The State Fair of Texas has announced that in 2020, Big Tex Urban Farms harvested and donated more than 26,000 pounds of food, which equates to more than 295,000 servings of fresh produce, to nine organizations in the Fair Park and South Dallas communities.
Since the inception of Big Tex Urban Farms in 2016, the State Fair has donated more than 688,000 total servings, bringing the organization almost 70% of the way to meeting the million servings mission goal announced in the fall of 2018, the State Fair of Texas said.
According to the State Fair of Texas, in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Tex Urban Farms never stopped operating in 2020.
The State Fair of Texas said the Farms adjusted their harvest and donation procedures to include proper safety protocols in response to the pandemic.
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The protocols included workers wearing masks and gloves, socially distancing at all times, updating donation procedures to be contactless, and shifting tours of the Farms to be virtual rather than in-person, the State Fair of Texas said.
"Even with the challenges from the pandemic, our team was able to harvest and donate even more food to the community - up 25% from prior year," Drew Demler, director of horticulture at the State Fair of Texas, said. "Early on when the pandemic began and everyone was asked to stay at home, grocery stores and pantries were at a loss, so we knew our contributions were more important than ever."
According to the State Fair of Texas, Big Tex Urban Farms is an urban agriculture project located on the State Fair of Texas Midway in Fair Park and is comprised of hydroponic growing systems and outdoor planting beds.
Operated and tended to by State Fair staff, 100% percent of the produce grown at Big Tex Urban Farms is donated to organizations in the local community, such as Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness Institute at the Juanita J. Craft Community Center, Jubilee Park Community Center, TR Hoover Community Development Corporation, and CitySquare.
The State Fair of Texas said the Farms have become a destination for organizations to visit from around the world to learn how to help produce high-yielding fruits and vegetables in urban environments.
The Farms have also been asked to speak as industry leaders at various conferences, including the Oxford Farming Conference in Oxford, England, the State Fair said.
"The Big Tex Urban Farms initiative has brought valuable opportunities to the South Dallas area," Dr. Froswa' Booker-Drew, vice president of community affairs & strategic alliances for the State Fair of Texas, said. "Not only are the Farms providing food for a community located in a food desert, the cooking classes and educational opportunities accompanying the Farms help lay the foundation for creating access for South Dallas residents. These partnerships are critical to ensure that the community has the opportunity for healthier food options."
A portion of every ticket bought to the State Fair of Texas benefits Big Tex Urban Farms.
Fairgoers can visit Big Tex Urban Farms during the 2021 State Fair of Texas, scheduled to be held Sept. 24 through Oct. 17.
For more information about Big Tex Urban Farms, visit BigTex.com/BTUF.