State Fair of Texas

South Dallas Reaps Benefits of Big Tex Urban Farms

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Food is a huge part of the State Fair of Texas, and even in a canceled year, the fair is still feeding people.

The fair's neighbors in South Dallas reap the benefits of a year-round focus on fighting hunger.

“We started in 2016. We'd been encouraged by management to become more community-minded; to come up with ideas that could help out the South Dallas community. this was one of our initiatives, and it's really taken off since then,” said Drew Demler, Director of Horticulture for the State Fair.

Demler and his team work out of the Errol McKoy Greenhouse steps away from the iconic Texas Star ferris wheel.

“We grow produce, fruits and vegetables, in this greenhouse and some outdoor production as well. And then we donate 100% of the produce to different organizations in southern Dallas,” Demler said. “We're donating something five days a week, Monday through Friday, something is going out somewhere.”

Big Tex Urban Farms is a revolutionary, mobile agriculture system in the heart of Fair Park.

Hydroponics and a dutch bucket system - no soil, just fertilized water - can take a seed to harvest in six weeks. LED grow lights throughout the greenhouse to increase efficiency. And, a new Nutrient Film Technique provides plants with a steady stream of nutrients.

Together, it means Big Tex Urban Farms gets fresh produce to families fast.

“Very fast. We can finish things like collard greens and heads of lettuce in half the time than it takes to grow 'em outdoors,” Demler smiled.

Collard greens, fancy lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes and other produce is currently donated to about a dozen nonprofits. Produce from farm to table to keep families healthy.

“There are various food deserts throughout the southern sector and that's primarily our focus, where we're donating our produce,” Demler said. “When we're getting others involved and changing people's health, that's a success! That's the real success.”

Big Tex Urban Farms is 100% funded by the proceeds from the annual State Fair of Texas.

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