Clipped From The Baytown Sun

dmiller Member Photo

Clipped by dmiller

 - Houstonians Successful Farmers Carry On Amid...
Houstonians Successful Farmers Carry On Amid Sprawl HOUSTON (AP) — Just behind the pine trees, often scant yards away from tangled traffic and huddled houses, are little pockets of rural tranquility where Harris County's vegetable farmers continue to till their soil as they have for decades. The group appears to be holding its o%vn in the face of unrelenting sprawl by the city of Houston. "We've got 35 or 36 people who make their living from vegetable farming. The number has changed hardly at all in the last six years," says Don Portie, one of the county's agricultural extension agents. He and others credit the love of a lifestyle, the agricultural tax-assessment provision, which prevents confiscatory taxation; the relatively high price of fresh produce in grocery stores, and the Tact that large amounts of fruit and vegetables can be grown on relatively little land. One of those farms, owned by Roland Hanka and his wife, is within the city limits in the northeast corner of Houston. Hanka thinks he may be the only farmer left in the city, but frets more about grass that has sprouted in his field as a result of recent rains. "Farmers live in hope, but die in frustration," frustration," he said while tinkering with the cultivators on an old Farmall A tractor. Hundreds Hundreds of dollars of herbicides were not enough to halt the grass invasion this year into the plots of purple hull peas and mustard greens onhis40-acre tract. But he proudly directs pick-'em yourself buyers to a pristine patch covered by nearly one acre of new okra growing fiercely under the hot sun. At 68, Hanka says he is too old to do much harvesting himself. He and his wife have been allowing people to pick their own vegetables for several years without problems. No one has ever slipped in at night. "To steal okra or peas? It's bad enough picking this stuff in daylight," he said. Most of Harris County's vegetable farmers sell directly to supermarkets, Portie says. A few have roadside markets. Harris County's largest grower, Strack Farms, went a step farther a few years ago. Don and Ernest Strack opened a big produce store, selling everything from the farm's own sweet corn to bananas from South America. But most local farms have stayed small and simple. "The majority are strictly family operations. If they hire, it is mostly high school kids in the summertime," Portie says. Altogether, the three dozen farmers cultivate about 900 acres, the equivalent of one good-sized subdivision. Most are in the northern part of the county. They grow almost everything and have crops in the field literally year-round. "I think it's determination," says Marvin Weinberg, manager of Farmers Market. "It's something you like to do, and you keep doing it." Even though Rose Hill is about 35 miles from downtown Houston, the long-term future of farming there is uncertain because of urbanization. urbanization. "When land begins to sell, you know something is going to happen," said Weinberg, whose Rose Hill farm now is run by his three sons. The temptation to sell proved too strong years ago for farmers along heavily developing developing routes. And while growers can move away from development, they can't always do it without penalty. The Klein-Spring area of north Harris County County is excellent for growing fruit-

Clipped from
  1. The Baytown Sun,
  2. 25 Nov 1983, Fri,
  3. Page 6

dmiller Member Photo
  • Clipped by dmiller – 06 Feb 2013

Want to comment on this Clipping? Sign up for a free account, or sign in