Tyler Horne, market manager at Urban Harvest, has been visiting some of the farmers and producers who sell food at its markets. Things aren't going very well.
"Everything's dead," says Horne. Vegetables are dead. Some livestock has died. Food is fading fast. "Farmers up north go to 11 degrees, got to 12 and 14 on different nights. Nothing lives at that point."
So he's hoping you can come to the Urban Harvest Saturday Farmers Market (from 8 a.m. to noon at 2752 Buffalo Speedway), its Northeast market (from 9 a.m. to noon at 5425 Troost St.) or to any farmers market happening over the next several days and weeks (here's a good list updated in February 2020 via Houston Public Media). Farmers will need all of the money they can get.
"We expect to have all our anchor vendors," says Horne. "It's been such a beat-down week. I just hope people show up."
Because we had consecutive days of temperatures around or below freezing (especially well north of Houston), crops died quickly. Most greenhouses across the region also lost power, affecting all the produce growing in more controllable conditions. Wells have broken, too.
So, before farmers can replant crops, they need to fix whatever issues they have, but supply houses are sold out of materials. And, of course, there isn't any water to plant those crops. The broken chain has to be repaired in steps, so farmers have to wait and, in the meantime, sell whatever they can to stay in business.
"A lot of them are behind and they can't just hit the reset button," says Horne.
So while farmers figure it all out, what can everyone else do?
For one, go to your local farmers market. Horne thinks it may not be until April that people start seeing a new round of vegetables at Urban Harvest. Those veggies will likely be the quick growers, such as brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and collard greens)—whatever farmers can grow as soon as possible. Until then, you might see some citrus that was in overstock just before the freeze, and any other fruits and veggies that were held in cold storage (and didn't warm up much in the freeze).
But hey, get what you can. Urban Harvest is also going to start a fundraising campaign for farms most affected by the cold snap.
"It's never gonna be easy," says Horne. "It seems like we keep having these abnormal incidents every year. It's so disruptive for them."