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Edible Houston: Finca Tres Robles

Edible Houston: Finca Tres Robles

Article originally published on Edible Houston on June 25, 2015 by Francine Spiering

A tomato as big as my hand hides under leafy green as I look at the derelict industrial buildings in the backdrop. The healthy-looking rows of vegetables, herbs and fruit trees are a vision of agricultural green in the heart of the city.

Yet this farmed land in the historic East End district, close to the I-10 and Houston’s Downtown, was merely abandoned wasteland until two brothers decided it should be used to grow food. Thomas (Tommy) Garcia Pratt said he was initially looking in Sunnyside (south Houston), an area infamous for its lack of food access. When the East End plot became an opportunity, they grabbed it. “This too is a part of town with limited access to quality produce,” said Tommy. “It’s important to me to be in Houston, in the city and close to the people.”

Tommy and his brother, Dan, cleared the land and filled it with mulch beds, which they managed to get for free: Down the road is the old Center Point Energy Building. Trucks, contracted by the company to keep the power lines free of trees and tree limbs, park there. Tommy persuaded them to unload the mulch on their land, instead of dumping it in a landfill. More than just growing healthy food, Tommy is determined to demonstrate that agriculture is a vital and intrinsic part of a healthy community. “We grow and sell food almost entirely within the East End, offering memberships for our ZIP code: 77011. They also get a 50% off on our produce and classes about building your own soil and compost using leaves, wood mulch, grass clippings, spent grains, coffee grounds, etc.”

Like everywhere else in the city, July and August are going to be hot and humid. For Finca Tres Robles (named after the three oaks that stand tall on the property), it makes for a perfect lull in the farming year, a time to let the land rest and recuperate, similar to the winter “stop” in cold climates. “It’s important to create a space for reflection and rejuvenation. We’ll be doing some prep work for the fall, such as seeding and hosting our weekly market,” he said. “Our goal is to focus on planning for some bigger projects for the year ahead as well as look back on how the year went, what we didn’t do well, and how we can move forward even better the following year.”

Finca Tres Robles holds a market at the farm every Saturday 11am–3pm. The farm is located on 257 N. Greenwood. As a small operation, the farm welcomes volunteers.

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Texas has more farms than any other state, but most of farm country is getting older. The average age of a farmer is 58. Sally MacDonald reports on the recent increase in people under age 34 who are trying out their green thumbs with hopes of changing communities. In the middle of Houston's East End, sits what many see as Houston's first private farm inside the 610 Loop. Finca Tres Robles is Spanish for Three Oaks Farm.

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