Dallas Startup Week: Urban Farming Gains Momentum

urban gardening

HOW URBAN FARMS POSITIVELY IMPACT THE COMMUNITY


Update: Urban Farm Co. said Tuesday that it has partnered with the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

Jody and Maximillian Wall said that they were contacted by Allison Marbut, vice president of education for the Dallas Arboretum, after she read about Urban Farm Co. in a previous article in Dallas Innovates.

Urban Farm Co. will teach adult classes at the Dallas Arboretum this summer, featuring topics on hydroponics and how sustainable local systems will benefit Dallas. They plan to work together to install hydroponics at the new, 2-acre, edible farm at the Arboretum.


The urban farming movement in Dallas is beginning to turn heads. During Dallas Startup Week, Dallas farm owners and industry professionals took counsel from seasoned urban farmers to learn about its positive impact on the community.

The City of Dallas is one of only 27 cities across the nation to receive the Local Foods, Local Places grant from the EPA.

Maximillian and Jody Wall, founders of Urban Farm Co., said that urban farming is gaining momentum in Dallas.

“The reason the conversation is trending right now is because Dallas got the [Local Foods, Local Places] grant from the Environmental Protection Agency,” they said.

The non-monetary grant will provide technical assistance from a team of agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health and regional economic experts, and will share what other cities are doing to expand community gardens and urban farming efforts. The City of Dallas is one of only 27 cities across the nation to receive the grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“It’s important to note that Dallas has a need that the federal government felt merited a grant being awarded. Local foods can and will impact childhood health, as well as economic development, its a huge boom for Dallas to get this assistance in figuring out how to make local foods work for the city,” Jody Wall said.

Trends in Technology in Urban Farming in Dallas

The Walls spoke with Dallas entrepreneurs Friday afternoon during a Dallas Startup Week panel hosted at The Grove.

“What technology has allowed us to do with hydroponics is grow vertically, produce more food in a smaller space and reduce water emissions by 90 percent” Jody Wall said. “Urban farming technology allows us to break through the boundaries that have constrained farmers for centuries.”

Urban farming technology allows us to break through the boundaries that have constrained farmers for centuries.” 
-Jody Wall

They said the hydroponic garden system called Zipgrow allows them to grow a variety of nutritious, clean vegetables year round. Hydroponic gardening requires no soil.

The Zipgrow system is able to grow plants significantly faster, grow greater quantities of vegetables and fruit, and is immune to certain infestations because it doesn’t require soil.

The Walls spoke about two key trends that are making headway in Dallas, and said chefs adopting the idea of growing their own food is a major step.

“From the commercial standpoint, restaurants are starting to adopt urban farming as a possibility for sourcing,” Jody Wall said. Local chefs are receptive to the idea, and eager to jump on board.

The second trend is families caring about the quality and purity of their produce, and adopting farming in their own homes.

“By 2050, we’re going to have 9 billion people on the planet. We have to figure out a way to create enough food without depleting all of our resources,” Jody Wall said.

Scaling Urban Farming in South Dallas

South Dallas is home to vacant lots that urban farming leaders believe would be ideal to revitalize the area, allowing people to access food.

Jeff Kiec says urban farming can succeed in Dallas with the right network and coalition in place.

“These lots are an excellent chance to dig up and replace with gardens, and involve local community leaders,” Jody Wall said. “Giving poverty-stricken communities the opportunity to garden can help stop hunger in areas of South Dallas.”The Walls said experimenting with farms on these lots may be an answer to potential scaling.

Using hydroponic systems such as Urban Farm Co.’s Zipgrow, could facilitate access to organically grown produce to the most impoverished areas South Dallas.

Creating a Coalition for Urban Farming

Jeff Kiec, principal at 4D Circle and member of Deep Ellum Community Association, said he believes urban farming can succeed in Dallas with the right network and coalition in place.

He said the key is recruiting people who are passionate and will build on the movement.

“We can do it in Dallas with the right network, logistics, and people,” he said. “We need successful farmer’s markets that the farmer can make money off of and that give the customer what they want.”

The Walls said there needs to be an urban farming task force of urban farmers, city leaders, and action-minded people.

“Right now, the conversation is between the people who are growing the food and the people who can afford it. How are you going to make a decision for someone’s life you don’t understand?
– Max Wall

“We have to have a united message and study the communities and countries where urban farming is successful,” Maximillian Wall said. “We need the voice of the movement to be heard and get the message out.”

The Walls believe these community meetings and discussions about policy need to involve all parties. They said the people who don’t have access to the food need their voices heard.

“Right now, the conversation is between the people who are growing the food and the people who can afford it,” Maximillian Wall said. “How are you going to make a decision for someone’s life you don’t understand?”

Urban Farming Initiatives to Watch in Dallas

  • Paul Quinn College – A 2-acre farm that grows thousands of pounds of fresh produce.
  • Farm F.A.R.V. – James Jeffers, CEO and founder of Farmers Assisting Returning Military, an urban farm used to assist recovering military veterans through sustainable, recreational and TBI/PTSD therapy.
  • Bonton Farms – A 20-acre organic farm in South Dallas provides healthy, affordable food and opportunity for the people of Dallas.
  • Deep Ellum Urban Gardens – Community garden organized by the Deep Ellum Community organization.
  • Urban Farm Co. – Utilizing a hydroponic garden system called the Zipgrow, Maximillian and Jody Wall are able to provide Dallas with massive quantities of fresh produce.

 

Comments are closed.