About 10 years ago talking to a farmer from the area i was told, “if you want to learn how to farm then you shouldn’t stay in Houston.” It might be the best farming advice I’ve ever been given.
I ended up moving to Maine just a few months later to apprentice on a small organic farm for about half the year (and no I don’t have any pictures of my time there. There were no smartphones and I definitely didn’t have a camera). When you farm in places such as Maine, you realize what a thriving, traditioned, diverse, supported agricultural community can look like.
With the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (MOFGA) Apprenticeship program, I had over 200 farms to choose from and not just vegetable farms. There were orchards, beef, pork, poultry, dairy farms of all scales; if you could think of it, they had it, all serving a population of less than 1.5 million people. When you farm in a place that has the elders, the support infrastructure for those interested in farming, the support for young farmers looking to make farming a career, and the support for career farmers looking to make it a viable living, you see what farming can look like when it serves itself and the broader community. In a lot of ways, it spoils you. Houston is such a distance from there.
No one really comes to Houston to farm and, after farming in other places, I know why most people leave the Houston area for greener farming pastures. While in a lot of ways I’d still agree with the advice I was given 10 years ago, I’ve wanted to be a part of changing that; creating spaces, opportunities, and the support network for people to get into farming here in the Houston area. And while sometimes it feels so far away, its changing even if you don’t see it yet 🙂