Houston is settling a record number of new refugees every year. Most have spent years in refugee camps outside of their own countries living in extreme conditions while waiting to realize the American dream. Once here they are faced with huge challenges assimilating into their new homeland as few have the language or job skills to find meaningful work. Some of these refugees come from agrarian backgrounds and they know how to raise quality food but there is not a single classified job posting for an experienced farmer.
Houston is a desert when it comes to fresh, locally grown food. We import almost all of the food we consume, even though eight out of ten Houstonians say locally grown food is important to them. Fresh produce is in such high demand and short supply in Houston, that even our most visionary grocery stores are labeling produce from El Paso – the equivalent distance as Nashville – as “local!” As a city overflowing with land, sun and water, we deserve the infrastructure to be able to grow and purchase healthy, fresh and local food.
Plant It Forward Farms brings together the people and resources needed to make that vision a reality. We partner with social and religious groups to provide land and tools to refugees who settle in Houston with few other skills besides farming. Refugees receive training at a model farm, as well as additional business assistance to help sell their produce through farmers markets, farm stands, farm shares and restaurant sales. A portion of each success helps provide opportunities for future refugees, and our replicable model can easily be scaled to support hundreds of urban farms throughout the city and beyond. Through Plant It Forward Farms, refugees can become active and contributing citizens that help Houston realize its potential as a leader in sustainable living.
Houston is in the process of reinventing itself, perhaps more than in any other major city in America. That change will be advanced only if we create access to healthy food, if we make the best use of the land and assets we have available, and if our neediest are given opportunities to support themselves. By fostering the sustainable growth of both the city and its individuals, Plant It Forward Farms can help lead Houston to a healthier, more prosperous future.