New Community Education Courses

The CUAS at UHD is now sponsoring community education courses!  Come learn more about topics relevant to urban agriculture and sustainability that are of interest to you.  We have one at the end of March and two in April.  The links to sign up are below.  We will also keep the links on the Curriculum tab of the CUAS website

  1. Introduction to Urban Farming – March 29, 2018 – $30


  1. Introduction to Wine Grape Varieties: History, Science and Characteristics – April 12, 2018 – $30


  1. Introduction to Renewable Energy Systems: Economics, Engineering Design and Implementation – April 26, 2018 – $30



Discussion with Steve Stelzer

To listen to this discussion, please visit our podcast page here. In this conversation with Steve Stelzer he talks about his background and his professional responsibilities for the city of Houston.  He describes what LEED certification of buildings means and why it is important.  The creation of sustainable cities is discussed, as well as his ideas about what the most important aspects of sustainability that the next generation should focus on.  Finally, he gives advice for people who want to get started making the city or our world more sustainable.

Trip to Sustainable Harvesters

The 2017 team for the Experiential Learning through the Center for Urban Agriculture and Sustainability (EL CUAS) visited Sustainable Harvesters at the end of the year.  The focus of this field trip was to learn how indusrial aquaponic systems work.  We asked lots of questions to assist us as we rebuild our previous aquaponic system destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.  What we decided after this trip is that we will have two different systems in our two plant trays.  Water from the fish tank will first move to a red gravel plant bed with a bell siphon that will allow us to host worms that will greatly reduce waste biomass.  The water will then move to a continuous flow plant tray which will be perfect for growing heads of lettuce.  Looking forward to assembling our system in early 2018!

Discussion with Tommy Garcia-Prats

Please visit our podcast page here to listen to a discussion with Tommy Garcia-Prats. Tommy is the founder and general manager of Small Places, LLC and Finca Tres Robles which is a small urban farm in Houston.  In this conversation we talk about his background and how he found himself to be running an urban farm.  We also discuss what makes him passionate about his business, the role of small urban farms in the US food system and how urban farms can help address many of the complex social issues in urban environments.  Finally, he shares what cities like Houston can do to make it easier for young entrepreneurs interested in starting an urban farm or creating a food or agricultural-based business.


Conversation with Jennifer Herrera

Jennifer was a participant in the summer Experiential Learning program at UHD. She talks about how she came to UHD, her area of study, how courses in sustainability and renewable energy changed her career goals and what new students can do to be successful.  Click here to listen to podcast.


Preparing for fall planting

Today the remainder of the summer weeds were removed from the 3 beds that UHD has adopted at the Willie H. and Gladys R. Goffney Community Garden which is operated by Target Hunger.  Target Hunger was started in Houston in 1989 and it supports numerous food pantries within the city.  Soon the adopted beds will be planted with winter vegetables which will be used to support Houston’s food insecure.  The UHD beds can also be used for undergraduate research experiments such as genetic fingerprinting of plant varieties.  This is just one example of how UHD is connecting with the larger Houston community.  If anyone is interested in learning more about Target Hunger they should visit their website at

Discussing Climate Change

This year the national Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) meetings are in San Antonio, TX.  The keynote speaker on October 15, 2017 was Katharine Hayhoe who is a climate scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.  She is the winner of numerous awards for her communication about climate science and has been named TIME’s 100 Most Influential People, among many other distinctions.  Her presentation did not focus on the science of climate change, but on the polarization of the topic of climate change and how we can move forward.  She showed how the polarization of politics has further polarized the topic of climate change.  She argued that the polarization on this topic is fed by the perception that the solutions to climate change will result in dramatic losses, both personal and national (ie. trucks would not be allowed, there would be collapse of the economy, etc.).  Obviously these scenarios are not acceptable so a line is drawn in the sand and each side believes the other does not care about the values of the other.  She contends we need to talk to people that have different views, we must connect with each other about what we have in common and discuss the values we share (family, shared place, community, etc.).  Only then, should we discuss how climate change is already impacting many aspects of animal, plant and human health and how it will continue to impact the the places and people we both value.  The best solutions will then grow from conversations about what we all value – solutions that can bring economic prosperity, environmental stability and protection of our communities.  She discussed numerous examples of such solutions that have been established nationally and internationally.


This week we visited the three forty- foot garden beds that the UHD CUAS adopted at Target Hunger’s Willie H. and Gladys R. Goffney Community Garden.  After Hurricane Harvey it was expected that the plants would be wiped out and that our solar-powered electrical system would be non-functional.  There were quite a few weeds, the low to the ground eggplants took a beating but the okra appears to be thriving (see okra flower) and the electronics are still working.  In the book by Leidy Klotz titled Sustainability through Soccer: An Unexpected Approach to Saving Our World (2016) he defines resilience as “resisting damage from an unexpected disturbance and then recovering quickly.”  He argues that resilience is not only seen in the tactics of winning soccer games, but it is an important ingredient in sustainability.  We know what some of the challenges the future will bring.  We will need to feed more people, address water and resource use, work to save the biodiversity most critical for the ecosystems services on which we depend and address the impacts of a warming planet on future industries and health.  Another challenge of planning the sustainable systems of our future will be creating systems that are resilient enough to handle the surprises we don’t see coming.  Houston is built on a coastal prairie ecosystem.  The native plants of this system have evolved a great resiliency to the floods and fires that were frequent here over thousands of years.  The agricultural plant okra also has great resilience to the heat and humidity of Houston’s summers. Okra seeds were most likely brought to North America by Africans who were shipped to the US as slaves and the plant thrived in a summer environment hostile to many plants.  As we recover from this unexpected disturbance and plan for a sustainable future, it can be somewhat comforting and perhaps useful to reflect on the natural models of resilience around us.

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