The School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Arlington is providing overall project development and design services for the construction of an urban youth farm in West Dallas. The project is the result of a year and a half of envisioning a beneficial public green space and an opportunity to address public health and a supportive work environment for high school aged youth. A coalition of supporters has been assembled to build the urban farm in the La Bajada neighborhood of West Dallas. Located just west of the Trinity Groves development (which includes a restaurant start-up incubator) and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the neighborhood is a working-class enclave that is 93 percent Hispanic. Employment opportunities for area youth are few, and affordable healthy food options have been limited. The project is closely based on a similar one in New Orleans known as the Grow Dat Youth Farm that was created by the Tulane University School of Architecture three years ago.
As part of their spring 2014 studio, graduate architecture students from the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Arlington worked with the La Bajada neighborhood to design the urban farm and recreational space. The students were led by landscape architecture professor Kevin Sloan, ASLA and School of Architecture dean Donald Gatzke, AIA. Urban-farming consultants were interviewed, and the students designed the physical facilities required to run a working farm to include storage, office space and a commercial kitchen. The remainder of the acreage will be designed with public input for additional neighborhood amenities. Presently the farm is functioning on 7,500 square feet across the street.
Staff has developed programming for West Dallas high school students to work as paid interns on the farm. The produce will be shared with the La Bajada neighborhood, and surplus will be sold to local vendors, including Trinity Groves.
The project has evolved in several phases, the first of which is the completed and operative little league ball park completed in November of 2016. The 7500 square foot urban youth farm will suffice until funds can be raised for the larger farm and pavilion.
The urban farm will employ economically disadvantaged youth as paid interns, providing them an initial work experience growing healthy food and teaching them about horticulture, nutrition, cooking, and business economics.
Farm interns from local high schools will enhance their leadership and teamwork abilities through the collaboration of growing food.
Programming will focus on developing a sense of responsibility, community, environmental stewardship, and service among participants.
The farm will serve as an urban green zone and public space for individual and group events. (Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans is now a favored spot for small events.)
Fresh produce is often perceived as too expensive for lower income families to purchase. Young people are more likely to eat produce that they raised, and they benefit their families and neighbors by sharing, without cost, the food that they have grown.
Extra produce is sold to vendors who wish to provide locally grown food, thus providing an income for the youth farm.
The farm promotes public health and will be transforming under-utilized vacant land in the heart of the neighborhood.
Design students are given the opportunity to solve real-world design issues while working with clients on an actual site.
Potential career opportunities opening the minds of interns include science, math, farming, food service (chef, wait staff, kitchen management, front of the house management, catering), accounting including inventory control and financial planning, social organization as well ad developing intra-personal skills.