Volunteers Dig In For Adopt-A-Garden Kick-off

It was a breezy morning on Saturday, April 21 and perfect weather for our Adopt-A-Garden kick-off.  Over 70 volunteers, corporate partners, and community garden members joined forces to plant fruit trees and spread compost. Urban Harvest gives thanks for their hard work in helping these community gardens grow healthy foods for their neighbors. Garden kick-offs include The Happy Place Garden, Avenue Place Community Garden, Alabama Gardens, Christian Community Service Center, and Wesley Elementary. In May, Harry Holmes Healthy Garden will have its kick-off day during positiveNRG week with its sponsor NRG. We also appreciate our sponsors: AARP, CenterPoint, Williams, Spectrum Pipeline and NRG.

 

Williams and garden volunteers at Alabama Gardens

 

 Alabama Gardens

 

Volunteers at The Happy Place Garden

 

The Happy Place Garden

 

Volunteers at Christian Community Service Center

 

Volunteers at Christian Community Service Center

 

Volunteers and students at Wesley Elementary

 

Garden sign at Wesley

 

   
   

 

Adopt-A-Garden Program Brings Healthy Foods To Complete Communities

Urban Harvest launches its Adopt-A-Garden program providing on-going education and materials to community gardens in underserved areas. Adopt-A-Garden will focus on gardens in the following Complete Communities: Acres Homes (Wesley Elementary), Third Ward (Alabama Gardens), Near Northside (Avenue Place Community Garden), and Gulfton (Christian Community Service Center); as well as Sunnyside (The Happy Place Garden & Harry Holmes Community Garden).  

 

Each garden provides fresh produce for their communities, many of them in food deserts or communities that lack access to healthy food. Houston far exceeds the national average of food deserts - communities that lack access to healthy food. An astonishing 20% of Houstonians live in food deserts versus an average of 7.4% Americans across the country.

 

Through Adopt-A-Garden, Urban Harvest will help make each community more complete by ensuring that residents have vibrant community gardens. Through these gardens residents will have access to fresh, healthy food; a safe community gathering location; and a place for nature and greenspace in their neighborhood.  

 

“Adopt-A-Garden is leveraging our resources to bring volunteers, community partners, and our wealth of organic gardening knowledge and community engagement experience to the neighborhoods where our resources our most needed,” said Scott Howard, Urban Harvest Board President and long-time community gardener.

 

The kick-off gardening event will be held Saturday, April 21 from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at each garden and will include garden projects to launch the year-long endeavor. 

 

Interested in volunteering at a garden? Contact Lilly DeHaven at lilly@urbanharvest.org.

 

A special thanks to our Adopt-A-Garden sponsors:

 

             

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Resilient Communities Foster a Resilient Food System

The heart and soul of which are local farms and gardens. As a result of Harvey, farms at our farmers market experienced everything from loss in crops to minor property damage to flooded fields, homes and loss of livelihood. Given Urban Harvest's role in helping over 40 local farms earn a living, we were in a unique position to support farms so that they could continue their important work of growing healthy food for all of us.

We provided direct relief by covering farmer's fees and consulted with groups like TOFGA, Farm Aid, and Southern Smoke to get relief funds in the hands of farmers. We were also able to redirect proceeds originally ear-marked for Urban Harvest from the annual Butcher's Ball event to five local farms through the Piggy Bank fund, which targeted relief for ranchers.

One of the farmers affected was Van Wheldon from Wood Duck Farms in Cleveland, Texas. Van started raising pastured pigs in 2007 with Brian Caswell, the Houston-based restauranteur. It started as a hobby that has since grown to include pig races at his annual fall festival, selling whole pigs to restaurants, and bacon and sous-vide ready pork chops at Urban Harvest's Saturday Farmers Market.

Van's losses were significant in Harvey. He lost feed, many pounds of product due to power outages, and seventeen newborn piglets that likely floated away and drowned as a result of flash flooding on the property. The money received from the Piggy Bank will help Van not only replenish his losses and buy feed, but plan for the future. He intends to buy an adjacent forested property that has acorns for the pigs to forage as well as high spots for them to seek refuge during future rain events. 

SNAP Program Sees Growth

Since the launch of our SNAP benefits program in mid-November, the Saturday Farmers Market at Eastside has seen an exciting growth in SNAP sales and customers. SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of low-income individuals and families, and provides economic benefits to the communities and our local farmers and businesses.

In only three months, we have seen over $900 in SNAP sales at the market, with all four of our market days in the past month each seeing over $100 in SNAP sales. SNAP customers are eligible to purchase a variety of local and seasonal products; about 33% of sales have gone toward meats, eggs, and dairy; 32% toward packaged goods (such as jams, nut milks, oils, etc.); 26% toward fruits and vegetables; and 9% toward bread and baked goods.

Additionally, over three-quarters (76%) of our eligible vendors have received sales from SNAP benefits. Here, the program serves both low-income individuals and families, as well as our local farmers and businesses.

For more information about SNAP at the farmers market, click here

Seeds Bring Success In Vegetable Gardening

by Bob Randall, Ph.D.

Originally published in the Houston Chronicle

In order to be similar to their parents, perennials like fruit trees need to be transplanted into the gardenmonths or years after someone grafted them or rooted cuttings. For annual plants that will die in a few months, this approach is too costly and inefficient. Vegetables that are transplanted for climate reasons are grown from seed. 

One big advantage of planting seeds is seeds rarely transmit diseases the parents had. Also, seeds take far less labor and cost less per plant to get started than do transplants. And third, it is practical for a seed company to market hundreds of varieties of lettuce, but would struggle to sell 10 kinds of peaches. So with annuals, you can try far more kinds at a lower price while paying little for failed experiments. 

Unlike perennials, annuals must be replanted from living seed, and young seedlings with their tiny roots can die more easily in summer heat. So how do you keep seed alive? The short answer is to start with the freshest seed possible. Either purchase from a supplier that sells a lot of the variety or do your own seed saving. Put a date on the package. Then keep them dry and cool - preferably in packages in one or more tightly closed jars in the refrigerator. Whatever you do, do not leave them sitting in the sun or in a vehicle. 

Purchased seeds come in many kinds - organic, chemically grown, chemically treated and hybrid. Open-pollinated (OP) seeds mostly will come true to type if you plant seeds from these plants. Hybrids mostly won't. If you purchase an OP seed or get some given to you, you can stop spending money on seed. In our climate, some types of plants are much easier to collect seed from than others. 

Generally, they are ones that produce seed within a half-year or so. 

Two places to buy excellent OP seed are Seed Savers Exchange (seedsavers.org) and Baker Creek Heirloom (rareseed.com). You can buy the book Seed to Seed, second edition, by Susan Ashworth, that will tell you how to collect and save each type of seed. 

It is easy to collect your own OP arugula, basil, beans, carrots, cilantro, cutting celery, corn, cucumbers, peas, okra, peppers, parsley, peanuts, squash and tomato seeds. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, yacon, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic and multiplying onions all are easy to grow from saved harvests. Lettuce, eggplant, collards, broccoli and most cabbage relatives are difficult, but not impossible. 

If you want to get started, next winter try the pepper Tolli's Sweet and the tomatoes Bloody Butcher, Jaune Flame, Martino's Roma or Marmande. 

Or if you can find a fully ripe vegetable, save the seed of a favorite bought at the farmers market or supermarket.

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