New garden near downtown Dallas gets trafficking survivors back on track
A new Dallas garden in the works is helping survivors of trafficking and exploitation get on their feet: Called Liberty Street Garden (LSG), it'll grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs to sell to farmers markets, local restaurants, and the community.
It'll occupy a one-acre former dog park at 510 Liberty St. in the Wilson Historic District, a nonprofit neighborhood owned by The Meadows Foundation.
LSG is a social enterprise project from The Meadows Foundation, who developed the concept and will cover costs for the first year. They're partnered with Bonton Farms, who will provide expertise on cultivation and development of the garden; and New Friends New Life (NFNL), which supports trafficked and sexually exploited teen girls, women, and their children.
According to a release, LSG will hire women from the NFNL program, providing them with work experience and a source of income to help participants build their resumes and rebuild their lives.
Survivors of human trafficking face several barriers to employment, including limited education, criminal records, and little to no conventional work experience. The inability to find stable employment can lead them back into sex trafficking.
New Friends New Life CEO Bianca Davis says in a statement that the project gives trafficking survivors an opportunity to soar above the limits of their past.
From left: Daron Babcock, CEO of Bonton Farms; Kim High, Farm Director, Liberty Street Garden; Peter M. Miller, President/CEO of The Meadows Foundation; Bianca Davis, CEO New Friends New Life.NFNL
"Limited education, a criminal record, and a sporadic or non-existent work history are major roadblocks to a woman's ability to leave the sex trade and become financially stable," Davis says. "Through Liberty Street Garden, we can now offer a bridge to economic empowerment in a trauma-informed space for those where the hurdles to conventional employment are currently too high to overcome."
"Working at Liberty Street Garden allows her to build her skills while earning income and gives her the time she needs to address those hurdles, with the help of NFNL’s economic empowerment team, staff attorney, clinicians, and case managers," Davis says.
Bonton Farms is the community farm in Southern Dallas that has been sourcing and cultivating organic food and hope for low-income communities since 2012. They'll provide hands-on horticultural expertise and education, as well as vendor and contractor connections.
Bonton Farms CEO Daron Babcock says in a statement that the farm has proven that urban farming has therapeutic effects and is an effective way to prepare participants to enter the workforce.
"We have also amassed a talented team of experts who know how to make plants and produce grow," Babcock says. "To be able to share this expertise with New Friends New Life to affect the lives of trafficked and exploited women is an embodiment of our agency's vision - to see the full potential manifest in every person we serve."
New Friends New Life will serve as operators of Liberty Street Garden, which is listed as an LLC. Employees of Liberty Street Garden, known as Apprentices, will be supervised by a Farm Director.
Members active in NFNL’s Women’s Program for at least 90 days are eligible for employment at Liberty Street Garden, which plans to employ six Apprentices at any given time for approximately six to nine months, with room for promotion and growth as possible and desired.