Directors of the Houston HOPE Society (Health Options for People and the Earth) take a time-out from last year's annual general meeting for a group photo.

A HOPE for all seasons

Winter's longest night may be just past, but spring is certainly in the distance for the garden-growers in Houston's HOPE Society.

“Make, bake, grow or raise.”

So goes the short guide for any vendors who want to join in the Houston Farmer’s Market.

Winter’s longest night may be just a few days past, but spring is certainly in the distance for the garden-growing members of Houston’s HOPE Society (Healthy Options for People and the Earth).

“Our primary focus right now is building the farmer’s market,” said HOPE secretary Cindy Verbeek. Verbeek has had a hand in running the market since 2006. In that time, the weekly June to September market has grown in size and secured a place for vendors at Steelhead Park.

Sandy Wetterstrom, another “HOPEr,” said that over the last two years especially, the market has “really seen a solid core of vendors who have committed to being there.”

Several vendors come in regularly from Telkwa and Burns Lake, said Wetterstrom. Others come from as close as their backyard gardens.

All the HOPE members want to see the weekly market thrive as a spring/summer fixture in the park.

But even in winter, HOPE’s efforts are bearing fruit in other parts of town.

When hungry skaters get off the ice at Claude Parish area, for instance, they can count on finding healthier options at the canteen and in the vending machines thanks to a HOPE and District of Houston partnership.

More recycling programs, a winter idling campaign, stream stewards for Buck Creek—HOPE has lots of  good, green ideas for the future.

However, Carlie Kearns said it’s not that HOPE is out “spearheading a movement.”

“We’re a part of it,” she said. “I think people are ready for this kind of thing—the market is building, people are keen and excited about things like recycling. And we have lots of interest in our workshops.”

Last year, after winning a grant from the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, HOPE hosted a worm-composting workshop. Other workshops have taught gardeners how build cold frames and can their goods.

Belinda Lacombe said that in previous years, she and other HOPE members “pulled everything out of the community garden, washed it up and canned it right on site.”

That kind of hands-on learning is what HOPE is all about, she added.

“We have had discussions about whether to put ourselves out there in a political way, and we have opted not to,” Lacombe said. “We’ve chosen to be more of an educational community organization.”

Phyllis Wiebe said that after growing up on a farm, running gardening and other Earth-friendly activities came as second nature.

“I grew up like that because that was our way of life,” Wiebe said. “Leaving home was great, but the food just wasn’t the same.”

Better-tasting carrots and other vegetables are certainly one reason why many people have become involved in HOPE, said Wetterstrom.

“It just comes with finding that you enjoy gardening and growing food. And then it becomes a matter of how you access that food,” she said.

For just $2, anyone can join the HOPE Society, said Verbeek. New members can expect to get involved with the Houston Farmer’s Market, but the society is always looking for fresh ideas, she said. HOPE’s annual general meeting will be held Feb. 16 at the Houston Library.

“”We’re open to doing other projects–it’s just the people power to able to do it,” Verbeek said. “We would all love to see a lot more going on in Houston.”