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Houston Company Wants To Turn Vacant City Lots Into Farms

“Planted: Houston” aims to bring fresh fruits and vegetables into food deserts.

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Dany Millikin
“Planted: Houston” co-founder Dany Millikin stands at a private lot in Houston’s East End that will be turned into an urban vegetable farm.

Dany Millikan, co-founder of Planted: Houston, takes me to a privately owned lot in Houston’s Second Ward.

It is still overgrown with grass and brush and infested with mosquitoes. But that should change soon.

Millikan’s company gets free access to the property and in exchange, will turn it into a fruit and vegetable farm.

Millikin said he wants to replicate that concept citywide.

“The idea is that we have access to lots that are empty and tax repossessed that right now the city has to spend money and time clearing, mowing and cleaning and make sure it’s not a danger,” he said. “And so we can go in there and add something that’s pretty and productive.”

Planted: Houston will sell the majority of the produce to local restaurants. Ten percent will stay in the neighborhood to be distributed through nonprofit organizations.

The idea grew out of Millikin and partner Scott Snodgrass’s gardening company Edible Earth Resources. It offers to plant and maintain vegetable gardens for property owners.

Millikin said the urban farming project makes sense.        

“There’s a lot of demand; there is opportunity with the city; we have the expertise to grow in Houston,” he said. “So it’s like kind of this awesome opportunity and convergence of these three factors that make it really viable.”  

Millikan said they’re still working out the leasing contract with the city, but they’re currently looking at 10 empty lots in underserved areas for farming.

One of the concept’s supporters is City Council Member Jack Christie. He said he has a big interest in childhood nutrition and organic farming.

“It’s hard to get local produce on mass basis without going to California or Mexico,” he said. “And so, if you just get it locally, the profits stay here, the nutrition stays here. And if we can just replicate that — I think we have maybe 60 community gardens, but we need 600 to do the job right.”

Millikin said, as the capital becomes available, he would like to cultivate 10 city lots per year, so the council member’s wish is probably not too far-fetched.

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