I’d say one of the things that grounds me most from season to season and year to year farming in Houston is being able to put our work in perspective.
I grew up as a farmer in places that had thriving farming communities: rural Maine, Iowa, and Nicaragua.
In Maine, I was a part of a cohort of hundreds of Apprentices working on organic farms of every type and scale. Every week in the heart of the summer we had workshops at a new farm on a unique topic (i.e. growing hoop-house tomatoes, organic pest control, no-till, cover cropping, tractor maintenance, horse powered farming, etc) that ended with a potluck. In addition, they had stepping stone programs for those Apprentices who wanted to keep farming including a Journeyperson program, mentorship options and land held specifically to lease to young farmers that already had built in infrastructure like greenhouses, irrigation, barns and tractors that were shared by the farmers. (I can’t imagine having that kind of support here!).
In Iowa, our town of 10,000 had more farmers at its farmers market than 95% percent of the markets in the Houston area.
In Nicaragua, everyone was directly connected to their food, whether because they grew their own rice and beans or their immediate family members did.
I’d say Houston is probably a few decades behind places like these and maybe even more in light of the amount of sprawl and rural/peri-urban/urban development going on. There are over 61,000 acres inside the 610 loop and only about 2 of those are agricultural acres (Finca and Plant it Forward’s property at the Univ. of St. Thomas). I know what you’re thinking. “But Tommy you farmed in rural places, and we’re in the big city”. But even as you move outside 610, that ratio often doesn’t improve either. There’s no strong vegetable farming culture happening even outside the city.
If there’s anywhere where I feel like the depth of the brokenness of our food system can be felt it’s here in our city, though, we’re so adjusted to not having a regional food system that I think most of us that are from here assume that this is just how it is. I can tell you it is not.
Having our Food Bank distribute 217 million meals across 18 counties and our Independent School District distributing 44 million pounds of produce last year are signs not of our successes but of our system’s serious failures to care for the real needs of our communities.
Reminding myself how far away from a being a healthy city Houston is, how much of an anomaly our farm is and how lucky we are to have a committed group of Finca supporters that continue to stand up to sustain us through thick and thin reminds me of how lucky we are and how important the work that we do is.
WHAT’S IN THE SHARE
These cucumbers have a light, fresh taste that is pleasantly cooling during these warmer months. They give a cooling crunch to your salad and are great additions to sandwiches or wraps. Our staff loves making tzatziki with them or slicing them and putting them in water for an incredibly refreshing drink on those especially hot days!
These delicious tomatillos are ideal for any salsa.
A round, hearty leaf that is mildly earthy. Try using it in a salad or sautéing with other cooking greens. Collards also hold up well as wraps!
A classic curly kale offers its characteristic deep-green, slightly bitter flavor and great texture. Try using it to add volume to your salads or sautéing, steaming, or braising. Curly kale is also a great addition to smoothies, juices, soups, pasta dishes, or sauces like pesto or ‘kale sauce’.
Tomato (Whitehurst Farms)
These tomatoes are a combination of sweet, tart, and tangy and are the perfect addition to salads for the color and the bursts of flavor! Use them in sandwiches, pasta sauces, and just as a snack with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper!