Tuesday, April 16

Sustainable South: Guerrilla Gardeners Creating a Place of Plenty in Houston

Joe Nelson Icet. Photo by the Last Organic Outpost.

Since 2000, Joe Nelson Icet has been advancing on Houston’s Northeastern front. He calls himself a guerrilla gardener. As founder and director of the Last Organic Outpost, he takes abandoned lots littered with trash and turns them into fertile land. Planted off of Emile Street, Icet engages the community in urban farming, his biggest plot in the industrial ruins of the old Comet Rice Mill. In doing so, land in Houston’s Fifth Ward is revitalized through farming. 

The mission is simple: 
  • To encourage health and self-reliance through participation in the growth, harvest and consumption of local, sustainable food;
  • To provide farm-based education;
  • And to promote farm-based art and community events.
Spring Fest 2013 Skillshare. Photo by the Last Organic Outpost.
Before farming, Icet worked in chemical manufacturing. In 1999 he says he felt a void. “I realized if I just work and work and never really have any friends, not really have a mission, a life, I was just going to die unhappy and miserable.” So, in January of 2000, Icet planted the first seeds in his backyard. That garden developed into the Last Organic Outpost, which officially became a non-profit in 2003.

The project is generating a food economy in the Fifth Ward by building resources around soil fertility and land stewardship. The gardens are completely operated by volunteers. Icet invites anyone and everyone to join the effort. The public is also invited every Saturday for the Big Pick, where consumers can watch first hand as their produce is fresh-picked and bagged. He adds, “anybody who eats might be interested in what we do.”

Emilie Dayan, our office intern/assistant/chief collaborator, blogs weekly about issues of nutrition, sustainability, and food policy in the South.