Many visitors to Houston want a taste of real local culture, and there’s perhaps no better way to experience this culture than getting your hands dirty with the people themselves. Cue Urban Harvest—one of Houston's finest nonprofits that’s great for getting people involved with the outdoors, and which provides gardening and nutrition education, farmers markets and community gardens for local urban residents and students. The nonprofit was started in 1994, and has since done exemplary work in promoting the value of local food and its important role in nutrition.
One of Urban Harvest's goals has been to introduce elementary and middle school students to working outside in nature, an experience that may be new to many urban Houston children. The organization provides a full range of educational offerings that emphasize nutrition and gardening as important aspects of maintaining healthy communities—because healthy kids will stay healthy into adulthood. They partner with Houston-area schools to develop programs for teaching children in after-school activities as well as in-class instruction. Their sustainable school garden programs have impacted many Houston students.
In addition to child education, the organization also provides education for adults, including gardening classes, general gardening advice, and other educational services. Adult gardening classes include everything from gardening basics and how to grow both fruits and vegetables for different seasons, to community garden programs and sustainability instruction.
According to the organization’s records, “Urban Harvest supports more than 100 community gardens” in the Houston area. Each garden may have a different purpose or goal than the next, but they all point back to Urban Harvest’s primary objectives for creating community health that’s rooted in the principles of sustainable local urban agriculture.
The types of gardens the organization helps develop and maintain include school gardens, neighborhood gardens, donation gardens, therapy gardens, and even market gardens, through which poor communities can generate income. Urban Harvest does a great job of helping communities learn how to organize a project, raise awareness and support, recruit help with manual labor, and other critical components of developing a successful community garden.
Urban Harvest puts on farmers markets, year round, both during the week and on weekends. The markets give opportunities for local urban farmers, family farms, and other area producers to share and generate much-needed income from, literally, the fruits of their labor. Everyone from school groups to backyard gardeners can participate, so these markets maintain a wonderful local, family feel and help unite Houston through gardening and other sustainable local food production practices.
On Saturdays, visit the Urban Harvest Eastside Farmers Market from 8am until noon, at 3000 Richmond, Houston, TX 77098.
On Wednesdays for lunch break, go to their City Hall Farmers Market from 11am to 1:30pm, at 901 Bagby St., Houston, TX 77002.