Local farms need a helping hand.

Volunteering at a local farm does wonders for your mental health!

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

I don't know if you noticed this, but a lot of my stories begin with me at a brewery. This is no acceptation. So, I was at Sigma brewery having a lonely beer, turned to the left and noticed another lonely beer drinker. We began talking. I am a fan of talking to strangers. What makes Houston so great is that we take time to get to know each other.

Thomas and I (Oh, his name was Thomas) bonded over beer and our love for scripted wrestling (think WWF and GLOW of the 80's). We laughed at pictures of the Doomsday Wrestlers in the brew room and videos of my cousin, DeDe, when she was a Powerful Woman of Wrestling in the late 80's.

Thomas and I became fast friends. It turns out that he owned Finca Tres Robles, the only privately owned farm in the inner loop. I had been looking for a unique activity for my tourists to get involved in. We made plans for me to tour his farm.

​Thomas explains what’s growing in the greenhouse.

Author’s own.​

The following Saturday, I turned off of Navigation onto Greenwood before stopping at the farm gate. Thomas meets me at the gate. I can tell he is just as excited as I am. The farm is 1 sq. acre. Picnic tables lined the front next to the farm stand. String lights hung from a tree. There were banana trees to the right, rows of vegetables down the middle of the farm, and greenhouses to the left.

Thomas begins to tell me a bit about the farm and what is in season. As Thomas is talking, I'm taking pictures of the vegetation. Let's take a break here.

Did you ever watch Portlandia? The episode where they go to the restaurant and learn that the chicken on special was organic and cage-free. Before they order, they excuse themselves to visit the actual farm to make sure that the chicken is actually cage-free and organic. Thomas is the real life example of this integrity.

He never had intentions of being a farmer. Thomas became curious of where our food was actually coming from and was it actually healthy? His quest led him to Maine where he served on an organic farm as an apprentice for 4 years. During this time, he found that farming really aligned with his true, inner self.

Moving back to Houston, he began looking for a farm to work on. He couldn't find one that fit his standards, so he and his brothers started Finca Tres Robles. They had no experience in farming what-so-ever and depended on the "fail forward" philosophy. Thomas and his brothers have found a way to produce good looking, tasty vegetables using no pesticides and all recycled products. According to Thomas, failure is a part of being a farmer. So much is out of your hands. You can do everything right on your end and still not have a good crop. "I wish everyone had this experience. Perfection is a non reality. It's pretty liberating."

Volunteers getting a taste of wholesome food.​

​Author’s own.

The next month, I bring my "tourists" to volunteer on Finca Tres Robles. Let's make things clear of why we are even discussing this in the health and fitness section of SportsMap.com Farming is proven to do amazing things for your mental health. There is nothing like being tactile with your food, pulling it out of the ground, feeling the soil in your hands, and just learning the entire ecology of the earth. One thing that Finca Tres Robles wants to teach Houston is that your food should be good for you and taste good and this is how it is done.

The morning that we volunteer, everyone gathers at the picnic tables. We are waiting for Thomas to give us a tour and give us our assignments. We are all impressed with this small space that not too many people are aware of. Everyone agrees that the green leafy vegetables are the best they have ever seen. We are in disbelief that for a farm that uses no pesticides, there are so few holes in the leaves.

After the tour, Thomas takes us to our assignment. Finca Tres Robles needed some weeding. Everyone dropped to their knees and began pulling. It was really relaxing to feel the earth in your hands. To see worms and bugs crawling on the dirt. We got to know each other and tell stories about ourselves the entire time we were weeding. When our work was complete, we all stood up, brushed the dirt off of our clothes, feeling proud and relaxed.

Author’s own.​

It has been over a year since I met Thomas and volunteered at Finca. Recently, I called him to catch up. I was happy to hear that Finca Tres Robles is still going strong. In fact, they have been selected to consult for a farm project with Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. The project is the first public, urban farm on a hospital campus. Thomas is excited that such a big organization was recognizing the value of farming.

I ask about what is new for the season. "One of our best sellers is Misome," which is an Asian green that has a mild, mustardy flavor with tender, bright green leaves. "Also, summer burr gherkins. I call them African cucumbers. We harvest them when they are about the size of an egg. They look like mini watermelons and have a crisp cucumber flavor." I get a kick out of his passion for food. He sounds like a chef.

I bet you are wondering how you can get involved. Take your pick. You have until mid July to subscribe to their CSA farm share program. You can enjoy the same volunteer experience that my "tourists" and I had every 3rd Saturday. You can tour Finca Tres Robles every 2nd Saturday and Pick it yourself every 4th Saturday.

It's not all work and no play, enjoy free yoga at Finca Tres Robles every Wednesday at 7pm. Or you could join them for their 5th Anniversary Abundance Farm Dinner on Sunday, June 2nd. $65 gets you a 4 course meal with cocktails or beer from Sigma Brewery.

Follow Finca Tres Robles on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @FincaTresRobles.


The Fitter Side of Golf

Speedgolf: The new revolution to traditional golf

Author's Own

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

So remember my first SportsMap article? Where I said that I met a pro golfer when I ran the Honolulu marathon? He was such a cutie. Of course, when I came back to Houston, I had to try my hand at golf. I was always intrigued by the sport. I had to give it a try.

I would go to Memorial Park and go to the range and whack some balls, but I could never get into it. There were three main reasons why.

It took too much time. I once clocked myself. It took 7 hours from start to finish to drive to the course, warmup, do a whole 18 holes, and of course have post food and drinks, and then drive back home.

It cost too much. I did some calculations. After everything, that's the green fees, cart rentals, buying and maintaining clubs, the bag, the balls, the glove, the shoes, stylinsh apparel, and of course lessons, and whatever else. It came out to $15,000 for a year.


David Harding from Oregon taking a swingAuthor's own


And it was kind of, well boring. You had to wait so long to get your turn. That was at least 4 of the 7 hours. I would get so antsy from standing still that long. Instead of relieving stress, it was causing stress. Instead of looking like Tiger Woods, I looked more like Charles Barkey.

At that time, I was running so many races that required a lot of time to train and lots of money. By the way, running allowed me to let my mind go because I was in constant movement. Then, I heard about this new thing (well new to me) called speedgolf. It seemed like the answer to my golf problems. Let me tell you about it.

Speedgolf is the funner, faster, and more fitness oriented format of the traditional game of golf. It was believed to be started in the 1970's in California when Steve Scott ran 18 holes in 29 minutes and 33 seconds holding only a 3-iron and finishing with 99 strokes. Basically, it is golf and running mixed. There's no golf cart. You are jogging to each hole as fast as you can. You carry one club or 4 clubs in a light weight golf bag.

I have to admit that I only have played one game of Speed golf. In that one game , I had more enjoyment that regular golf and it was really exciting. It took less time. I'm not even the fastest runner, but I finished 18 holes in half the time as a regular round of golf . Better than that....I burned 800 calories while I did it. The next day, I ran my regular route and I finished the 3-mile Memorial loop in 26 minutes instead of 29:30:00, so I got over 3 minutes faster.

The thing that really sold me is the imagination that Speedgolf sparks. The picturesque green is really inspiring. I hate getting up early to play, but I love seeing the dew dripping from the moss that is hanging from the trees. You can see the previous runners footprints in the dewy, manicured grass. I imagined myself at MacAllen Scotch Distillery in Ireland. See what I mean.

So, how do you play? So, basically, your score is comprised of your running time added with your number of strokes. So, if you had a count of 80 strokes and a running time of 60:00:00, you would then add them together. The strokes + time = Speedgolf score. So, 80 + 60:00:00 is 140. The lowest score wins. I highly recommend it. Be ready to get up early. Most golf courses want Speedgolfers to go first because they are faster than everybody else.

If you are a golfer looking to jazz it up, try Speedgolf. If you are a runner trying to mix it up, try Speedgolf. If you are looking for a cool sport to get into and you like taking pictures, get into Speedgolf. And if you want to save money, try Speedgolf. See you on the Green at the finish line!

To learn more about Speedgolf, visit SpeedGolfUSA or listen to Scott Dawley, founder of Speedgolf USA, on his podcast Pace of Change which can be downloaded from iTunes.

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