Mayor's Office

Press Release

Mayor Parker Launches Urban Grows Initiative
New garden initiative utilizes City land for vegetable gardens



November 3, 2012 -- Mayor Annise Parker today announced, with Urban Harvest, the launch of Urban Grows, the first vegetable allotment garden program utilizing City of Houston property. Urban Grows, part of the City of Houston’s Healthy Houston initiative, aims to help communities build vegetable gardens, farms and orchards on vacant land in areas with poor access to healthy fresh foods, often referred to as food deserts. 


“Limited access to nutritional food and fresh fruits and vegetables is a problem we are working to address,” said Mayor Parker. “By giving neighborhoods tools to grow their own vegetable gardens, we are not only improving nutritional choices that increase health but bringing neighbors together to build a positive environment.”


The City of Houston will provide lots through its LARA program (Land Assemblage Redevelopment Authority), which works to redevelop tax-delinquent and abandoned properties.  Community members, partnering with local non-profits, foundations or churches, will then work to transform these vacant lots into usable, productive and attractive green spaces.


The first vegetable garden to be built as part of the Urban Grows initiative, with Urban Harvest as the lead agency, is in Sunnyside. Residents have named their allotment garden the Harry Holmes Healthy Harvest, in honor of the man who built the community.


Urban Grows is the first initiative launched as part of Mayor Parker’s new program, Healthy Houston, which is designed to reduce obesity and increase healthy eating and exercise. Healthy Houston will promote programs, policies and actions designed to reduce food deserts, promote the availability of locally-grown foods, encourage the development of sustainable food systems and promote recreational opportunities.


Urban Grows will:


  • Encourage urban agriculture in neighborhoods, utilizing vacant City property
  • Improve access to healthy, affordable and locally produced food for all neighborhoods
  • Support education regarding the benefits of sustainable agriculture 


Urban Grows will complement the City’s existing efforts, including the launch of the City Hall Farmers Market and farmers markets at the City’s multi-service centers; new vegetable container gardens downtown and throughout the City; a Grocery Access Task Force that works with grocers on providing economic tools and incentives to help spur more supermarket and grocery development in areas where they are needed; the launch of Bike Share in Houston and the expansion of bike lanes and trails.


“We want to create and support numerous vegetable allotment gardens in neighborhoods throughout Houston,” said Mayor Parker. “I encourage community leaders to work with us to successfully grow Urban Grows.”


The Harry Holmes Healthy Harvest garden is supported by the Brown Foundation, River Oaks Garden Club, Susan Vaughan Foundation, Urban Harvest and individual donors.