HOUSTON – A local hydroponic and aquaponic farmer is looking for a new plot of land for his growing business because he says a sand mining company is essentially forcing him out.
Robert Harding is a biogeochemist and certified science teacher who also worked as a contract researcher for NASA.
It was at the space agency where he developed an interest in farming without soil.
"We're teaching people to farm using CO2 as the fuel for the farm. We're trying to teach people at a grassroots level how to fight back against this whole climate change thing. And people love it, they enjoy feeling having some power over this global warming situation," Harding said.
He began farming a 1 1/2 acre of land on Jamie Lane near Sunnyside three years ago, growing vegetables and teaching classes on sustainable farming.
Next door to the small farm, vast mining pits owned by Sprint Sand and Clay.
Harding said his trouble began six months ago when the company began expanding and chopped down all of the woods surrounding the farm.
“So all the insects and whatnot that lived there had to go someplace and eat so they came over here and started consuming our farm vegetables and we’ve lost two crops since then,” Harding said.
Then Harding said the company put up a barbed-wire fence.
“They built this fence so close to our house that we can’t get our farm equipment back here or our truck to move our vegetables to market. They basically locked us out of our farm,” he said.
Harding said he asked the company for a two-foot easement.
“But they refused. Even though they have all this land as far as you can see practically, they refused to give us two feet so we could keep our young farm alive it’s pretty devastating,” he said.
Now he's feeling forced out.
"It's just really sad that we have to leave here, being a part of the community is really important to us," he said.
Sprint Sand and Clay did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this report.