Houston has an average annual rainfall of nearly 50 inches and now, Recipe For Success Foundation at Hope Farms is reaping the benefits. The seven-acre farm has built its mission around growing fresh, affordable and organically grown produce and promoting clean eating habits for the Sunnyside neighborhood and Third Ward community.
Contributing to their eco-friendly mission, Hope Farms recently added a new rainwater capture system that can store up to 95,000 gallons of water per year. Once the water is collected and filtered, it will be used for irrigating the fields, washing veggies and sending water through the farm’s kitchens and bathrooms.
“We are a vegetable farm, but we also are a large wildlife habitat that borders Sims Bayou,” Gracie Cavnar, Founder and CEO of Recipe for Success tells Houstonia. “Thoughtful water management is important, and this extensive capture and management system will ensure that the copious rainwater running off our barns and buildings will be redirected in the most productive way for both our everyday use and the best environmental impact on the land and habitat.”
For 17 years, Cavnar has promoted healthy eating habits to combat childhood obesity through the Recipe For Success Foundation with programs like the VegOut! Challenge, Farmers MarKIDS and Eat It! Food Adventures.
“It was part of our master plan from the beginning to establish an urban farm in one of the city’s food deserts so we could grow healthy food, and make it available to our neighbors for steeply reduced rates. And also be a gathering place to celebrate and learn about healthy food and to train people to be farmers,” Cavnar said.
Worried about America’s issue with childhood obesity, Cavnar sees the rainwater system as an obvious next step for Hope Farms’ growth and ability to provide healthy food and education to the community. The Delivering Hope initiative, run by Hope Farms, currently gives free weekly bags of fresh produce to 62 families who are extremely vulnerable and whose kids are on a free lunch program at school in the Sunnyside neighborhood area code.
“We really go out of our way to make sure we can put healthy food in people’s hands. The older kids get their lunch at school, but what about the babies at home?” Cavnar said. “So we provide them with free produce every week. As we’re growing more and getting more funding, we’ll grow it to other zip codes.”
Executive Director of Sun Club Stacy Mehlhoff says the decision to fund the project was a no-brainer. “The consensus could not have been more clear. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to work alongside an organization that was such a positive force in the community,” Mehlhoff exclaimed. “Sustainability is more than environmental stewardship. In working with organizations like Hope Farms, we help create opportunities that not only benefit the planet, but benefit the people on this planet too.”
City Council Member David W. Robinson supports the efforts of Hope Farms calling it a heartfelt commitment to the community and crucial for the people of Third Ward. “It’s biblical. In this case, this is wonderful. We’ve got water harvesting systems behind me, we’ve got resources all around us, and we’ve got great people who care for others,” Robinson said.
Hope Farms sees customers from all over Houston at its weekly market, Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you live in the surrounding zip code of Hope Farms, you get a 30% discount on all food. If you carry a SNAP card, regardless of where you live, you get two items for the price of one. For more information on the market and the community cooking class schedule, visit their website.