Texas Hill Country Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program


LBJ State Park & Historic Site, Uvalde
LBJ State Park & Historic Site, Uvalde


How many times a week do you think you could eat beans, corn, and squash? Once? Twice? How about every day, several times a day. Sounds like a foodie's worst nightmare. But if you lived in Texas before the advent of European settlement, these staples, along with whatever meat you could capture, would be part of your routine meal plan. Crop diversity and the introduction of livestock to our food supply, courtesy of the rest of the world, helped make an industry in Texas out of growing things to eat. Prior to the Civil War, a typical farm in Texas consisted of an average 150-acres where livestock, crops, and garden foods were raised, usually by non-slaveholding families. Over the course of the last century, industry and commerce replaced the family farm with large commercial farms and an agricultural monoculture dominated by cotton, sorghum, and other mass-produced crops. Economic forces transformed "living off the land" from a necessity to a novelty in a little over 100 years. Oddly, a back-to-the-land movement is on the rise, capturing advocates-and restaurateurs-who believe that composing an entire meal from locally available products might not be such a bad idea. Beans and cornbread anyone?


Mention a winter garden in Dimmit, Zavala, Frio, or La Salle counties and you'll likely inspire talks of commercial crop projections for peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, and onions instead of your grandma's cabbage patch. This historic agricultural quadruplex is known as the Winter Garden Region and, thanks to irrigation and a relatively mild climate, boasts a year-round production of vegetables. Once an arid land composed of mesquite and short grass plains, the region experienced transformation through the employment of artesian wells and dams, turning dry-land ranching into fertile crop production. The arrival of the railroad made getting that produce to market possible and profitable. Onions featured in the first commercial venture, a production that began in 1898, kickstarting a thriving vegetable growing industry. Today, festivals celebrate the garden heritage such as the Onion Fest in Weslaco and you might find freshly pressed olive oil from the many promising orchards now established in the region at county fairs and farmer's markets. You can still drive the roads of the Tropical Trail and witness the sprinklers, canals, plows, and farmers hard at work in the fields of the state's year-round garden, drive slowly and reward yourself with a stop at the local produce stand!

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Read more about agriculture in the Handbook of Texas Online.