Comal Heritage Food Incubator has earned fans—and a spot on our 2019 25 Best Restaurants list—for its home-style Mexican and Syrian food, served with a side of workforce training and education for its immigrant and refugee cooks. Come early 2020, Comal will get a sister organization, called Huerta, that promises to be just as delicious and beneficial.
Huerta will be the second social enterprise for Focus Points Family Resource Center (Comal’s parent nonprofit). This time, instead of a restaurant, the group will open an urban teaching farm where low-income parents and guardians will learn the ins and outs of growing their own food and the business behind it. Huerta will be a whole-family affair, incorporating children as much as their parents.
“Ultimately, it made sense to create our second social enterprise that had the same earn-while-you-learn component as Comal, but integrated our two-generation approach a bit more,” says Jules Kelty, executive director of Focus Points. “This one will include more education and wraparound services for families. The adults will be learning and earning income, while the children are learning about wellness and nutrition and farming, right alongside their parents.”
The plan is to build and plant on the acre of undeveloped land at Focus Points’ home base at 48th Avenue and Columbine Street. Slavica Park, director of education and economic opportunity at Focus Points, says that Huerta will teach families about growing food via greenhouses, hydroponics, and raised beds.
Participants will earn supplemental income as they learn core technical and business skills over the two- to three-year program. The goal is that the skills learned will translate to jobs in management, farming, sales, business ownership, and more.
As for what will be planted on the property, Park says “we want to make it very culture appropriate. There are endless, endless possibilities.”
The food, which is really just a positive externality of the teaching and training program, will then be sold at farmers’ markets and to local restaurants.
Huerta’s funding came from two $100,000 grants from the Colorado Department of Human Services. The state was looking for innovative two-generation projects, and Focus Points was looking to create another social enterprise, similar to Comal, that would better serve families in its community.
The grant money gave Focus Points the time to gather experts, partners, and community members to develop a program that would fill in urban food gaps while creating economic opportunities for its participants. In addition to the state grants, Focus Points is hoping to secure additional investments to finance Huerta’s programming through its three-year cycle.
Look for Huerta to launch in early 2020—and for its tasty bounty on menus and in markets shortly thereafter.