Fresh Start II Revitalizes Area School Gardens

In January 2017, six Houston area schools began a journey of revitalizing their garden via the Fresh Start II program. By overcoming challenges such as a lack of leadership, community engagement and resources, garden coordinators where able to achieve goals set forth in the program and construct productive organic outdoor classrooms for their school community. The gardens became self-sufficient with plans to continue into the Fall Semester and beyond.

Over 150 students, teachers and community members attended the Gardening 101 Organic Gardening Classes for Teaching in the Outdoor Classroom series with the general consensus of the class being “Excellent.”

We are proud to share these success stories over the next few weeks beginning with the Jewell Houston Academy and Cuney Homes/YMCA sites.



Jewell-Houston Academy’s Overhead Garden

Before (Top Photo) and Work Day (Bottom Photos)


Outdoor Classroom Activity

YMCA/Cuney Homes After-School Garden



Garden Projects Realized During Earth Day Workday 2017

Through the efforts of over 100 volunteers, Earth Day Workday 2017 saw the completion of many large-scale projects at eight area community gardens. Over 94,500 pounds of soil and mulch were spread, and over 6,000 square feet of garden beds and pathways were restored.

Together, our volunteers put in over 400 combined hours of work furthering the efforts of healthy eating and sustainability in the city of Houston.

Thanks to this year's financial supporters Sysco, Williams, NRG and Snooze, as well as our in-kind supporters Whole Foods, Living Earth, and The Ground Up.


1. Tiny Mushrooms Garden

A small, neighborhood garden in the Heights, Tiny Mushrooms was in need of rehabilitation. Thanks to a team from Williams and to individual volunteers, the garden's 3'x8' raised beds, which had decayed over time, were rebuilt.


2. Beauty's Garden

Beauty's Garden provides fresh produce and education to members of the Independence Heights community, a food desert. Thanks to a team from Gensler and individual volunteers, the entire garden was weeded and mulched. A drip irrigation system was installed and many plants were planted.


3. Christian Community Service Center (CCSC)

Located in Sharpstown, CCSC provides over 9,000 pounds of fresh produce annually to its clients, who are food insecure or are in crisis due to joblessness, medical limitations and emergency situations. Thanks to a team from Vertskebap and individual volunteers, 2,700 square feet of weed barrier and mulch were laid.


4. Alabama Garden

Houston's first community garden, Alabama Garden is a vibrant, thriving garden in Houston's Third Ward. Originally started to feed elderly neighbors who were going hungry, the garden now provides produce to community centers serving the Third Ward. Thanks to teams from Goode Company and Gensler and individual volunteers, the garden received a thorough clean-up.


6. Harry Holmes Healthy Harvest Garden

Founded in 2012 by Urban Harvest, the garden supports 14 garden beds growing nutritious fruits and vegetables for the gardeners and the Sunnyside community, Houston's largest food desert. Thanks to a team from Macy's, the garden received a thorough clean-up.


7. Gregory Lincoln Education Center

The site of Urban Harvest's premier teaching garden, Gregory Lincoln is located in Houston's Fourth Ward and serves a student population where 40 percent are homeless, and 99 percent are economically disadvantaged. In partnership with Culinary Arts Teacher Kellie Karavias, Urban Harvest uses the garden as a resource for teaching core subjects while empowering students to make healthy choices. Thanks to teams from Snooze, Hyatt Regency, and Michelle Garcia and Associates in addition to individual volunteers, the garden's chicken coop area was renovated, while the orchard was weeded, pruned and mulched.


8. James Hogg Middle School

One of Urban Harvest's newest school garden partnerships located in Houston's Heights neighborhood, the garden was launched in October with three container beds and a wildlife habitat in need of renovation. A group of individual volunteers including students from University of Houston Downtown worked on general clean-up and mulching, in addition to sign-painting for the garden beds.


Earth Day Workday 2017 Financial Supporters




Earth Day Workday 2017 In-Kind Supporters



Urban Harvest Launches HUB Gardens and First Distribution Day

On March 4, 2017, Urban Harvest organized the first HUB distribution day in which 750 tomato plants and 420 pepper plants were given to community gardens across the Houston metroplex. This distribution created the potential for over 20,000 lbs of organic vegetable production, of which more than 50% will be donated to food pantries. The next distribution day will be on Saturday, May 6 from 8:30 to 11AM and we will distribute sweet potato slips. Please contact Dawn Newcomer, the Community Gardens Coordinator, for more information. These distribution days have been made possible due to the generous support of the River Oaks Garden Club


At the beginning of the year, Urban Harvest developed four main "HUB" gardens in various parts of Houston to service our over 100 community gardens.


Our four HUB Gardens, coordinators and the 42 gardens served are:


Alabama Garden - Suzy Shapiro – Wesley Community Center Garden, Tiny Mushrooms Garden, Beauty's Garden, Walker St. City Garden, Heights HS Garden, First Ward Garden & Alabama Garden


Palm Center Community Garden - Terry Garner and Betty Baer – Chenevert Garden, Sunnyside Garden, Think & Grow Green Garden, Bronson Garden, Challenger 7 Park Garden, Brookline Elementary Garden, Agape Garden, Family Forge Garden, VA Garden, Bay Area UUC Garden, Magnificat House Garden, Harry Holmes Healthy Harvest Garden, UH Garden, Creston Baptist Church Garden, Palm Center Community Garden


Westbury Garden - Betsy Longoria – RIce School Garden, Kate Bell Elementary, Jim Huff Memorial Garden, Braes Interfaith Garden, Briargrove Elementary Garden, Cedar Brook Elementary Garden, Grace Community Garden, Lovett Elementary Garden, Wilchester Elementary Garden, Shlenker School Garden, Sutton Garden, Westbury Garden


Christ the Good Shepherd - Dawn Newcomer – Lifepath Church Community Garden, Tomball Community Garden, Bernhausen Elementary Garden, NAM Plymouth Church Garden, Veggie Village, Veggie Village Children's Garden at Wendtwoods Park, Veggie Village Children's Garden at Creekside Park, Christ the Good Shepherd Garden


Get Planting Date Right for Home-Grown Tomatoes

By Bob Randall, Ph.D.
Originally published in the Houston Chronicle

"In the several decades I have been vegetable gardening, I have had many failed crops. Tomatoes, however, never fail. Year after year we have a huge crop of fantastic ones in May and June, and a nice crop in November and December. Just when the fresh tomatoes are gone in June, it is time to plant seeds for the fall crop, and just when the fresh tomatoes are gone in winter, it is time to plant seeds for the spring crop. Sounds nice, right?"

Read Bob's complete article here. Also, download a copy of "Ten Tips for Growing Top Tomatoes" based on Bob Randall's book, Year Round Vegetables, Fruits, and Flowers for Metro Houston.

Remembering an Urban Harvest Founder

Terry Hershey, 1923-2017

We at Urban Harvest are immensely grateful to the contributions Terry Hershey made to our organization over the years, to turn a vision into a reality. Below, Dr. Bob Randall shares the impact Terry Hershey had on the success of Urban Harvest.

To read more about her incredible life, read her obituary on, in the Houston Chronicle, or read about her in David Todd and David Weisman’s book The Texas Legacy Project: Stories of Courage and Conservation (Texas A&M 2010)

"Terry Hershey accomplished so much in her life that I am always pleased when her role in founding Urban Harvest is mentioned. For Southeast Texas, it is literally difficult to find a single 20th century environmental organization or a significant piece of public land she didn’t improve in a major way. Her efforts for Urban Harvest were monumental. It is easy enough to spell out what she did, but a much more difficult task to characterize her role in early leadership.

"In 1989, her late husband Jake Hershey wrote an article in the Houston Chronicle arguing that too many inner city children were unaware of nature—plants, animals, earth, and land in general. At the time, I was heading the newly formed Interfaith Hunger Coalition Community Gardening Program. Since we were working on efforts to connect children with land in their neighborhoods, the VISTA Volunteer who worked for me and I put together a packet of information for Mr. Hershey. We got a reply back from the Jacob and Terese Hershey Foundation that the packet had been forwarded to Mrs. Hershey “who was much more involved with these issues.” There the matter rested until Terry Hershey ran into me maybe three years later at a Citizens Environmental Coalition Meeting and explained that after researching community gardens nationwide she was ready to lend her support. That was Terry—study carefully, then follow up with action.

"She was involved in many national, state, and local parks and wildlife organizations, and thought that community gardens, even if our first goal were to improve diet, would be an outstanding addition to many parks. Her principal thought was that park community gardens would bring adults together several times a week and build community across demographic barriers of age, language, education, and income.  Many parks missed adult visitors, especially elders. And this created generational gaps where children often had few informal land learning opportunities or good role models.

"To a former college professor like me with little non-profit or organization experience, Terry was a miracle.  After working on countless organizations for decades, she knew exactly what was needed to help things get to the next level. After meeting with my two part time staff and myself in our tiny Hunger Coalition cubicles, and viewing some of our gardens, she declared that the vision was excellent, but it needed much more funding. Terry and Jake had considerable wealth, but compared with environmental needs, if not a drop in the bucket, theirs was perhaps a cup in a bucket. What Terry knew was that lots of people have some spare cash and are willing to support good ideas attached to well-planned efforts and good results.

"One of her first ideas was to see if Wendy Kelsey would support the vision and possibly work for the effort. She introduced us. I showed Wendy our gardens and Wendy signed on to the project. Terry brought several potential funders to our offices, but the parent organization we worked for, Interfaith Ministries, moved in other directions. In May 1994, Wendy, Terry, and I –together with Suzy Fischer, Léonel Castillo, George McAfee Jr., Mark Cotham, and Ellen Mitchell founded Urban Harvest.

"Wendy, George, and I were the first staff, and Wendy during her seven years of employment was effectively Associate Executive Director. She did a long, long list of work at the highest level; logged in countless hours, and made the thing happen. Terry and Wendy together were in charge of funding the organization and deserve full credit for the existence of Urban Harvest beyond an idea. Without the meager salaries George, Wendy, and I accepted in the beginning, it never would of happened. And without Wendy and Terry relentlessly explaining to all who would listen why they should support us, none of what is today Urban Harvest could have happened.

"Among other things, an organization Terry founded, The Bayou Preservation Association, provided us free offices for 18 months from 1994-1995 and another organization she helped found, The Park People, became our fiscal agent. They vouched for our financial credibility in our first years until we could become, as planned, independent. Without their amazing help, there would be no Urban Harvest.

"I hope this gives you the picture. Because Terry had helped so many organizations, not just with money or ideas for funding-- but with good advice and thoughtful, helpful effort, she was a master at networking—organizing organizations to help each other. That is no doubt she did similar things for many more organizations.

"Over the years, I spent many days interacting with Terry and sometimes Jake. Terry was a voracious reader and as a philosophy major in college had a breathtaking understanding of a huge range of issues. She read a lot of science and spent a lot of time outdoors. At one point she introduced me to a book by a specialist in wild rivers and their mismanagement. I was surprised to find that parts of the book required knowledge of differential calculus.

"Terry loved what Urban Harvest does and we all loved Terry. The likes of Terry Hershey will not be seen again."


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