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The Seedling Farms' Initiative

at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center’s Freedom Garden


The Seedling Farm at the MLK Community Center is a small-but-mighty seedling production “hoop house” and garden space that produces over 20,000 seedlings per year! (as of Spring, 2019) This is the basis for—and foundation of—our blossoming agrisystem.

Community gardens and farms can be tremendous assets that provide fresh produce and employment for local citizens while acting as a source of pride and well-being for the community. However, despite the appeal of urban gardening, research studies demonstrate that community gardens have a high closure rate and are very seldom economically viable... because it’s hard work!

Our goal is to train professional farmers with the skills and knowledge to run their own farms, AND provide the shared resources & infrastructure to get them up and running. Things should grow from there!


We all know that seeds are life. Seedlings are the very young plants that germinate from the seeds — and they are the beginning of the process of not only farming & growing food, but of our entire agrisystem model. What’s an agrisystem? It’s a holistic system where all every component compliments the rest: from growing to harvesting to transportation to composting... and back again. And it all starts from a tiny seed… or 20,000 of them.

Growing healthy seedlings is not easy. It takes skill and years of practice. At the MLK Freedom Garden’s Seedling Farm (located at the MLK Center in South Dallas, TX), the process is overseen by master gardener Tyrone Day, who has a degree in horticulture and more than 20 years of experience with urban farming. Tyrone oversees the production of over 20,000 seedling plants per year! And by 2020, that number is estimated to triple!

Tyrone is not only the prime caretaker and manager of the seedling facility, he also shares his knowledge with other community gardeners as well as trains formerly incarcerated persons in the craft (and art) of farming.


The process of going from a seed to a seedling is the most vulnerable stage in a plant’s life and requires controlled conditions and constant monitoring. A planned garden often requires a staggered germination of the different seeds to make sure that on planting day the variety of plants are all ready to be planted at one time.  Likewise, preparing properly by “hardening off” the seedlings (the process of getting the seedling accustomed to the outdoor conditions in which it will be planted) is necessary to ensure successful transportation and replanting of the seedlings into a garden. 

Jump-starting gardens by planting viable young plants, instead of seeds, means the plants are more likely to survive, mature faster, and produce fruits or vegetables more quickly, resulting in more growth cycles per season, which leads to increased production. Preselecting and then planting precise numbers and types of seedlings allows the gardener to optimize their growing capacity. Planting a young plant in the ground provides immediate gratification for volunteers, students or community members, which leads to consistent investment in the garden.


Community Impact

  1. Currently producing over 20,000 seedlings per year which are sold or donated to local farms and organizations.

  2. The Seedling Farm serves as an educational resource and community gathering place to increase children’s familiarity with healthy foods while providing information and resources to community gardeners and farmers.

  3. Provides a sustainable source of employment for a master urban farmer.

  4. Provides job training for urban farming, farm management, and eventually careers in the restaurant/food industry.

  5. Acts as a meeting place for members of the community.