It surprised me a little bit to learn that the Rio Grande Valley is one of the richest farming areas of Texas. I guess it shouldn’t have because I am literally surrounded by farms. The field next door, during the growing season, has either corn or cabbage planted. Sugar cane is grown down the road and cotton around the corner. The cotton gin is across the street and the sugar cane factory is only about 10 miles away. Although I moved to California from Missouri as a young child, I was born on a farm and I think it is just in my blood. I wanted to know more but I didn’t know where to start. Then I discovered that a couple of local tour companies offer a Rio Grande Valley farm tour. I booked with Viva Tours because their schedule fit best for me.
Family owned Viva Tours has been in business for more than 30 years and Tomas and Aida Gonzalez provide top-notch service. Tomas picked me up right on time in a spotless van. He’s an awesome tour guide with so much knowledge about the area. He was more than happy to be sure everyone had all the time they needed at a location for photos or any other personal need. They offer a week-long Copper Canyon tour and I would so love to do that! Me and trains, you know.
The Rio Grande Valley Farm Tour
We started our farm tour at Tropical Star in Alamo. What an impressive place! Owner Bob Huck produces seedlings for farms all over the Rio Grande Valley. Currently, most of the seedlings are watermelon. He told us that they might have up to 14,000,000 seedlings at one time. That number can double when he does tomatoes. I don’t know about you but that is pretty mind-boggling to me.
Apparently, farmers, just like pretty much everyone, are very competitive. Seeds are color coded and markers have no discernible details about who any particular seedlings belong to for confidentiality.
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Imagine walking into a greenhouse with rosemary as far as the eye can see. Then imagine the aroma from that rosemary heavy in the air because they are “mowing” it to keep it healthy and from getting leggy. It was divine! Some of it was destined for your dinner table and some for your essential oil diffuser. #rosemary #greenhouse #herb #essentialoil #farming #agriculture #farmtour #agribusiness #seasoning #riograndevalley #rgv #foodblogger #travelblogger #lifeofablogger #GoldCountryCowgirl
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Tommy Hanka Farm
From Tropical Star, we went to a field where workers were cutting and packing napa cabbage and bok choy. We heard first-hand what it’s like to work in the field. Each person has a specific job for the day. They only work if the farm has an order and they work until the order is complete, no matter how many hours that is or what the weather is like. Some days, they may only work a few hours but they are still grateful for any work.
Lunch and Other Stops
We had all been up for hours by now and were getting hungry. Next stop was a feast of a lunch (included in the tour) in Escobares near Roma. They were ready for us and started serving us as soon as we were seated. Out came soup, huge plates of meat and fixings for tacos, house-made corn and flour tortillas, quesadillas, and baked potato.
Other stops on the Rio Grande Valley farm tour included:
Roma Chamber of Commerce and the Roma Bluffs Observation Deck From the observation deck we could see the International Bridge and across the Rio Grande to Ciudad Miguel Aleman. Tomas assured us that the city is safe for US tourists so I have a new town in Mexico to explore.
Fort Ringgold Historic Site Built just after the end of the war with Mexico. We didn’t get out of the van here – just drove through.
Falcon Lake Sadly, a couple of women behind me were talking and I couldn’t hear much of what Tomas said about the lake – one of the drawbacks of a tour. Again, we did not get out here. Note to campers and RVers: Falcon State Park is here with full hook-up campsites. Tomas pointed out a primitive area where overnight parking is allowed and is free.
A Bakery in Rio Grande City Did I mention that the weather had turned bitterly cold? I always check the weather before I leave home and temperatures in the 60s was the prediction for the high. When I left home, the sky was cloudy and black and that never improved. The high predicted for the day changed to the mid 50s with a 15 mph wind! Needless to say, we all appreciated the stop for coffee and dessert.
Our Final Farm Tour Related Stop
All water in the Rio Grande Valley comes from the Rio Grande. We stopped to see a pumping station where up to 3,000 gallons per minute are pumped to irrigate the fields.
My Final Thoughts
I really enjoyed this Rio Grande Valley farm tour, in spite of the weather. I learned so much and got to see some behind-the-scenes things I had been curious about. Some of the other participants were farmers, or retired farmers, so it was especially interesting listening to their questions and stories.
Until next time…