State Fair of Texas is trying to remedy past injustices to South Dallas via its urban farm

When 4-year-old Jonah saw the baby cucumber poking up through the dirt, he shrieked, delighted. “They could not believe it! They didn’t think it was real,” recalls Sherri Mixon, executive director at TR Hoover Community Development Center, home of the Hoover Learning Garden. 

She and her afterschool charges had planted various items, but the cucumbers grew fastest, and that was exciting, Mixon says. After she convinced the kids that they could eat what was growing from the ground, they eventually tried it. Some turned their noses up, others liked it - but they were introduced to vegetables now.

“Kids wanted to know where veggies came from,” she says. “We have been able to teach them and see the different changes as they are growing. I tell them all the time — it’s just like you are growing.” 

Mixon is aware of the irony: The State Fair of Texas — the largest promoter of agriculture in the state — neighboring a community where children don’t know where vegetables come from. But she says the fair’s work in recent years is helping to make amends for creating a scarcity of food and other resources in her South Dallas’ Bonton neighborhood. 

She felt it first-hand when the COVID-19 pandemic began. By March 2020, when nationwide stay-home orders were in effect, Hoover’s emergency food pantry ran dry. Even the neighborhood grocer ran out of fruit and veggies, she says. “I had to figure out a way to produce more,” she says, “because people were about to go hungry. I felt like the weight of the world was on our shoulders.” 

That is when workers from the State Fair of Texas stepped up their support - bringing boxes of fresh produce from its Big Tex Urban Farms four days a week. During the early months of the pandemic, Mixon used the yield to feed 50 to 70 carloads of Dallas residents on a given day.  

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