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Urban Retreat

Tamika and Lenie Caston-Miller launched The Ranch Houston to teach a comprehensive approach to wellness.

The Ranch Houston owners Tamika (l) and Lenie Caston-Miller (courtesy photos)

Houstonian Tamika Caston-Miller was visiting a coffee plantation in Costa Rica when she was first inspired to create an urban farm and wellness community.The family that owned the plantation she saw there also grew almost all of their own food.

That idea germinated further on a trip to Peru when Tamika, 47, and her wife, Lenie Caston-Miller, 35, saw what was possible “when people prioritized the community and sustainable ways of living,” Tamika recalls. “We wanted to create that in Houston—a place for respite, renewal, and connection.”

In January 2020, the couple found the perfect property in south Houston to create The Ranch Houston—a local urban farm, art studio, and wellness center that features a variety of learning resources—Ashé Yoga and Wellness, The Creole Garden, The Garden Educational Program, and The Mill HTX.

Tamika describes their space  as “an intentional, conscious wellness space and farmstead created for adults to connect in an inclusive community through art, food, nature exploration and movement, and for school-aged children to empower themselves through education on sustainability and edible growing.”

Yoga at The Ranch Houston

The Ranch Houston offers a variety of programming where guests (who are required to follow COVID-19 safety protocols) can participate in art workshops, guest speaker talks, salons, ceremonies, group meditation, yoga sessions and teacher training, and gardening workshops, in addition to farm workdays and tours.

“We have merged everything we [have learned about] the healing and creative arts to create this multi-dimensional wellness space.”

—Tamika and Lenie Caston-Miller

And, because The Ranch Houston is Black-, LGBTQ-, woman-, and veteran-owned, it prides itself on being a safe space that is welcoming to all. The property invites people of all genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, body types, and abilities to connect to “the curiosity of their inner child as they nurture their nature in a world that so often encourages separation and fear,” Tamika says.

Tamika is a Dallas native who attended the University of Texas in Austin for her bachelor’s degree in film and media studies. She then earned her master’s degree in Spanish language, history, and culture at the University of New Orleans. Lenie grew up in Volcano, California, and holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of Houston, with a focus on sculpture and art history.

Lenie Caston-Miller teaching an art workshop at The Ranch Houston

Lenie’s first career was in the Army, but she was medically discharged following an injury in Iraq. Tamika worked in a corporate job for over a decade before she left to become a public-school Spanish teacher.

The duo considers themselves both educators and creatives, they explain. Lenie is a fine-art artist, while Tamika is a historian, linguist, and yoga educator. Lenie is still sharing her craft in the classroom, while Tamika left her public-school teaching job after more than a decade of teaching in suburban Houston to launch and run The Ranch Houston. “We have merged everything we [have learned about] the healing and creative arts to create this multi-dimensional wellness space,” they emphasize.

“As The Ranch Houston has unfolded and grown organically, it has become clear that we are on the right path,” Tamika says, adding that she is inspired by seeing people come back to their playful, joyous selves. “It is an incredible gift. We see people come back again and again because they know they are seen and affirmed. They have a home here.”

The couple’s work at The Ranch Houston is vital, Tamika says, because of the importance of creating “intersectional, inclusive opportunities to disrupt the whiteness of wellness spaces that [often exclude] Black and brown communities. While healing is an ‘inside’ job, community care is interpersonal work. Just as no community is a monolith, intersectional spaces encourage each person to come exactly as he/she/they are without having to code-switch to fit within the look or feel of one community.”

For more information about The Ranch Houston, visit theranchhouston.com.

This article appears in the March 2021 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Jenny Block

Jenny Block is a frequent contributor to a number of high-profile publications from New York Times to Huffington Post to Playboy and is the author of four books, including “Be That Unicorn: Find your Magic. Live your Truth. Share your Shine." She has appeared on a variety of television and radio programs from Nightline to BBC Radio to Great Day Houston and has performed and spoken at bookstores, events, conferences, and resorts in the US and Mexico, as well as on Holland America Cruise ships.
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