New movement turns abandoned property into thriving urban gardens

Planted Houston a collaboration between chefs, city, Edible Earth Resources

By Lauren Freeman - Anchor

HOUSTON - Fresh fruits and vegetables grown here in the city, delivered right to your table the next time you dine out -- that's the idea behind a new movement to turn abandoned property into thriving urban gardens.

It's a chef's dream to have a garden right behind their restaurant. Colitivare Pizzeria and Garden in the Heights has just that. It's an example of what we'll be seeing all over the city of Houston soon.

Dany Millikin, with Edible Earth Resources and Planted Houston, said expect to see a network of urban farms. He will be part of the team that soon will transform lots, like one in the East End on Sherman Street, into an urban oasis of produce.

"They're taking over lots that have been overrun for quite some time and people haven't finished paying their taxes on," said Millikin.

The program is called Planted Houston. It's a collaboration between local chefs, the city of Houston and Edible Earth Resources.

"The main crux of it is to get more food to the restaurants. That's why we can do it, because there's a high demand for incredibly good produce," Millikin said.

The produce will be grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. This is a for-profit project, but some of what's grown will go to help people living in these communities.

"Our first 10 percent of produce stays in the neighborhoods where the farms are," said Millikin.

They'll also be doing a co-op/share program for locals who want to buy the fresh fruits and veggies. Fresh produce off the vine not only tastes better, it also has more nutrients.

Planted Houston is launching a crowdfunding campaign, but it's also being funded by local chefs.

Restaurants like Oxheart, Revival Market, Sparrow, Underbelly and Lillo and Ella are involved. Chef Aaron Lyons from Dish Society said customers are hungry for fresh local produce.

"People are becoming more sophisticated and aware of where their food comes from, and it's because it's becoming more important to them," Lyons said.

Uchi in Montrose is also involved. Uchi sous chef John Gross sees this as a huge win-win.

"It's fresher products and better quality," said Gross.

Uchi GM Steve Breaker is also thrilled to be involved in Planted Houston.

"It's also about giving back to the local community when these farms exist, which is fantastic," Breaker said.

Planted Houston hopes to get started in October.

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