Forest Gardening with Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan Middle School

     Saturday, October 8th was the start of an exciting new project in the historic Third Ward of Houston. With the help of students, parents, teachers, community members, and HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza, we were able to turn a 1,600 sq. ft. patch of lawn, into a productive, multi-layered orchard for present and future generations.

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The practice known as "Edible Forest Gardening" is one term used to describe the model of how the space will be planted. Based on permaculture design principals, the garden will be home to multiple layers of plants: upper canopy of tall trees, mid-story plants including medium trees, bushes, and groundcovers of edible roots and vines. 

The entrepreneur Botany and Business class at Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan is lead by dedicated teacher, Tesha Williams, Ph.D.  This class of students are engaged as caretakers and in project-based-learning incorporating the outdoor classroom. Blas Espinosa, Urban Harvest Garden Educator, is mentoring the class in growing year 'round with techniques in market gardening. Look for them this Spring, Sat. March 4th at our annual Kids Market Day to showcase the 'fruits' of their garden!

Gregory-Lincoln Education Center Compost Bin Project

by Liane Promfret, Urban Harvest Volunteer
     Last Fall, Carol Fraser and I attended a four-day City of Houston Master Composter workshop taught by Steve Stelzer here in Houston. To complete our certification, we were required to provide 20 hours of volunteer time to the community.  Some of time was completed with a teacher’s workshop for Klein ISD teachers.  Gregory Lincoln Education Center Community Garden was suggested by Urban Harvest for our remaining volunteer hours.  Carol and I toured the Garden in early February to see what they currently had as well as get some ideas for what we thought might work.  We discussed site location, materials present, etc.  The compost pile we found at the site had developed into a large heap, with no organization.  The site also contains a drum composter and another smaller green compost bin. 
      We settled on a 3-bin model, constructed from fence posts and hog paneling. The bins would each be large enough and left open on one side for ease of access and working.  Future improvements can be made to add a front to each bin as desired.  The plan was to build the compost bins on a school Dit it Day. We were able to separate the existing plant material and set it aside for inclusion in the new bins.  Underneath, we found enough cinderblocks to provide an outside base for the wire panels.  We also found some beautiful finished compost that was placed into two piles for future use.  We finished the prep day by staking out the site for the bins.  
        Carol, myself and my oldest son, Andrew Pomfret, spent a morning constructing the bins.  Fence posts were installed, then the paneling attached and secured using hardware. We added cinderblocks around the outside edge to provide some rigidity and support to the structure. We refilled one of the bins, with the material moved from the original pile.  The goal was to build them some new, sturdy compost bins that were  would look good and last. Then the old compost pile was moved, useful materials stacked (cinder blocks), finished compost piled up (we found quite a nice pile under all the plant material).  The layout was staked out. 
               
We joined the Urban Harvest/school workday and assembled their new bins.  Posts driven and rear wall built.  Side wall posts driven and hog fencing attached. The cinder blocks recovered from the old bins were used to secure the bottom of the bins along the back and outside. Now they have an organized and tidy way to go about managing their plant waste.
                                                    
                                                                             Gregory Lincoln student watering the compost bin.

Summer Intern Highlights

Hey! My name is Meredith Glaubach, and I'm the Urban Harvest Program Evaluation Intern. I'm currently a rising senior at Rice University studying Women, Gender, and Sexuality as well as Environmental Studies. 

My areas of study have instilled in me a passion for environmental and social justice, and I am particularly drawn to their intersection at food justice. Food justice for me uses food systems as a medium to understand and fight systems of oppression.

Urban Harvest was the obvious choice when looking for a food justice organization in Houston, and I was particularly drawn to their dedication to serving low
Summer 2016 Interns: Meredith, right, with 
Arisa Sadeghpour, left, & Alexa Parker, center.

socio-economic communities and racial minorities. This internship position has allowed me to collect customer survey data at the Eastside Farmers Market, synthesize survey data across all our programs, research how similar organizations do their evaluations, and propose next steps in Urban Harvest's program evaluation. The skills I've gained from this internship in program evaluation, logic models, and data collection, management, and presentation are invaluable.

Combining this new knowledge with the amazing work atmosphere at Urban Harvest has made for one of my best summers yet. Thanks Urban Harvest. 

• • • • • 

Howdy! My name is Alexa Parker; I am the ExxonMobil CSJP intern at Urban Harvest for the summer of 2016. You may have guessed from my greeting that I am a student at Texas A&M University, and you would be correct! I am currently a rising junior and majoring in animal science. While animal science deals with the meat industry of agriculture, it also focuses greatly on the crops that are needed in order to feed people and animals alike. That is one of the main reasons I applied for this internship.

When searching for an internship in Houston that involves agriculture, there are not many positions available. However, during my search I came across a posting about Urban Harvest. I read their mission, browsed through their webpage, and I soon realized it would be the perfect place for me to start my interning journey! This summer I have learned so many things about sustainability and organic farming. However, even more important than that, I learned more about how to teach those topics to younger students. I have always loved working with children and this internship has given me the opportunity to teach young people about the things I am most passionate about.

While interning at Urban Harvest, I have also had the opportunity to work in the gardens to maintain them during the summer months when there are not any school programs. This has really helped put farming into perspective for me. I feel that if more people were to work in gardens like these, there would be a greater appreciation for the food that we have and the work that goes into growing it. This has been such a great experience, and I have met so many new, kind, garden-loving people throughout my entire internship! 

This article was written by
Meredith Glaubach, Shell Summer Evaluation Coordinator Intern,
and Alexa Parker, ExxonMobil CSJP Intern.

The Shell Nonprofit Internship Program and ExxonMobil Communtiy Summer Job Program internship programs are managed by Volunteer Houston

Summer Volunteer Opportunities at Community Teaching Garden

 

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning this summer, the gardens of Gregory-Lincoln Education Center get a little bit greener. This is because Blas Espinosa, an Urban Harvest garden educator, holds volunteer workdays and dedicatedly waters, weeds, plants, and teaches others to do so as well. Urban Harvest and Gregory-Lincoln have partnered to create and maintain a Community Teaching Garden, consisting of several beds full of veggies and learning opportunities. We invite community members to help us keep our plants healthy and beautiful!

Not only is this garden large enough to entertain sizeable volunteer groups, like Volunteer Houston, but it is also a great place for individual volunteers and families of volunteers to spend some quality time. From watering thirsty sweet potato beds to weeding around cucumber trellises to planting black eyed peas, there is always important and fun work to be done. 

Not only will you leave feeling exercised, healthy, and closer to nature, but you can also bring home a portion of the harvest!

We always have a lot of mint and rosemary, in addition to the rotating seasonal vegetables, which will make for a delicious addition to your dinner.

Currently, through August 18, we are hosting Garden Workdays for volunteers Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9-11am at 1101 Taft St. School starts on August 22nd, so we are shifting the time earlier to finish out the month! Tuesdays, 8/23, 8/30 and Thurday, 8/25 will be from 8am-10am. For more information, contact Blas Espinosa at blas@urbanharvest.org.

Can't wait to see you in the garden! 

 

 

This article was written by Meredith Glaubach, Urban Harvest's program evaluation intern and current student at Rice University.

Vendor of the Week: Finca Tres Robles

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.

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