry Foundation, can help shape what Austin will look like for future generations. Plus, this kind of tree planting comes with not-so-hard-to-earn bragging rights.

“There’s nothing more sexy than being able to drive down to a corner seven years later and say, ‘I planted that tree.’ Tell your date, tell your kid — that’s when you become part of the place you live, that’s when you root in,” Meyer says. “Buzz Mill aims to give people the opportunity to get those trees in the ground.”

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Customers can purchase the service online or in person at the coffee shop. Each sapling will cost $50. Half the money pays for the tree, compost and irrigation supplies; the other half goes to the newly created Central Texas Farmers Co-op. Farmers from the group will put the trees in the ground and care for them until they reach fruiting stage.

“It’s a small investment for a plant that creates so much financial worth over its lifespan,” Meyer says. “As our city grows, we need to focus on planting these fruit-bearing species within close proximity of our population.”

The trees will be placed at various locations around Austin.

Buzz Mill employees also will lead occasional tree-planting events, such as the one that took place on a drizzly morning in December. Meyer led a group of about a dozen bartenders, baristas and artists who planted 16 trees, scattered seeds and spread mulch on a 3,000-square-foot patch of land along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, east of the boardwalk. Meyer used a $2,800 Urban Forestry grant to pay for the project, done in partnership with the Trail Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to maintain and improve the trail around Lady Bird Lake.

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“I’ve been trying to figure out how to implement good. The answer that came back to me was trees, and being able to build smarter environments,” Meyer says. “We’re not going to be able to fix this world for ourselves, but we have the opportunity to create a better one for our grandchildren.”

At the same time, Meyer says the program will help independent farmers like Derek Emadi, who operates Emadi Acres Farm in Lockhart, part of the Central Texas Farmers Co-op. Emadi compares the Buzz Mill’s tree-planting program to services that provide locally grown baskets of produce to consumers.

“It’s almost the same thing except with a long-term goal to help the farmer maintain sustainability, but be able to bring fruit back into community so people can see full the circle of their investment … it’s just helping maintain sustainability of farmer and without specifically buying vegetables every week or month,” Emadi says.

Meyer’s goal is to plant 1,000 trees during the next two years.

With the proper care and attention, that will mean bushels of fruits and nuts years down the road.