Edible gardens just the beginning for Houston area ‘agrihood’

Raised vegetable beds are one of the methods of overcoming Houston’s inhospitable soil.Raised vegetable beds are one of the methods of overcoming Houston’s inhospitable soil.

Edible gardening has just been taken to a whole new level in greater Houston, thanks to the Johnson Development Corp. and Edible Earth Resources.

Harvest Green, a master-planned community that will boast of 2,000 homes and more than 300 acres of farmland, is what is known as an “agrihood.” These types of communities are intended to promote the use of locally-grown food.

According to Ed McMahon, a sustainable development expert at the Washington-based Urban Land Institute, about 200 agrihoods – whether complete or in development – exist nationwide.

The Houston area agrihood is located in neighboring Fort Bend County. New homes and other features of the community are still being built. Construction on The Promenade started this month and will feature a pool, park, playground, amphitheater and bike paths.

Along with the farm, the community will also be home to a variety of fruit- and nut-bearing trees such as oranges and pecans, as well as bushes of herbs like mint and rosemary, in common areas around Harvest Green.

“We’re bringing the farm back into the community, which is the way it used to be 100 years ago,” said Shay Shafie, general manager of Harvest Green, in an interview with The Houston Business Journal. “We’re seeing a generational shift where the younger generation is a little more concerned abut health and healthy eating. We wanted to build a healthy place and make agriculture a big part of the community.”

To overcome the inhospitable soil in Fort Bend County, Edible Earth Resources will be using a mixture of raised beds and organic compost to grow the edible gardens.

Residents can choose to have raised vegetable gardens installed in their backyards or join an on-site farm co-op and have fresh produce delivered each week. In addition to having a farm on site, Johnson Development intends to build a nursery, greenhouses and farmers’ market eventually.

A farm-to-table restaurant and an event barn, where gardening and cooking classes will be held, are also planned.

“Beyond the health benefits of fresh, organic food, the farm becomes the social heartbeat of a community,” said Daron Joffe, a consultant on community supported agriculture for Johnson Development.

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