Every morning, workers at Big Tex Urban Farms put on their face masks and gloves and get to work harvesting their hydroponic fields in the greenhouse that sits in the shadow of the Texas Star Ferris Wheel at Fair Park.
"Probably the last place you'd expect to see a greenhouse growing produce," Director of Horticulture Drew Demler said laughing.
Year-round, Big Tex Urban Farms grows lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs and more to donate to nine charities in South Dallas.
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"So we're getting phone calls, 'Please don't stop growing whatever. Figure this out. We need you more than ever now'," Demler said. "So I was really thankful that we were able to figure out how to do this safely."
Last year during the pandemic, Big Tex Urban Farms harvested and donated 26,000 pounds of food. That equates to more than 295,000 servings.
This year they increased their grow capacity with the addition of 'Growzilla'.
"Growzilla is a shipping container farm," Demler explained. It also uses hydroponics and LED lights in a shelf system. Plants grown at Big Tex Urban Farms mature about twice a fast, and there is no 'season' for varieties. Everything grows year-round.
"And that allows us to generate produce that we're able to donate to several different groups here in South Dallas," Demler said. "I mean, here we are in late January and I've got tomatoes and cucumbers!"
Demler said 'Growzilla' will help Big Tex Urban Farms reach its goal of donating 1-million servings.
The State Fair of Texas is the biggest fundraiser for the greenhouse operation.