Yep, here’s the history of how we got here.
Stacy Cherones & Robert Foster conduct a photo-voice ethnographic exploration of a food desert with Lincoln High School students in South Dallas. SMU professor Owen Lynch acts as the academic research advisor. The study and resulting white paper advocates for a professional farm-to-table culinary school and community restaurant to be set up on-site at Lincoln High School.
Cherones, Foster and Lynch form the non-profit Get Healthy Dallas (GHD) a research-informed and metrics-producing organization dedicated to addressing the lack of healthy food options and economic development opportunities in South Dallas. The immediate goal of GHD is to find funding for and start the Lincoln Culinary Arts Program (LCAP) at Lincoln H.S.
GHD partners with the students of Lincoln H.S., the Lincoln H.S. PTA, Trustee Nutall, Dallas Independent School District (DISD), members of the local community & BC Workshop to co-design the LCAP space. GHD develops a curriculum that is initially approved and advocated for by DISD and hires a full- time teacher to oversee the program on-site.
GHD helps secure $2.65 million of DISD school bond money for the LCAP build.
GHD raises half a million dollars and hires Jesse Hull, a passionate expert in aquaponic growing as the LCAP farmer and educator. Jesse designs plans for a state-of-the-art hydro and aquaponic farm to provide food for to the LCAP kitchen.
Lincoln H.S. goes under “institutional review” due to low test scores. GHD is asked to put the LCAP farm project “on hold” indefinitely. GHD considers moving the “farm to table” and entrepreneurial aspect of the program to non-food desert school elsewhere in the DISD system. Money is returned to donors and the LCAP kitchen program, as envisioned, is shut down.
GHD works with community institutions to help them make existing gardens produce more efficiently by using less labor and resources while increasing yields and/or impacts. However, Cherones and Foster step down from the board of GHD to pursue careers out of state. In February 2016, Jesse Hull passes from the world and Dallas loses an incredible resource and a wonderful man.
Lincoln H.S. professional kitchen completed. But to date (Spring, 2019) the restaurant and culinary program are not being utilized as LCAP was designed.
Owen Lynch, Ph.D., takes over as President of GHD and continues its partnership with Hunt Institute for Engineering & Humanity at SMU. Lynch becomes Director of the Asset Based Community Development Initiative for the Hunt Institute. In this capacity, he works with several organizations in the South Dallas food desert, partnering with Big Tex Urban Farms, a farming outreach program of the State Fair of Texas that resides at Fair Park in South Dallas.
Big Tex puts in a small test farm in the Fair Park parking lot (a lot only used during the State Fair, annually from September to October). In late October 2016, Big Tex puts in 500 mobile food beds to grow food for the local community. The immediate goal: Teaching and feeding citizens of the SDFP (South Dallas Food Desert). The overall system goal: R&D – to continue testing the mobile growing solution and create a catalyst for an emerging agrisystem.
Restorative Farms (co-founded by Brad Boa & Owen Lynch) is launched as a coalition of community partners and agricultural experts. The goal of Restorative Farms (RF) is to leverage every asset possible to create and maintain a viable, productive, and sustainable local agrisystem in the South Dallas/Fair Park Food Desert via a working system theory-informed model. The challenge is to kickstart this local food economy by addressing the high transaction cost and input barriers of local small-scale agriculture. Ultimately, if things go as planned, Restorative Farms will not exist in five years aside from the community members who will take over the growing, operations and finances of the system. This determination will be based at the time when Restorative Farms will no longer be required or needed as a catalyst for the promotion and operation of a productive and profitable food system.
Restorative Farms convenes an ongoing series of planning meetings with agricultural experts to act as advisors and systems consultants. These “agri- experts” include people from Texas A&M Agri-Life, Horts America, Big Tex Urban Farms, and Bonton Farms, as well as Tyrone Day from Miles of Freedom.
Supplying the materials and training, Big Tex initiates a program called “Farming Farms” in which its mobile gardening boxes are moved into the community to be tended by vetted organizations and individuals. If the recipients are successful in maintaining the boxes, they can keep “the farm” as long they continue to use them productively. As of mid-2019, over 800 boxes have gone out into community forming the basis for thirteen (13) small community gardens.
GHD works with Miles of Freedom to repurpose [part of] the dormant “MLK Freedom Garden” at the MLK Community Center in South Dallas to be used as a Seedling Farm to ultimately supply the farms within the initial Restorative Farms agrisystem.
Restorative Farms & GHD start the “Hub and Spoke” model of agrisystem production. Tyrone Day is hired as Manager of the Seedling Farm and assumes the role of Lead Horticulturalist for RF, coordinating the growing and distribution of seedlings to the community. The MLK Seedling Farm is designed to be the “Hub” of the emerging agrisystem, acting as the system’s “in-put” coordinator. As of April 2019, The Seedling Farm has produced and placed over 20,000 plants and is on track supply 60,000 4-inch seedlings per year by 2020.
Restorative Farms develops the “Future Urban Farmers” Program (FUF), a paid, on-the-job vocational training program. Tyrone Day begins training formally incarcerated community members to be professional urban growers. Day also develops an internship gardening training program for UTD students and a restorative justice “community hours” program at MLK.
Restorative Farms starts the Community Garden Program for the professional management of local gardens in conjunction with [our] community anchor institutions. RF co-manages the garden program with community partners at their location. These gardens start to have consistent high-quality levels of production; the community partners use the produce as the source for fresh, local food; and the garden acts as a horticultural therapy space and workshop while also using these gardens to train and certify participants in the FUF Program. Goal: Achieve the triple bottom line.
Big Tex Farms acts as an R&D center for the agrisystem as well as a grow catalyst. Big Tex Farms invests in converting their industrial greenhouse at Fair Park into a large scale Hydroponic Farm. To date (April, 2019) over one million serving of vegetables have been produced for the local community. The hydroponic farm is utilized 365 days a year and becomes an exciting exhibit at the State Fair of Texas.
February to September, 2018
RF launches and tests a successful farmers market retail business at Good Local Markets at the White Rock Farmers Market (seasonal, one day per week). This retail business is designed to break even (cover operational costs) as well as used to test market demands and quality of RF products (including niche products like micro-greens).
On behalf of Restorative Farms, Doric Earle (Forward Planning) spearheads a collaboration of community partners to work with DART to obtain a vacant property next Hatcher Station Green Line and Parkland Community Clinic to cultivate into the first “Spoke” farm of the agrisystem. This “franchise production farm” is dubbed “Hatcher Farm.” Phase 1 of the build-out starts April 2019. Hatcher Farm will be a professionally managed, small-scale intensive production and training farm. The farm will be the first of its kind in DFW and will produce up to 164,000 servings of vegetables per year. Hatcher Farm will also serve as a training farm and model to be scaled and replicated.
Bob Curry is hired by City of Dallas as Urban Agriculture Manager. Curry has been with Restorative Farms since January 2018 as a consultant.
Based on supply studies, Restorative Farms identifies a ONE BILLION DOLLAR GAP in the demand-vs-supply for local, fresh produce in the City of Dallas. RF convenes a team of experts from every part of the food supply chain to inform and advocate for solution to fill this gap, in particular by building out the agrisystem to provide food and local jobs.
The Goal //
To turn the South Dallas Food Desert into the Silicon Valley of urban farming and agrisystem development in the USA.