Finca Tres Robles’ namesakes are the three looming oak trees that provide the much needed shade for this dense and lush urban farm. Located in the East End, right off of Navigation Boulevard, this 2-year-old project is conveniently located just minutes away from Burnett Elementary School. Thus, Urban Harvest helped coordinate and facilitate a field trip for 20 fourth and fifth graders to walk to the farm one morning.
Upon arriving, Tommy Garcia Pratt, one of the founding brothers, talked to the students about using their five senses to learn about the garden – emphasizing that smell and taste help us decipher when a piece of produce had gone bad, how we can use our eyes to see when a plant is ripe and needs to be harvested, and how we can use our hands as tools to connect to the ground beneath us. Next, the students used those newly learned skills while walking through the garden – tasting tarragon, squeezing stems of flowers, and looking around as they walked through the tunnel of tomato-covered vines. After their walk, they tried a smattering of Finca Tres Robles' fresh produce and used their words not to label these foods as simply good or bad, but instead described them as tough or tart or sweet. Each child planted a cucumber seed to bring home and filed back to the school.
Tommy's relationship with Urban Harvest began far before Finca Tres Robles was in the works. For a while, he volunteered at the Eastside Farmers Market and gradually developed lasting relationships with many of the staff members. As his interest in farming grew, he left Houston to farm in Maine, Missouri, and Nicaragua, gaining the skills he would eventually need to start his own farm. With the help of Urban Harvest, Tommy bought a small lot in Houston and started to farm. He is now a vendor at Eastside Market.
What is special about this farm is its dedication to the community around it. Not only is Tommy fluent in Spanish, so he can converse easily with the farm's neighbors of whom 90% are Latino, but he is also deeply invested in sharing his knowledge, time and harvest with them. A neighborhood woman approached him during our interview and asked if she could buy an herb. He sold it to her for just a few dollars, and then walked her through how to plant the clipping and explained why doing this process would help the plant grow.
Finca Tres Robles' investment in the community can also be seen by their offering of free membership specifically to the people in the surrounding zip code. Urban Harvest is proud to be associated with such a dedicated urban farm and is excited about continuing our relationship with Finca Tres Robles long into the future.
This article was written by Meredith Glaubach, Urban Harvest's program evaluation intern and current student at Rice University.