In its ongoing shift toward local growers, the Dallas Farmers Market will offer a new feature that's one-of-a-kind: a teaching garden that will both educate people on the benefits of growing and create a harvest that will feed the homeless.
The teaching garden is part of a program by the American Heart Association (AHA), in collaboration with numerous Dallas community partners, and it breaks ground on October 3, with a ceremony that day at 10:30 am.
According to AHA spokeswoman Marchelle Michel, it's the first teaching garden to be installed at a market.
"All of our previous teaching gardens are at schools," she says. "Many are at schools in lower-economic areas or in areas where there are not a lot of grocery stores. The Dallas Farmers Market said they were already educating people on food and saw the value in having an interactive tool where anyone could come and learn to grow."
The American Heart Association launched the teaching garden program in 2010 as part of a campaign against childhood obesity. AHA secures the funding and creates a curriculum that the schools can follow to their own degree.
There are five around North Texas, including one that just broke ground on September 25 at Northwood Hills Elementary School in Richardson.
Aimed at children in grades one through five, the classes teach how to plant seeds, nurture growing plants, harvest produce, and promote good eating habits. Lessons incorporate nutrition, math, science, and other subjects, all while in the fresh air and working with your hands.
Aside from the lessons about health and nutrition, the gardens also help kids be more physically active.
The garden at the Dallas Farmers Market will expand to teach all ages. Students and adults will maintain the space year-round, as it is a North Texas Food Bank partner garden for participants seeking volunteer opportunities.
Funding came from the Entertainment Industry Foundation, and Downtown Dallas Inc. will provide shovels, rakes, buckets, trowels, wheelbarrows, and other tools.
"This garden helps to fulfill our mission to ensure the Dallas Farmers Market is a community space rich with activity for our all our neighbors to experience and appreciate fresh, local foods," says Amanda Vanhoozier, director of operations at the market.
The actual site of the garden is located east of The Shed and is named for "Mama" Ida Papert, founder of the Dallas Farmers Market Friends volunteer organization. Each harvest will help feed Dallas homeless through produce donations to Family Gateway.