DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Dallas’ Paul Quinn college is feeding bodies as well as minds. A few years back the college grabbed headlines for turning its football field into a farm, now the harvest is helping the community get healthy.
“We have arugula, we have cucumbers, we have different varieties of tomatoes, we have eggplants,” says Lead Farm Hand Darciea Houston, as she rattles off the current offerings “and eggs, of course, from the chickens.”
Houston grew up in the Midwest, but still admits that she’s a city girl turned farm hand at Paul Quinn. She especially appreciates the fresh vegetables grown in the neighborhood. Years ago she experienced first hand the day to day struggles of life in a food desert: an area the USDA defines as one where there is no or limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
“It was not available. You could not walk to it, and to get on a bus to go get it…you’re looking at an hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours.”
But, at least Houston had a car. Many of her neighbors did not.
“The elderlies would tell me ‘can I give you a few dollars…to get me some lettuce? For some potatoes?’,” recalls Houston, saying what was often available at the corner stores wasn’t worth eating.
“The potatoes had sprouted and the lettuce looked like it had had a stroke!”
But, now the Paul Quinn grad is helping to grow vegetables on re-purposed football field. And even better? She’s seeing those veggies plant the seeds of healthy living at a weekly farmer’s market.
“It’s a big deal because it’s fresh,” says Mica Ware, a frequent shopper and volunteer at the farm. “You can see right here where it’s coming from.”
Ware agrees that having access to fresh fruits and vegetables will help improve the health of the community.
“When you don’t have that access, you’re going to just go for what’s there…what’s easiest and that may not always be what’s healthiest, or best for your family. When they opened that market, I started spreading the word.”
The Farmer’s Market is organized by Good Local Markets and is held on the Paul Quinn campus every Thursday from 3:00 to 7:00 pm. In addition to the campus farm options, other local farmers and vendors help round out the selections with items ranging from honey to home made deserts and organic body products.
“It’s a great thing,” says Ware, “it’s a great thing.”
Making fresh fruits and vegetables accessible is critical, says Houston, but so is the education and encouragement to make healthy choices.
“I feel empowered and I feel like I’m empowering now,” says Houston. “I can say: ‘I just harvested this for you this morning. I pulled it out of the ground not two hours ago, that’s powerful to me.”