WHEN NATIVE HOUSTONIAN Noah Rattler walked to California to raise awareness about homelessness in 2008, he never dreamed he would end up at Houston’s Hope Farms. “When I was recovering from my long journey in California, I started my first garden. Once I tasted something that I grew, I was hooked,” says Rattler. No small wonder that farmers are the new rock stars of the community.
This led him to Costa Rica for a permaculture course before a move back to Houston to dig deeper into farming just as Hope Farms, a project of Recipe for Success Foundation led by Houstonian Gracie Cavnar, broke ground in 2016. He started volunteering and working part-time at the farm, which he says was like being paid to be in agriculture school. “When I originally studied engineering and physics at Prairie View A&M, I never expected to be here, but I love it!” says Rattler. Although he has traveled the world, ironically, he grew up in South Park Houston, which is just a few miles from Hope Farms.
Rattler was recently promoted to lead farmer and educator at the agricultural showcase and training center. It is a huge responsibility entailing property maintenance, daily team meetings with the staff, trainees, interns and volunteers, as well as supporting onsite tasks from irrigation to planting, harvesting and feeding the chickens. “Each day, I have to maintain a dual vision — I focus on both the present and the future.”
Working outside and growing food in a symbiotic relationship with the environment is his favorite part of the job. “The big bonus is that my work helps feed the community, benefits the environment, and I learn something every day.” Rattler grew up eating a healthy diet with lots of produce on the table, but now he eats perfectly in sync with our seasons, which makes each meal even more delicious.
During Covid, the farm dramatically scaled back on public gatherings, seasonal chef dinners and events. But they are starting back with First Wednesday Evening Markets and regular Cook the Harvest classes, school field trips and camps. Its Farm Store has reopened, but everything is online so you can pre-order for pick-up, or they can deliver it to your doorstep — what a fresh idea for those New Year’s resolutions.
This year, Hope Farms will be hosting more cooking and gardening classes for all ages as it cautiously reopens programs with health guidelines in place. “I’m growing 30 different vegetables in March when we host the 2022 VegOut! Challenge to eat 30 vegetables in 30 days,” says Rattler.
After 15 years of success across the country, Hope Farms’ Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education program has been on hold. But this spring teachers are invited to get hands-on training or a refresher over a few days at the farm, empowering schools to deliver an award-winning curriculum to their own students.
Rattler also is fired up about recent news that Hope Farms will host a Chili Festival this year. “We presently grow some of the hottest chilis on the Scoville scale like Carolina Reaper, Count Dracula and about a dozen others, so a festival in July would be a blast. Coming in hot at Hope Farms!”
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