One of Houston's most prominent urban farms has suspended customer-facing operations — including its popular CSA (community-supported agriculture) program. In a lengthy statement distributed to media and posted to the farm's website, Loam Agronomics founders Clayton Garrett and Scott Snodgrass explained the various reasons they made the decision to pause their work.
We’ve encountered issues of all types; some of the usual suspects (like cucumber beetles), some new challenges (like the Food Safety Modernization Act) and some threats that are unfortunately becoming all too common (like the three 500 year flood events in three years).
We’ve responded well to some of these and not so well to others. A CSA farm is a complex beast, and while we were prepared for many of these influences individually, we weren’t prepared for so many of them in our first few years. And we certainly weren’t prepared for the compounding effects they’ve had on our farm and community.
While this announcement is undeniably sad news for both the families who subscribed to the CSA and the various restaurants that purchased Loam's produce, the shut down is not intended to be permanent. Snodgrass tells CultureMap in an email that he expects the suspension will last from as little as three to as long as 18 months.
Suspending operations now allows the farm to cut expenses, especially labor; the owners also plan to add water, sewage, and electricity that would allow the farm to host visitors, Snodgrass adds. Many local farms supplement their income and build relationships with customers through periodic farm dinners; adding that infrastructure would allow Loam to host similar events.
"This pause will also allow us to work on improving our soil through the planting of cover crops, which increase organic material, diversify the biology on the farm and improve the structure of our soils," the letter states. "We’re sorry for where we’ve let you down as we take growing food for our community as a sacred task but we know this process is an important part of truly becoming a farm you (and the Houston community) can love!"
On a positive note, Chef Fest will continue. The popular food festival is put on a company that's affiliated with Loam, but it isn't affected by the decision. If necessary, the produce for the event will be sourced from other farms.