Fresh produce grown beneath the State Fair of Texas' Ferris wheel

- The State Fair of Texas is known for its fried foods but fresh veggies and herbs are growing there. It’s an effort to give back to the community.

In the shadow of the Texas Star Ferris wheel, rows of fresh vegetables are in stark contrast to the Fletcher’s corny dogs and fried food just a few feet away.

“We’re growing peppers, tomatoes, eggplant,” said Drew Demler, the director of horticulture at Big Tex Urban Farms. “It’s such a surprise to see a greenhouse on a Midway.”

The project started in 2016 with just 100 mobile planter beds. Now there are more than 500.

“We’re continuing to expand. We’re adding systems all the time,” Demler said.

All the produce is donated to neighborhoods in South Dallas.

“In that area, in particular, there’s no grocery stores. Every fried chicken joint in town and corner stores but no grocery stores. People with limited transportation have a hard time getting access to fresh produce,” Demler said.

But they’re not just giving food away. They’re also teaching the community how to grow their own.

“We’re about getting people healthy, getting the produce in the community and there’s a huge education component with this as well,” he said.

Big Tex Urban Farms donated 100 planter boxes to Cornerstone Baptist Church. They also built a greenhouse and created “The Seedling Farm” at the Martin Luther King Community Center.

“Every kid that comes through here, we educate them on gardening, on the health issue and on obesity. We also educate them on starting their own sustainable garden,” said Tyron Day, the greenhouse manager at the MLK Community Center.

Day grew up in South Dallas and knows how hard it can be to find healthy food.

“It’s a privilege and an honor to be able to give back to this community,” he said.

What started as an experiment on the grounds of the state fair has now sprouted into a community-wide effort to make a difference.

“I felt like it was going to be a great project. I had no idea what I was getting in to,” Demler said.

You can check out Big Tex Urban Farms when you visit the State Fair of Texas this year. Escape the heat for a tour and lesson inside the greenhouse.

LINK: bigtex.com/supporting-texans/big-tex-urban-farms/

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