SMU Prof, Local Agencies to Fight South Dallas’ Food Desert With New Seedling Farm

The farm, which will celebrate its grand opening Nov. 21, unites SMU professor Owen Lynch along with community organizations such as Bonton Farms, Big Tex Urban Farms, and Texas A&M AgriLife.

seedling farm

A Southern Methodist University professor and collection of community partners are stepping up to combat South Dallas’ food insecurity issues with a new seedling farm at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center’s Freedom Garden.

The farm, which will celebrate its grand opening Nov. 21, unites Owen Lynch, associate professor of organizational communication at SMU Meadows School of the Arts, with community organizations such as Bonton Farms, Big Tex Urban Farms, Texas A&M AgriLife, Jubilee Park Community Center, and Lincoln High School. 

“It helps everyone in the urban farm system, facilitating others to grow their businesses.” 

Owen Lynch

Together the groups will work to give South Dallas residents opportunities to plant and have access to fresh fruits and vegetables as well as job training opportunities in urban farming. 

“While there have been positive results with the many new urban farming and gardening efforts in recent years, there is still work to be done,” said Lynch, also president of Get Healthy Dallas, in a release. “The Seedling Farm aims to overcome some of the barriers to successful local agricultural production and help boost garden yield in South Dallas. It helps everyone in the urban farm system, facilitating others to grow their businesses.”

seedling farm

Meet, select, grow, and go is the new motto of the Seedling Farm and also stands for the four-step process people need to take part in the program. [Photo: Kim Leeson]

SEEDLING FARM: MEET, SELECT, GROW & GO

Meet, select, grow, and go is the new motto of the Seedling Farm and also stands for the four-step process people need to take part in the program, according to SMU. 

First, farm participants meet with Tyrone Day, Seedling Farm manager and horticulture veteran. Secondly, Day helps them select the correct kind of plants to grow in their garden. Then, people will leave their seeds until they have grown into young saplings inside the farm’s hoop house. Upon return, they will take their saplings and go home to plant them in their own garden where they can mature and eventually be consumed.

“The process of going from a seed to a seedling is the most vulnerable stage in a plant’s life,” Day said in the release. “At the farm, we raise them in controlled conditions with constant monitoring, and also prepare them for transportation to the community and home gardens.”

seedling farm

Once seedlings grow into saplings, people will take them to plant in their own garden where they can mature and eventually be consumed. [Photo courtesy of SMU]

Planting young seedlings, instead of seeds, gives plants a better likelihood of survival and will likely translate into faster fruit or vegetable production, Day said. The goal is to produce 20,000 young plants each year.

This is not the first efforts SMU has taken in the realm of farming and going green. University researchers have worked on creating proteins that help plants know when to bloom and a group of students launched Evie, a mobile sustainable garden, with help from Big Tex Urban Farms.

With the Seedling Farm, Lynch wants it to not only serve as a fresh food source, but also a platform for education. 

“Research shows that community gardens can achieve bigger gains if the community gardeners have access to local experts and seedlings to better manage their gardens,” Lynch said. “That is a big part of what the Seedling Farm is about: to encourage, support, and — if needed — teach local residents how to get the most from their urban gardens.”

seedling farm

The hoop house at the Seedling Farm was funded through a grant from SMU Lyle School of Engineering’s Hart Center for Engineering Leadership. [Photo: Kim Leeson]

IF YOU GO

Seedling Farm Grand Opening

When: 11:30 a.m Nov. 21

Where:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center’s Freedom Garden, 2922 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., in Dallas

Cost: free

What to expect: There will be family activities, presentations of proper farming, and tours of the hoop house. Attendees may even take home their own seedlings.

READ NEXT 

Meet Evie, SMU’s Mobile Greenhouse With a Mission 

Bonton Farms Director Cultivates a Community 

New Markets to Ease South Dallas Food Desert  

Dallas Filmmakers Shining Light on Food Insecurity

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