At the start of a new decade, Big Tex Urban Farms continues to plant new seeds of growth that give fruit to new avenues of food donation that impact the communities around Fair Park. In fact, the Farms saw tremendous growth in both production and partnerships in 2019 that allowed for a doubling of pounds of food harvested. With new growing methods, updated technology and more than a little help from local growers, 2019 was as big as Big Tex himself.
From arugula to zucchini, Big Tex Urban Farms ventured into growing new produce in 2019, and, coupled with new grow technology in the Errol McKoy Greenhouse on the Midway, donated the highest amount of food last year the Farms have seen since its inception in 2016. Here’s a detailed look at how many total pounds and servings of food Big Tex Urban Farms donated in 2019 and 2018.
“Our increase in production was exciting this past year because it allowed Big Tex Urban Farms to start partnering with new groups,” said Drew Demler, Director of Horticulture at the State Fair of Texas. As director of the Big Tex Urban Farms, Drew oversees donations to 13 different South Dallas organizations and initiatives that provide food to the community. The communities that these organizations serve are described as food apartheid – an area lacking in fresh produce, grocery stores, and affordable healthy food options.
“It’s exciting because in 2019 the Farms were able to start working with great organizations like Jubilee Park, Parkland Hospital, and Family Joint Venture Foundation,” said Drew.
New technology like a commercial-sized Nutrient Film Technique system (NFT), grow racks, and a gutter slab system installed in the Farm’s greenhouse has allowed Drew and his team to harvest new produce like soy, cucumbers, poblano peppers, and kohlrabi year-round. Drew credits a fruitful partnership with Hort Americas as an important contributing factor in the advancement of technology in the Farm’s greenhouse.
Much of the Farm’s success in 2019 is also due to strategic partnerships with other local farms and agricultural organizations.
“Partnerships like the one with the Texas A&M AgriLife allowed us to get a garden up and running at their satellite office in Garland,” said Drew. The farm donated 80 planter boxes to the Texas A&M AgriLife Dallas County Extension Satellite Office and offers regular assistance in growing and harvesting the produce from these boxes.
“It’s almost like we started a second outdoor farm because the folks at A&M AgriLife are excellent growers who know what they’re doing, so it’s been a really great partnership.”
Drew also points to a food recovery project that CitySquare is conducting with the produce they receive from Big Tex Urban Farms. In this project, donated food items are packaged into “ready-to-go” healthy meals that are distributed for free to local food pantries.
“It’s really cool because the packages CitySquare is producing are basically everything someone would need to take home and make a healthy meal out of. A lot of the food that we’re growing out at A&M AgriLife is going to feed right into that program,” said Drew.
With new ventures on the horizon – like a soil/fertilizer trial conducted with Hort Americas – Big Tex Urban Farms plans to continue its growth into the new decade, allowing more food to go to those in need. Fairgoers can experience this growth themselves and learn more about Big Tex Urban Farms during the 2020 State Fair of Texas.
Here is a list of the organizations the Big Tex Urban Farms currently donates to – click on the names for information on these organizations.
Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness Center at the Juanita J. Craft Recreation Center
Singing Hills Community Center
The Big Tex Urban Farms is 100% funded by the proceeds from the annual State Fair of Texas and 100% of the produce harvested is donated to the communities and organization surround Fair Park.