Despite our region's year-round growing season, as with the rest of the country, late spring yields revelatory bounties from area farms, including at Finca Tres Robles, Houston’s first private farm inside the I-610 Loop. Saturday, June 4, it will share its abundance with diners who attend “Taste of Spring: Cultivating Change,” a six-course vegetarian dinner.
Nestled among industrial warehouses on 1.25 acres at 257 N. Greenwood, the urban farm is run by brothers Tommy and Dan Garcia-Pratts, who believe it’s “important for Houstonians to not only have access to fresh produce but to also have direct engagement and experience with agriculture, the food they eat, and the farmers that grow it.”
With that in mind, they forged their small-scale, sustainably minded organic growing operation in the heart of Houston’s East End to provide the neighborhood, a known food desert, with a convenient source for healthy, farm-fresh foodstuffs. Residents of the surrounding zip code even receive a discount on farm produce, classes and plants.
Farming is a hard row to hoe—literally—and even with local support from restaurants, markets and CSA shares, Finca hasn’t quite achieved viability from harvests alone. To supplement their income, as well as forge relationships with the community, the brothers host a variety of on-farm programming, from fermentation and gardening classes to serene farm dinners in partnership with local chefs.
Saturday's dinner is sourced almost exclusively from Finca Tres Robles and Sown & Grown, a fellow East Side farmstead run by farmer friend and collaborator Rebecca Verm. The event will raise funds for both farms, as well as highlight the work of young Houston farmers.
“The first time I met Tommy, we were doing a pig roast for them,” says Gina Lopez, formerly of Black Hill Meats and now with Treadsack at Foreign Correspondents, referencing the time she ran the pit for El Burro and The Bull at the farm’s first dinner. “They work really hard and I really believe in what they’re trying to accomplish.”
For a cook whose craft has emphasized butchery and cooking entire animals, creating vegetarian menus was a bit challenging at first. Lopez honed her skills in meat-free mains “that weren’t just salads” for Meatless Monday specials as a corporate chef.
For the Taste of Spring dinner, she’s pulled Latin influence from family dishes she grew up eating in the East End. Her exuberant embrace of organic, locally sourced ingredients has led the chef to use vegetables in unexpected ways.
On the menu: a deconstructed tostada, with crisped root veg as the base; a traditional elóte incorporating garden herbs, tomatoes and peppers; tortilla soup, whose broth is crafted with a family recipe (“I’ve never seen anyone else do it this way before”); mixed greens and mole sauce over Mexican rice; and tamales wrapped in banana leaves from the farm with a sorrel-poblano sauce. Susan Sahwani-Garcia, owner of Chocolate Wasted Ice Cream, will dish up dessert, featuring a lemon tart and her vegan ice cream.
“Really we just want people to come out and enjoy the space,” says Garcia-Pratts, who will lead farm tours before the communal meal. “That’s a big part of farming in general—getting people to come out and enjoy the fruits of our labor.”
Tickets for the June 4 event can be purchased at smallplaces.org, where you can also learn more about about Finca’s CSA shares, educational programming and other events. Find their farm-fresh offerings at one of four weekly markets: