Changing Lives Through Organics
By Sheryl E. Taylor
"I always tell my children … I like myself and I’m proud of my accomplishments. I hope you experience the same feelings in your life. You will achieve great happiness and gratification that is often times contagious and stimulating to others.”
These are the words of UHD alumna Victoria Velarde. The mother of four, business woman, activist and self-described “goal seeker” is also president of the ANUME Foundation—an organic farm, educational field and community member of La Grange, Texas. While earning a degree in her late 40s in interdisciplinary studies (with a minor in political science), she worked at the World Affairs Council of Houston where she learned about nonprofit operations, development and community affairs. Earlier in life, she co-founded a petrochemical marketing company, volunteered at numerous nonprofits and developed a passion and respect for humanitarian efforts.
In 2014, Velarde met Ronnie Vinson who cared about organic food and people who are unable to buy or eat fresh produce. Together, they sought property to originally create a bed and breakfast boutique and grow organic vegetables donating the excess to food banks. Velarde purchased the land, Vinson worked the fields, and it quickly turned into a nonprofit organization that fed local food banks.
Sitting on a vast 55 acres, the ANUME Farm is 12 acres with an impressive pivot irrigation system. While 75 percent of its production is donated to Harris, Fayette and Travis county food banks, 25 percent is sold to restaurants to partially support its operations.
“Through research, connecting with authorities on organics and joining causes to support organic growers, ANUME soon created a niche in the organic farming industry,” said Velarde. “We not only grow organic vegetables, but we educate and feed those never exposed to the integrity of fresh produce and the integral balance of the soil connecting to the integral balance of the body.”
Another aspect of ANUME is its educational mission. The farm offers volunteer opportunities for adults and children and high school and college internships. Velarde and her team hosts workshops and events, farm tours, field trips and community classes (diabetic cooking series, organic gardening, yoga classes, early toddler programs) to educate about the importance of nutrition and environmental sustainability.
Velarde aspires one day to be a voice for those who can’t afford higher-level nutrients and address Congress first-hand about the benefits of feeding people organic food. Having the support of her friends, family, employees and community, she’ll continue to grow her dreams.
“I want my children to witness the realization that believing in yourself and taking risks to learn is crucial to happiness.”
[The article was published in the latest edition of UHD Magazine.]
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) – the second-largest university in Houston – has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates more than 15,000 students; boasts more than 61,000 alumni and offers 45 bachelor’s, nine master’s degree programs and 16 fully online programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service; Sciences & Technology; and University College).
For the fourth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report ranks UHD among universities across the nation for Best Online Criminal Justice Programs (No. 27 and No. 15 for Veterans) and Best Online Bachelor’s Programs.
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston and one of the lowest in Texas. U.S. News ranked the University among Top Performers on Social Mobility and awarded UHD a No. 1 ranking as the most diverse institution of higher education in the southern region of the U.S. The University is noted nationally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, Minority-Serving Institution and Military Friendly School. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.