Brian Elledge/Staff photographer

Urban farm sprouts on unused DART property beside South Dallas station

by Sriya Reddy | December 15, 2019

A vacant plot next to a DART station could become an oasis for the Frazier neighborhood in South Dallas’ food desert.

Seven organizations and nonprofits have teamed up to create urban farms in vacant lots owned by Dallas Area Rapid Transit, starting with a pilot program next to Hatcher Station.

“We call ourselves community builders,” said Dorothy Hopkins, CEO of Frazier Revitalization Inc. “We’re really trying to make Frazier a better place to live and trying to help the residents who live here be stronger and understand that their combined forces have the ability to create change.”

At first glance, the 16,000-square-foot plot looks almost empty. Look one way, and there are 18 wooden boxes with seedlings planted inside next to a wire fence that separates the land from train tracks. The other end of the property is bare except for a giant tarp that’s being used to kill off grass, depriving it of sunlight rather than using chemicals.

Hopkins said Frazier is one of the most marginalized communities in Dallas, with low employment and high poverty. It is Frazier Revitalization’s mission to change that, with help from the urban farm and other projects.

Across the street from the station is another of Frazier Revitalization’s initiatives, the Parkland Hatcher Station Health Center. In 2017, DART executive Michael Miles saw a pop-up market hosted by the health center and had an idea for the vacant plot.

“It occurred to him that we can create a community garden or community farm spot and use the land in a better way to help the community,” Doric Earle with Frazier Revitalization said. “Long story short, DART applied to the North [Central] Texas Council of Governments and got a grant for $29,000 to support several organizations working together to create this Hatcher Station training farm and community garden.”

Families in the neighborhood will be able to adopt boxes in the garden and learn about growing and selling their own fresh produce.

Such urban farms can help subsidize income, Restorative Farms manager Tyrone Day said “Not everyone can buy a pack of greens for $2 or $3,” he said. “But seeds are just 60 cents.”

By adopting a wooden box to grow produce, Day said, families can grow food that works for their household while also improving options in a food desert where nutritious fare is scarce.

“African Americans eat different from Europeans and other ethnicities,” Day said. “There is a dynamic and unique culture in gardening.”

The Hatcher Station farm will have a washing center, an office and a 40-foot-long hydroponic container, a farming method that uses a fraction of the water by submerging a plant’s roots in nutrients.

Big Tex Urban Farms, a State Fair of Texas initiative that is contributing to the efforts at Hatcher Station, started using hydroponics in 2017 and began to focus on that method more this year, said Jason Hays, vice president of brand experience for the State Fair. He believes the Hatcher farm can lead to even bigger things in South Dallas.

“It’s a really ambitious, interesting, innovative, unique project that is happening right here,” Hays said.

DART owns about 200 more unused lots around the area. If the Hatcher Station pilot is successful, the initiative could bloom throughout Dallas.

This article was originally published by The Dallas Morning News and FWD>DFW had no influence on the content created.

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