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.
“I was really amazed at the situation when it came to Houston and the lack of producers for quality produce. It’s very limited,” said Tommy Garcia-Pratts, owner of the farm.
The urban farm is a welcome contrast as much as the farmers themselves, two brothers in their 20s and self proclaimed city boys.
“I feel like there’s this perception that farming is for old people out in rural middle of nowhere, but I think it can be something a lot more,” said Dan Garcia-Pratts, owner of the farm.
A year ago the Garcia-Pratt brothers threw thousands of life savings into their passion.
Some might say they hit the lottery when it comes to land.
A company leased them the 1.2 acre vacant lot, and the pair transformed it into a farm for organic herbs, fruits and vegetables. It was a huge risk given the high start up costs and slim margins.
“Yeah, I mean there’s this perception that farmers are hippies and hipsters, but I don’t know a hippie that works as much as Danny and I do to make this possible,” said Tommy Garcia-Pratt.
After college, Tommy worked on a few farms and developed an interest in growing food. His brother, Dan, was a mechanical engineer on track to make the big bucks in oil and gas.
“Yeah, people are a little confused by that at times. For me I find this is a really good use of my time and talents,” said Dan Garcia-Pratt.
One of their biggest supporters is East End market manager Roy Rodriguez, who wants local government to make it easier for young farmers to find land among other things.
“It’s a challenge to acquire it and have water and things needed to make the farm go,” said Rodriguez.
The brothers believe they’ve found a way to not only farm better but cheaper.
“We didn’t buy soil. We’re growing in wood chips that was a free resource. We get our own coffee grounds, and we make our own compost for free.”
Dan keeps detailed logs on everything.
“What we seed, where we got it, when and who seeded it,” said Dan Garcia-Pratt.
Five months ago they started selling their produce. Families who live in the 77011 zip code get a 50% discount with sweat equity.
“There are 15,16 food deserts in Houston, with more than 500,000 people living in those food deserts,” said Tommy Garcia-Pratt.
Here the farmers are more interested in helping neighbors than achieving great fortune.
“It’s really worthwhile and a valuable career and part of our society.”
The way they see it older folks won’t be able to continue farming, and if they don’t who will?