Weeds and townhouses aren’t the only things growing on Houston’s East Side. Just off Harrisburg Boulevard, in the shadow of the Farmer Brothers coffee plant, you’ll find FINCA TRES ROBLES, Houston’s first private farm inside the Loop.
On its 1.25 verdant acres, brothers DANIEL AND THOMAS GARCIA-PRATS are growing herbs, fruits and vegetables that are sold to individuals and restaurants directly from the farm and at area farmers markets. One of their main goals is to make healthy produce accessible to their community (currently a “food desert”) and also affordable to their immediate East End neighbors.
“We see it as a way to begin to challenge the food system of the neighborhood, to build community and to keep money here in our immediate, local economy,” says Danny, who works at the farm full-time year round with his brother. The farm offers free memberships to residents in the 77011 ZIP code to get discounts (10%+) on all produce and classes offered on the farm. By offering classes on the farm covering a wide variety of food-and-health-related topics, they diversify their business, while also creating additional ways to get more people out to the farm to empower them with the skills necessary to take their health into their own hands.
“Conversations surrounding starting a farm slowly began in 2013 and picked up steam as we developed a business plan and searched for land in various areas around Houston,” he explains. The lot they found, formerly home to an auto inspection station, was leased in 2014 by the brothers, and they began the process of building a farm from the ground up. “Houston’s soil is clay, so it’s not conducive to farming,” says Daniel. “To remedy this, we covered everything with several feet of wood chips, and as they decayed, they created a rich soil.” So rich that the farm operates year round, with seasonal crops that include green beans, tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini, onions, collard greens, kale, radishes and more.
Celebrating its third anniversary this month, the farm operates regular hours and hosts a Farm Stand twice a week to sell its fresh produce directly from the farm. “Our goal has always been to start farms all over Houston. The city can do something that no other city its size — not New York, not Chicago, not LA — can do and make agriculture a fundamental part of our city and our communities.”