Opal's Farm to Tackle Tarrant County Food Deserts
The word ‘desert’ conjures up images of intensely hot, arid weather, sand dunes, and harsh conditions. We tend to imagine them to be far-off places like the Middle East or Africa. What if I told you that the desert was only a few blocks or a couple of miles away from your front door? While it may not be hot and covered with sand, it’s just as harsh as the Sahara or Death Valley. It’s a local food desert and it affects us all.
According to government data, Tarrant County alone has over forty census tracts designated as food deserts! How does this affect you? First and foremost, this is a humanitarian issue - EVERYONE has the basic human right of access to food and health. Tarrant County is fortunate to experience strong economic growth and has for many years. As the population grows and more residents move to the suburbs, the grocery stores and farmer’s markets follow them, and often close the less-profitable stores left in low-income urban neighborhoods where food and hunger exist as well.
In Tarrant County, one in four children (and one in three if they are African-American or Hispanic) go to bed hungry or face food insecurity. One does not have to live below the Federal Poverty Threshold of household income of $24,858 per year to experience food insecurity. Over 25% of households facing food insecurity live at or just above the poverty guidelines and fully 36% receive no federal or state benefits. (further information is available through the Tarrant Area Food Bank- https://tafb.org/and Feeding America - www.feedingamerica.org).
Addressing food issues is much like eating an elephant. It can only be done one bite at a time! Unity Unlimited, Inc. has taken the first bite by being granted use of thirteen vacant acres in Fort Worth by the Trinity Regional Water District (TRWD) for the express purpose of creating an urban farm. Ms. Opal Lee, a longtime community and humanitarian activist in Fort Worth, had talks with TRWD which led to the dream of an urban farm providing farm-fresh, nutritious food for residents of the community becoming a reality.
The necessary permits are being issued and Opal's Farm will be breaking ground soon. Located just east of downtown, the farm sits on rich, fertile bottom land near the Trinity River. Initially, five acres will be prepared for planting right away. The remaining eight acres will undergo soil preparation for additional crops. Only 100% organic methods will be utilized with special care given to the soil and the environment.
The farm will create jobs, provide job training, and bring a spirit of entrepreneurship and self-reliance to the local community. The 13 available acres of urban land will connect food production, processing and distribution in the same space. This is basically from farm to plate; which is a win-win for the residents, county, state, and country.
Taking the 1st Step