The Winged Bean Wonder Boy

Combine the alternative gardening passion of Michael Pollan, the eccentric marketing genius of Bonny Doon’s Randall Graham and the boyish good looks of cinema idol Zac Efron and you’ve got Houstonian David Cater, the star of the H-town Farmer’s Market scene. You can’t miss Cater at the Houston Urban Harvest market on Richmond on Saturdays or the Houston City Hall market on Wednesday mornings–he’s the one with the moony-eyed women following him around clutching his winged beans and Chinese cabbage.

Cater’s life story is a Zen tale about a bamboo-loving guru who convinced him to try farming while the two were camping in a hut beside the river. The marketing and graphics for his Utilility Research Garden are clean and the copy is amusing. But the word “organic” is conspicuously absent.

Winged beans taste like snow peas
Cater has more exotic varietals, and his vegetables are bigger and better-looking than anything else in the farmer’s market. How does he do it? The sign beside the perfectly merchandised stand claims “0” harmful chemicals are used in growing 128 varieties of fruit and vegetables on the 24 acres of his Jones Creek bamboo and vegetable farm. But does that mean he uses unharmful chemicals or no chemicals at all?

The sign is not much help on the subject, it reads: “We grow the best produce, using unconventional practices, blah, blah, blah, and so on. Essentially, we are awesome and you should buy stuff from us.” That unconventional explanation seems sufficient to most of the folks who gather around Cater where ever he goes.

I’m not much of a crusader on the organic front and I’m not the least bit worried about feeding Cater’s vegetables to my children. The reason I want to know what kind of fertilizer and pest deterrents he’s using is because I want the greens and beans in my garden to look this good.

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