Alain Banoungouzouna was selling his Mexican marigold mint, dill, and rosemary at the Richmond farmers market last weekend. His compatriot Sarment Louamba was selling greens. Both men came to Houston from the African nation of Congo, where they worked the fields. As you may have noticed, there aren't a lot of help-wanted ads on Craigslist for farmers—that's where Plant It Forward comes in. The non-profit organization brings refugees and sponsoring churchs, neighborhood groups, and other organizations together to create urban gardens.
A steady stream of refugees arrive in Houston every year, and the only job skills many of them have are agricultural. Meanwhile, Houstonians are clamoring for locally grown vegetables. Plant It Forward helps find places where new arrivals can produce local food. Alain and Sarment work a garden plot in Montrose on the campus of the University of Saint Thomas and another in the Fondren Southwest neighborhood. Several more are under development.
Alain and Sarment bring their vegetables and herbs to the public through farmers markets and (soon) through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscriptions. CSA subscriptions are sort of like joining a "vegetables of the week" club. You support a local farmer with an advance payment, and they supply you with a share of the harvest each week.
For more information about Plant It Forward or the upcoming CSA program, contact Kassy Rodriguez: Kassy at Plant-It-Forward dot org. And be sure to look for Alain and Sarment next Saturday at the Richmond Farmers Market.