You may have noticed something growing on our State Fair of Texas social media channels. Introducing “Big Tex® Urban Farm”, a sea of 100 raised garden beds that will produce fresh, organic produce in the heart of Fair Park. In alignment with the State Fair’s mission of promoting agriculture, education and community involvement, Big Tex Urban Farm serves as an outdoor learning space while providing fresh and organic produce to surrounding Fair Park communities.
One of the unique elements of the Big Tex Urban Farm is its mobility factor. In the Fair’s off-season, the farm resides on the footprint of the Gateway Pavilion tent near Cotton Bowl Stadium and the Coliseum. When setup for the 2016 edition of the State Fair begins, the farm will be moved to a remote location to allow growth to continue. How do you move a farm, you ask. With the help of Fair Park-area company General Packaging Corporation, we developed 40x 48” raised garden beds that are easily moved by forklift. Some of the raised garden beds are 14″ in height and a few are 21″ tall. The taller boxes hold more soil volume for growing tomatoes. Filled with a good draining garden soil and lined up together in straight rows — just like you would see at a farm — the boxes allow maximum sunlight interception and airflow. The farm initially includes 100 planter boxes and adheres to strict organic growing guidelines.
What are we growing currently? Well for starters:
- Four variations of tomatoes – by transplants grown in our greenhouse on the Midway
- Jalapeños – by transplant
- Three variations of bell peppers – by transplant
- Hungarian Banana Peppers – by transplant
- Tomatillos – by transplant
- Strawberries – by transplant
- Black Eyed Peas – by seed
- Cantaloupe – by seed
- Okra – by seed
- Sweet Corn – by seed
The key to a healthy crop is maintaining the growing environment. A water efficient irrigation system is being installed and seeds are starting to sprout like crazy. Strawberries are starting to trail and bloom, and some of the tomato plants are showing fruit. I see lady bugs claiming Big Tex® Urban Farm as home, and I can’t wait to see what types of pollinating insects we will attract.
We are excited to see what happens as this garden grows. Composting, community involvement, educational opportunities, and of course, sharing the harvest are all goals of Big Tex® Urban Farm. For starters, all collected produce from the farm will be donated to food banks and community organizations in Fair Park neighborhoods. Soon we hope to have our Creative Arts volunteers pickle/can some of the items as well!
While we have just hit the ground running, we have big plans for the future of Big Tex Urban Farm. It’s going to be quite the experience, and I hope you will enjoy going through it with me right here!
Until next time, happy gardening.