SMU CCPA professor Owen Lynch and local agencies will spearhead the launch of a new Dallas seedling farm – a vital resource in the South Dallas food desert. The seedling farm launch will take place at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center’s Freedom Garden on November 21, 2017.

Dallas Seedling Farm

South Dallas seedling farm launches Nov. 21, 2017For urban farm groups and residents of South Dallas, the seedling farm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center’s Freedom Garden will be a vital resource to supply and strengthen the community gardens which serve as the oases in the South Dallas food desert.

The seedling farm will debut Nov. 21 with a public celebration at the center, 2922 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in Dallas. A warm reception will help the farm manager and degreed horticulturalist Tyrone Day nurture a foundation to increase the survival rate of gardens throughout the area.

Providing Advice and Plants

The Dallas seedling farm will provide gardening advice and healthy, low-cost plants to community gardeners.

The stage from seed to seedling plugs is the most vulnerable of a plant’s life. With his 20 years practice, Day has the necessary skill. The farm itself provides the controlled conditions, preparing for the transfer and replanting of seedlings into a garden.

Supported Community Gardeners Thrive

They’re crucial links in the process, according to SMU Meadows Associate Professor Owen Lynch, one of the principal founders and organizers of the Nov. 21 event.

“Research shows that community gardens can achieve bigger gains if the community gardeners have access to local experts and seedlings to better manage their gardens,” Lynch said, who is also president and founding board member of the nonprofit, urban farm consulting agency Get Healthy Dallas. “That is a big part of what the seedling farm is about – to encourage, support and, if needed, teach local residents how to get the most from their urban gardens, and to serve as a source of healthy, low-cost plants. The results will be more healthy, fresh food in South Dallas.”

Community gardeners use the resource by meeting day at the seedling farm and getting his counsel on the best type of plants suited for their garden. Once those seedlings are produced at the farm, the gardener returns, picks up the plants and tends them in their own garden.

Those target gardens will be found throughout South Dallas. Seedlings from the farm will hopefully support individuals, churches, food banks, farmers markets, homeless shelters and community food programs.

South Dallas Food Desert

Lynch said South Dallas is one of the largest food deserts in the country, with many residents living at least a mile away from a grocery store. Many new urban gardens have helped address the problem, however, community gardens face high closure rates and are often not economically viable.

The jump start of the seedling farm gives the plants a better survival rate and faster maturity once they’re in the garden. For fruits and vegetables, that often means more growth cycles per season – increased production.

MLK Freedom Farm

The Dallas seedling farm at the MLK Freedom Farm is expected to produce 20,000 seedlings per year, throughout the four seasons. It will be an educational resource, offering expertise to urban farmers and increasing children’s familiarity with healthy foods. In short, there will soon be an accessible gardening hub in the heart of the community. The concept of the “seedling farm” stems from research and ongoing support from the Hunt Institute at SMU where Dr. Lynch is a senior research fellow.

At the grand opening, farmers from the State Fair’s Big Tex Urban Farms will demonstrate stackable garden boxes. Their pallet-sized boxes are created at the fairgrounds and are transportable. Local gardeners and farmers will pick up seedlings trays with more than 10-seasonal-appropriate vegetable plants to transplant into early winter gardens. Tours and a take-home sample will be provided for all who attend.

If You Plan To Attend

What: Grand opening, The Seedling Farm at Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Garden
When: 11:30 a.m. Nov. 21
Where: MLK Jr. Community Center, 2922 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dallas
Features: Stackable garden box demonstrations, tours of the greenhouse structure, seedling plant giveaways
Contact: Dr. Owen Lynch, olynch@smu.edu

Benefits of the Seedling Farm

  • A vibrant source of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Help get the most out of urban gardens and make them more economically viable
  • A solution to South Dallas food desert
  • Identify and train community members to become urban farmers
  • Contributor to economic well-being

More about Dr. Owen Lynch