Community Gardens Grow in Dallas Neighborhoods

December 8, 2011  


By Andy Garcia

Beneath the rumblings of Interstate 45, two dogs frolic. Their owners stand by, absorbed in both the movements of their canine companions and the atmosphere surrounding Deep Ellum’s Bark Park.

Within the grove of pillars upholding one of Dallas’ main arteries, different spheres of life intersect. The supportive pylons are decorated with images of dogs, while nearby sculptures twisted in various shapes reflect the neighborhood’s artistic spirit. Music from a nearby bar pierces through the sound of speeding vehicles overhead and the scent of fried food perfumes the evening air. In this path of green space at the crossroads of Good Latimer and Canton Street, Dallas is alive.

Less than 100 yards away, there is another green space. Nearly untouched, this track of land is expected to become the site of Deep Ellum’s first community garden.

The Deep Ellum garden is not the only Dallas community making an effort to go green. According to Gardeners In Community Development, there are more than 30 community gardens in Dallas. From Paul Quinn College’s student-operated garden in Oak Cliff, to a community garden run by refugees in East Dallas, these gardens provide food for healthy living to local communities.

“Urban gardens are a means for community development and cooperation,” Sari Albornoz from the Sustainable Food Center in Austin, TX said.

On Nov. 8, the Deep Ellum Urban Gardens Committee voted on a business plan for the proposed project. As stated in the plan, the project seeks to “provide opportunities for themselves, increase their healthy activity, get to know their neighbors, learn from each other, and create a productive and beautiful commons.”

The plan highlights the creation of two community gardens in Deep Ellum. The first location, on the corner of Gold Latimer and Canton Street, is projected to be operational by June 2012. The second proposed location is at the corner of Malcolm X and Gaston, next to the City of Dallas Fire Station.

On Oct. 31 the DUG Committee completed a fundraising campaign that raised a total of $13,285. This funding will serve as the seed money for the first garden.

“Once again, Deep Ellum has proven that we will do what it takes to continue to bring new and unique things to the neighborhood,” Kelly Clemmons, the DUG project leader said.

While the dirt for the first garden has yet to been broken, Deep Ellum has already seen the effects of the DUG committee. Starting in the summer of 2009, fifteen planters were placed in locations across the community. Each planter offers organic food used by local business and community members. In an effort to further incorporate the community, local artists painted murals on the sides of the planters.

Katie Jensen, one of the volunteers who worked on the planters, said people in Deep Ellum have appreciated that local artists were engaged in the project. She believes DUG’s ongoing mission to greenify its neighborhood reflects Deep Ellum’s spirit.

“It shows the greater Dallas community, Deep Ellum is still a robust community,” Jensen said.

Paul Quinn College Students Learn From Campus Garden

In the Spring of 2010, Paul Quinn College established an organic farm on its football field. The farm helps combat hunger in a food desert. The surrounding Oak Cliff community is more than five miles away from the nearest full service grocery store.

According to Andrea Bithell, PQC’s farm manager, the local community has been encouraged to actively participate in the farm. Bithell said people will come and see plants they never knew existed before and are able to take the crops home.

“They love to come down here, they love to harvest,” Bithell said.

For students at PQC the farm provides a living laboratory to learn about agriculture and food distribution. Students from biology classes explore different growing methods for plants. Social Entrepreneur students work on how to handle the economic responsibilities of the farm and how to best sell crops to local businesses.

Some students are further invested in the farm. Gabriel West, a junior legal studies student at PQC was one of the original students involved in the farm. As part of work study West works four-hour shifts daily. His duties include weeding, watering, harvesting, and teaching other students and community members about the gardens.

“It not only gives you the opportunity to produce your own crops, but it also gives you a sense of teamwork,” West said.

PQC currently has plans to expand their farm. In the spring it is expected the school will begin harvesting tilapia. Bithell also hopes to put a chicken coop inside the football field’s announcer booth.

Since 1987, The East Dallas Community Garden on the intersection of Fitzhugh Avenue and Bryan Street has provided refugees with the opportunity to grow and sell their own food.

Originally designated to ease the assimilation process for immigrants from South East Asia the East Dallas Garden only offers plots to refugees.

Many of the crops grown in the garden are a reflection of popular Cambodian and Lao diets, including water spinach, bitter melon and green onions. Crops not used by the farmers are sold to pay for water, tools, seeds and other costs.

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