LA BAJADA URBAN YOUTH FARM TAKES ROOT IN WEST DALLAS
October 25, 2017
Editorial: Another step forward in West Dallas
January 3, 2014
Afew years ago, Paul Quinn College turned a football field into a farm that now provides large quantities of fresh food for, among others, the Dallas Cowboys.
Could a similar economic empowerment strategy work in West Dallas? We give the idea a resounding “yes.”
While the idea of urban farming might sound like a novelty, it’s becoming a significant economic development tool in neighborhoods that lack jobs and easy access to fresh produce. That was one of the motivations behind Paul Quinn’s efforts and, most recently, the impetus behind a proposed farm in La Bajada, a modest residential area in the shadow of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge.
The University of Texas at Arlington and West Dallas Community Centers want to turn open land near the Bataan Community Center into an urban farm. While the proposal is still in the early stages, the idea is to provide healthy fruits and vegetables and a handful of jobs for a community that needs both. At the very least, area youngsters could learn about agriculture, nutrition and economics, as well as valuable life skills like leadership, teamwork and responsibility.
UTA architecture students would create a master plan for the property, and West Dallas Community Centers, which owns the land, would offer fundraising and other support. The urban farm idea has intrigued the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce, various neighborhood groups and Phil Romano, a partner in Trinity Groves, who said the nearby restaurant incubator and entertainment complex “will certainly” buy produce from the farm.
The concept is significant for another reason — it would be in the heart of La Bajada, a mostly Hispanic community that residents have worked successfully to protect from large-scale redevelopment. This means residents are likely to have a strong stake in the urban farm as something they could call their own. Building strong neighborhood groups is something that both Mayor Mike Rawlings, in his GrowSouth initiative, and this editorial board’s “Bridging Dallas’ North-South Gap” effort have supported.
The farm would have a lot of models and expertise to draw upon, including New Orleans’ Grow Dat Youth Farm, a partnership with Tulane University’s School of Architecture, and of course, Paul Quinn College in southern Dallas.
Students and staff of the historically black college maintain the farm on Paul Quinn’s former football field, donate a percentage of produce to the surrounding community, use some in the school cafeteria, and sell some to stores and restaurants. Their biggest client is the Dallas Cowboys, which buys produce for use at the stadium.
Success is breeding success at Paul Quinn, where the school is considering building a grocery and expanding the farm.
The innovation at Paul Quinn shows how communities begin to be reshaped when involved residents and good ideas are brought together. We hope similar creativity takes root in West Dallas.