How an Urban Agriculture Council can Help Grow Community

Members of the House of Delegates voted this week to create an urban agriculture advisory council. But would the initiative make a difference for city growers? On the Randolph training farm at Virginia State University, Leonard Githinji is preparing to lead the fourth cohort of the sustainable urban agriculture certificate program. Lately, Githinji’s also been following bills that would create an urban agriculture advisory council. He says the initiative would develop a network where stakehold

Accessory Dwelling Units can Help with a Shortage of Affordable Housing But Local Hurdles Remain

With housing costs on the rise and incomes lagging behind, Virginians are getting creative in their search for affordable housing. As property owners and renters look to get the most bang for their buck, some are finding more economical ways of living and working. At around 9 every morning, Sonny Fleming kicks on his shop vac. Before moving to Richmond with his wife, Ellen, he had a half-hour commute. Now? "It takes me about 30 seconds," Fleming says with a laugh. That’s thanks to the two-st

Legislation Would Bring Equity to School Dress Codes

The debate over what students can and cannot wear in school is an ongoing point of contention in Virginia. This year, Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy has proposed a bill that she says would level the playing field for girls and students of color. As it is now, dress codes in schools across Virginia don’t always respect racial and gender differences. Carroll Foy says punitive policies push students out of schools.

Coleman's Effort to Correct the Narrative Moves to Earlier Time Period

Christy Coleman steps down as CEO of the American Civil War Museum January 16th, but she’s not closing the book on Virginia’s history. As the sun sets on her office at the old Tredegar Iron Works, Coleman reflects on the time she’s spent bringing people together over the war that divided a nation. “It has been about enriching our understanding of our collective heritage,” Coleman stresses.

Task Force Plans to Mark Centennial of 19th Amendment

2020 marks 100 years since the federal government legalized women’s right to vote. As plans to observe the anniversary get underway, other historic moments for women are on the horizon in Virginia. Two days before the Virginia General Assembly convenes, a group of lawmakers and community members met to discuss how to commemorate the centennial of the 19th Amendment. Delegate Betsy Carr sits on the planning task force. “We’re very excited about what’s going on," Carr said afterward. "There wil

Fighting For Food Justice In A Gentrified Richmond

You’ve seen the community gardens, the small farms springing up in the city, the folks standing out on the side of busy streets sowing the seeds of tomorrow’s harvest. Some of these spaces are emerging in areas where families have to travel several miles before reaching a grocery store. But what’s striking about a lot of these green spaces is not their urban existence; it’s the people taking care of the land. Across the city, gardens have emerged in communities of color, but the stewards don’t

Betti Wiggins wants Houston students to eat better. Will Houston help her?

It's lunchtime. A food service worker at Woodson Elementary School in Sunnyside calls Betti Wiggins over. A hip-height first-grader slides her tray down the line. Most of her peers stopped in front of a pile of cheeseburgers and placed their orders, but the girl pushed her Styrofoam tray past the warmer and toward the lettuce. After the worker tops the fresh greens with carrots, chicken and cheese, the girl sits at a cafeteria bench, her colorful fare standing out among the brown burger buns.

Two Houston Restaurants Working To Put Locally Grown on the Menu

Sourcing locally is worth the extra effort but not always that easy. It was neither flash nor fanfare that inspired Aaron Lyons to start a restaurant that serves meals made from local produce. It was hunger for something new. “There were only a handful of farm-to-table restaurants,” says Lyons of Houston before the entrepreneur opened Dish Society in 2014. “They were James Beard-y—not a place I’d go twice a week when I had 30 minutes for lunch.” So Lyons opened the kind of place he wanted to see

Why can't urban farming feed Houston?

Tommy Garcia-Prats grows his greens just blocks from a Metro train that cuts through Loop 610. He started the farm with two of his brothers in 2014, and it's become a Second Ward staple. The harvest of eggplant, peppers and arugula is ample for a farm that sits on just three-quarters of an acre, and, under the watchful shade of three oak trees, life is bustling at Finca Tres Robles. Butterflies whir through herb bushes while moringa trees dance in the breeze. Nearby residents pick up bags of whatever fruits, vegetables and herbs are in season with the neighborhood discount. Students amble along rows of tomatoes, pausing now and then to pick a snack. Locals seat themselves at wooden picnic tables to savor a communal meal made from a recent harvest.

Everything's Bigger in Texas—Except Its Support for Small Farmers

Judith McGeary wanted answers that the State of Texas wasn’t willing to give, so the lawyer-turned-farmer fought the law—and won. When McGeary learned she needed a food manufacturer’s license to keep selling meat at her local farmers’ markets, she contacted the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) for clarification. “The response was, ‘that’s for you to decide,’” says McGeary. Without the license, McGeary would have been unable to store packaged meat in a home freezer during the da

Blue Needle In A Red Haystack: Why One Texas Woman Is Taking on the Odds This November

An expectant mother goat bleats at Lisa Seger from a wooden stall perched on the 10-acre Blue Heron Farm. In a few hours, labor will turn to delivery, and Seger will help the Nubian birth two kids. Seger’s fuchsia bangs brush her cat-eye glasses as she meets the goat’s gaze, smiling and cooing words of encouragement. Though the pose seems natural, it’s one she had to learn. In 2006, the farmer and her husband, Christian, were urbanites who took a goat raising class in Houston on a whim. At the

Advocates Speak Up as Ghost Bikes Run Out

Houston Ghost Bike organizer Steve Sims was scrambling to find a bike for Sudipta Roy. Two days after a dump truck driver killed the 30-year-old woman at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Main Street near Rice University in April, Sims sounded the alarm on the Houston Ghost Bike Facebook page: “I hate that this has happened but we’ve officially run out of bikes.” For five years Sims and a group of volunteers have monitored the rising rate of cyclist fatalities — over 50 since 2013, by th

In the Arizona Desert, Tucson Models Affordable Food Access

Tucson is a foodie town. But rather than artisan breads and local avocados drawing crowds of tourists, it’s the relationship between diverse plants and people that earned it the distinction of being the first UNESCO City of Gastronomy in the United States in 2015. The UNESCO distinction came as a result of Tucson’s long agricultural history and its wide-ranging efforts to preserve its food heritage and increase access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods for all residents. And a recent repo

Race Matters When Reporting on Police Shootings

Unarmed Black man. Seldom, if ever, is the phrase used to describe anything but a police killing like the one that took place last week on the streets of Greenspoint in Houston where Harris County Deputy Cameron Brewer killed Danny Ray Thomas, an unarmed Black man. Initial news stories like those from Houston Chronicle, ABC 13 and the Associated Press reported that Thomas was unarmed when he was killed by Brewer on March 22, but most omitted the fact that Thomas was Black. In eliding that detai

Making Almond Milk Is Wasteful, but It Doesn’t Have to Be

Stroll through the Eastside Farmers Market on a Saturday morning and it won’t take long to spot someone sipping from a glass bottle coyly labeled “NOT MILK” in the font once used for a nationwide dairy campaign. Call them not-milks, call them nut-milks, call them what you will, beverages made from nuts are crowding cow milk out of the American refrigerator, but they’re also wasting opportunity for culinary ingenuity by the gallon. Over the last five years almond milk sales have skyrocketed up 2

Where To Satisfy A Chocolate Craving In Houston

There’s never a bad way to eat chocolate, whether it’s drizzled on a waffle, enjoyed with a glass of wine, or sipped all by itself as velvety cup of hot cocoa. Houston has a rich collection of talented chocolatiers and pastry chefs that churn out treats of all shapes, sizes, and flavors, from bars crafted with coffee beans, to colorful candies infused with spices, to fluffy crepes marbled with shaved “shawarma chocolate.” The plethora of amazing choices makes it difficult to compile roundup of

The Beto O’Rourke Campaign Took Over Houston Last Weekend

Pouring rain didn’t deter the line of people waiting outside to see Congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke speak in a Missouri City courtroom on Saturday. From the front door to the judge’s bench in the back, the room was packed with approximately 300 citizens, grandmothers, parents, children, activists, and curious onlookers waiting to hear from man aiming to unseat Ted Cruz in November. O’Rourke waited in the courtroom aisle, rolling up his sleeves as Judge Joel Clouser, Sr. delivered a l
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