SOUTH DALLAS, Texas — Tyrone Day said he grew up eating food in his South Dallas home that was bought from small corner stores because it was easily accessible. The items were often highly processed and easy to make, so vegetables were rarely on the menu, he said.
The 47-year-old now wants to break that habit by giving South Dallas residents fruit and vegetable plants and teaching them how to grow and add them to their meals.
“Diets are restricted by finances, poverty and not having the correct knowledge about the health benefits to eating vegetables,” Day said. “People eat what’s attainable here. The hardest part is getting people to eat a cucumber” instead of fast food.
Day is the supervisor of The Seedling Farm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center’s Freedom Garden, which opened to the public Tuesday morning. The farm will provide residents with a variety of seasonal fruit and vegetable plants and in-person gardening advice at no cost.
Residents and community groups can meet with Day, an urban farm expert, to learn the best practices and types of plants they can grow at home or in their own community gardens. Day and the residents will select the seeds and grow them at the seedling farm’s greenhouse until they are mature enough to be planted elsewhere.
“Teaching them how to take care of that plant, that’s what I’m here for,” Day said. “I want people to come in and learn how to do this so they can have a sustainable garden.”
HELPING SOUTH DALLAS THRIVE
The farm is a collaborative effort by Owen Lynch, associate professor of organizational communication at Southern Methodist University, the MLK Jr. Community Center, Big Tex Urban Farms, Texas A&M AgriLife and several other Dallas urban farm organizations.
Lynch said the farm was the first step toward combating South Dallas’ food desert problem. He said many residents in the area don’t eat fruits or vegetables because local stores don’t always have them, and people opt out of buying perishable food items when they travel long distances to access better stores.
“You are not going to buy fresh fruits and vegetables because they perish, and you’re going to stretch your family’s dollar as much as possible,” Lynch said. “People also have to get things that won’t spoil on their long bus rides home.”
Both Lynch and Day said The Seedling Farm’s goal is also to help struggling and upcoming community gardens in South Dallas thrive.
“We have a lot of gardens in South Dallas that are laying dormant,” Day said. “Either the caretaker was not experienced or not enough community involvement or enough produce.”
SPREADING THE WORD
Manie Murry and Sonya Dorsey said they were interested in partnering with The Seedling Farm to start a community garden at CitySquare, where they work. Each took a small basil plant from the farm.
Dorsey, who works as the head chef at CitySquare in South Dallas, said she planned to use the plant for one of her pasta dishes.
Murry said she hoped they could soon grow similar plants to feed the people who use their services. She said CitySquare works with a lot of homeless people, so they also want to teach them how to plant fruits and vegetables where they live.
“Maybe teaching them gardening in a milk carton, or other ways that are portable,” Murry said. “Many of them live in tents, so they can’t always make things they get at the pantry like cheesy rice, but they can plant their own vegetables or fruits wherever they live and have access to healthy food.”