Fort Worth

Fighting Hunger: Urban Farming in Fort Worth's Food Desert

Opal's Farm opened in Fort Worth last year with the goal of providing healthy, fresh food to a community without easy access to it.

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Opal's Farm is a 5-acre patch of land along the Trinity River, in the shadow of downtown Fort Worth. It's part of the United Riverside neighborhood, which is located in a food desert.

"You look across the river and there's downtown, but everything kinda stops at the river," farm manager Greg Joel said. "The money stops at the river."

The farm's 5-acres were donated by the Tarrant Regional Water District. It's named after Opal Lee, a well known 92-year old community activist who had a dream of helping feed communities in need in Fort Worth.

"These people have no access to food," Joel explained. The neighborhood is dotted with corner convenience stores, but no grocery store. "They're selling stuff that is empty calories. It's highly processed canned food, limited selection, and people begin to eat those and that becomes a staple of your diet. Guess what? All of a sudden we've got health problems."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as an urban area where a grocery store is more than a mile away, or 10-miles away in a rural setting. There are 11 zip codes in Tarrant County with that dubious distinction. Tarrant County ranks among the top 10 counties in the country with the highest number of hungry people.

"We're prepping for doing spring planting," Joel said as he spread mulch on the field. "I'm not feeding all of Fort Worth, but I'm doing something and somebody got to go to bed with a full tummy because they purchased, something that we grew."

In its first season, Opal's Farm produced 4,500 pounds of food. The farm donates 10-percent of its crops to the food bank. The goal is to sell 50-percent of the remaining crops at farmers market at retail price, and sell the remaining 50-percent to the communities in need at wholesale prices.

"This is a tangible way of meeting a basic human need. Not just a need, but a right," Joel said. "Everybody has the right to fresh food."

If you'd like to volunteer, or help support Opal's Farm, click here for more information.

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