The Houston City Gardens are highlighted in First Lady Michelle Obama’s new book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America. The gardens, built in June 2010 and located outside the Bob Lanier Public Works Building in Downtown Houston, are part of Mayor Parker’s initiatives promoting local food, urban gardens and nutrition.
“The City of Houston is leading by example, demonstrating how easy and affordable it can be to build a vegetable container garden and eat healthy, which the First Lady has done herself at the White House,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “In addition to the health, environmental and economic benefits, the City Gardens create a sense of community for staff, fostering collaboration and teamwork.”
Just as the First Lady has made healthy living and nutritious eating her top issues, so have the City Gardens highlighted local produce and educated Houstonians about the ease of maintaining a vegetable garden in any type of environment. The City Gardens offer Houstonians ideas, resources and information they need to make healthier choices about food consumption and production. The Gardens enhance the quality of urban downtown, not only for residents who are increasingly moving to downtown, but also the staff who work downtown every day.
The City Gardens have spurred many projects since they were planted two years ago this month:
- Victory Gardens at Tranquility Park
- Urban Gardens at the Houston Permitting Center
- 7 Satellite City Gardens at city buildings throughout Houston (Parks building, Recycling center, Water plant, etc.)
- Weekly City Hall Farmers Market
In addition, businesses are now receiving incentives through the Houston Green Office Challenge program to plant urban gardens. Mayor Parker is also developing a program to lease City property in neighborhoods for allotment gardens.
Tambri Elkins, President of the City Gardens, says in American Grown, “Our City Garden is a lesson that anyone can grow food with a minimal amount of space, time, money and energy. In these containers, we produce not only sustenance but also pride and confidence. The gardeners meet people who work in the same building, who we may have passed for years in hallways, but we never knew their names. And whenever I’m in the garden, someone always walks by and asks, ‘What are you growing?’”
The Mayor’s office partnered with the following organizations and volunteers to build, plant and maintain the City Gardens: City of Houston Public Works and Engineering and Parks and Recreation Departments, Urban Harvest, Keep Houston Beautiful, Asakura Robinson, Texas AgriLife, University of Houston Downtown Environmental Club, Nature’s Way Resources, San Jacinto Environmental, Thompson and Hanson, and Scotts.