Vacant lot in South Dallas food desert transformed into urban farm for new growers

A vacant lot near a Dallas Area Rapid Transit station in South Dallas will soon come to life as an urban farm. And that is just planting a seed for more.

Restorative Farms, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to creating community-centric farm systems, runs an existing training farm that’s near the Hatcher DART Station. 

On Wednesday, the organization began working on an apprentice farm for new growers in a nearby empty lot.

"We’re starting to implement our intern apprentice farm. We’re laying out several hundred grow boxes, which some of our farmer trainees will be taking ownership of to grow food for the community, as well as produce some sort of income for themselves," said Brad Boa, the co-founder of Restorative Farms.

Boa said the new growers are taking advantage of the months of training they’ve received at the training farm and now applying it an entrepreneurial way to grow affordable food for the community.

In addition to the more than 135 raised grow boxes, the project includes a hoop house and a rainwater collection system.

"There’s really no easier way to grow than in a raised box garden. This particular type is shipped knocked down. It’s very easy to handle. You can control the soil. You control the irrigation. It eliminates the problems of weeds in existing soil. So it’s very easy to grow in this and we have a soil mix that’s just killer that’s full of nutrients and can grow organic food quite prodigiously," Boa said.

The farm is right in the middle of a food desert, the USDA’s term for a community where there is no source of fresh produce within a mile radius. 

DART gave Restorative Farms the empty half-acre lot to try to change that. 

RELATED: SMU grad student works to fix South Dallas food deserts

"If we can help people grow their own food and make a living from it, then that’s something that’s infinitely scalable and beneficial to the community. It creates not just a source of fresh produce but has a social and economic impact as well," Boa said.

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Farm director Tyrone Day said there are so many reasons why he personally enjoys this type of work.

"I get to work with the community. I get to address the food desert. I get to hire the formerly incarcerated. I get to hire people in the community. I get to meet new people, varieties, rainbows, what have you. And I also get to work with seniors and be able to just provide and give back to the community. Not only in south Dallas but DFW as a whole," he said.

The new growers need to have a knack for gardening but can gain confidence as they hone their skills.

"Working with these guys, they create something that's tangible, something they can do, something they can see like seed, sprout, germinate. All the trades and activities that they join in here, they're able to… it's like, it raises them up to a degree to where, 'I can do it,’" Day said.

Once it’s fully up and running, the new farm will be capable of producing about 6,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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