Eat Fresh, Eat Local: A History of Urban Gardening and Food Education

By Natalie Garza

There is a movement that places importance on knowing where food comes from for nutritious, environmental, and economic reasons. This trend has taken many forms, such as community gardening, schools gardens, farmers’ markets, and even restaurants that support local growers. The UH – Oral History of Houston has collected several interviews that document this endeavor. This article includes excerpts from a few of these oral histories done by UH graduate students that provide a glimpse into this growing movement.

Houston Special Gardening Program

In 1976, Arnold Brown became a county extension agent in Harris County under the Houston Special Gardening Program (six cities program) that was created out of Agricultural Extension. The program he ran served an estimated 10,000 families over a twelve year period. Eventually, the six cities program expanded to twenty-two cities. Mr. Brown’s interview with Leigh Cutler on January 31, 2006 provides an account of Houston urban gardening and farmers’ markets that have roots in the 1970s.

ARNOLD BROWN [AB]: [There] was a federal program that had been created out of the [1976] Congress by Frederick [W.] Richmond, who was a congressman from New York, and it was to create a community garden program. … They called it backyard gardening, directed toward urban and minority populations, and there [were] six cities at the time that they made the appropriations to. I was selected to become the director of the project in Houston. … Houston was the most effective [of the six cities] program … It was ranked on the basis of change in knowledge and skills and the impact the program had on communities. …

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