Farmers for Five Years
I remember meeting with people in the health and food world of Houston to tell them that my brothers and I were going to start an urban farm in the 2nd Ward. The look I’d most often get was a quick dart of the eyes to the side, a slight squish of the lips, raised eyebrows and a “hmmph”. Others would give me a gentle smile and say “let me know how I can help” knowing quite well that I would never be in a place to ask for their help. Still others well-intentionedly explained to us that “you won’t find a customer base to support a farm on that side of town”
Let me be clear. This isn’t an “I proved you wrong” post. Nor is it a “we’re really proud” write up. This is a “we only feel like we’re just getting started” and a “props to the East End community” blog post.
This past week we celebrated five years as a farm.
Dan and I so often get caught up in the work we do everyday that we just kinda looked up at ourselves the other day and said, "I think we're celebrating five years this week." "Yeah, I think you're right." and then tried to figure out what we do about it.
In some sense, we've kind of taken for granted that five years is a big milestone. We have so many ambitions of establishing a farm that will be here forever to serve our community for the long-term that until that happens it feels incomplete. There’s so much to still be done.
But in other ways, we don't take it for granted for one minute. In the front of our minds is the knowledge that not many young people get to do the work that inspires them and there's a sense of gratitude that helps us through the tough stretches. I can tell you that every day we're pushing as hard if not harder than we were five years ago knowing that what we do is unfortunately special and, in our opinion, that much more necessary (and we need more of it!). The challenges that we've faced since we've started (many of which haven't changed: our land situation, access to capital, climatic shifts, lack of mentorship) still motivate us to push. And the little successes and new opportunities and friends we have made keep feeding our desires to get better.
I love this photo so much. Here is probably the exact moment when Dan and I realized there was a bit more asphalt on this property than we realized and what the heck were we going to do about it.
For me, it sums up the last five years so well. Dan and I looking at a problem and working to figure out how we go about solving it and then solving it in a way that adds value to everything else we want to do.
There’s this resilient commitment we have for innovating a way forward. It’s why we decided to run a farm business when everyone told us to form a farm non-profit. It’s why we choose to serve the East End community and not just sell to the biggest name or easiest outlets. It’s why we grow in decomposed wood chips instead of buying a tractor. It’s why we decided to train new farmers instead of running a family farm. It’s why we host field trips, classes and dinners instead of getting a few hours of extra sleep each week. It’s why after five years we’re still driven by that same commitment to do farming in a way that continues to change our own relationship with our place, our neighbors, and our food.
We’re so grateful for the commitment of so many people in our community, as a small farming business, we’ve had to rely primarily on individuals and families to support our farm from its earliest days, and in that sense,. I wonder if our farm could have happened in any other part of this city and grown in the same way as we have here in the 2nd Ward and greater East End. There have been so many challenging seasons and farming lessons that we’ve been learning along the way, to see the same as well as new faces coming out to support the farm is a credit to this community.
Fortunately, now, we have an amazingly capable and committed farm staff that help amplify the impact we have every year. Now we have even more CSA members and farm supporters who so invaluably speak up on our behalf about the importance of this work.
Thanks to all our CSA members past and present for sharing with us the ups and downs of an urban organic farm in the heart of Houston, Texas. To all those who visit the stand and spread the word, five years is really a testament to your backing, encouragement, and friendships.
Join us in celebrating our 5 Year Anniversary this Sunday, June 2nd at our “Abundance” Pop-Up Farm Dinner featuring Chef Evelyn Garcia and Bar Director Leslie Krockenberger from Decatur Bar & Pop-up Factory who will create a meal incorporating all the produce we have available. Evelyn will grill: chicken from Tejas Heritage Farm, Pork from Whitehurst Heritage Farms, and shrimp from Airline Seafood. This family style grill will be accompanied by side dishes such including farm vegetables: tomatoes, tomatillos, squash, amaranth, basil, and suyo cucumbers. Hope you can join us!