Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions' Urban Agriculture team aims to promote urban agriculture, saying it provides many benefits to the city. Photos courtesy of DCHS.

Feb. 25, 2015

The Dallas Plan Commission’s Zoning Ordinance Committee met Feb. 19 and approved changes that will allow fresh vegetables to be grown in Dallas urban neighborhoods and on small commercial property for the purpose of feeding families, as well as being sold to entities such as local restaurants, grocery stores and hotels in an effort to make money, which has been a dream of the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions. These changes will go to the City Council Economic Development Committee on March 2 for approval.  

“These ordinance changes will allow for a wide range of food production projects that will have a positive impact on many Dallas neighborhoods and will really push the city forward in a good food movement,” says Susie Marshall, chair of the Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions’ Urban Agriculture Action Team and executive director of Grow North Texas.

The Dallas Coalition for Hunger Solutions was created in 2012, chaired by Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson and spearheaded by the Texas Hunger Initiative, the North Texas Food Bank and several other nonprofits and religious organizations that make up the leadership team.

Through five different action teams, DCHS brings together community leaders who are engaged in the work of addressing poverty and hunger to take action in a collaborative setting.  

The Urban Agriculture Team of DCHS was asked to look into ways of making urban agriculture more acceptable and easier to grow food in the city of Dallas. Its mission is to empower residents to gain equal access to healthy food.  

Its members want to bring awareness to urban agriculture and the benefits it brings to the city.

Specifically, the Urban Agriculture Team is looking to develop a market garden ordinance for the city of Dallas to allow urban farms to flourish within city limits. They want to encourage community members to grow and sell food in their neighborhoods as a way to promote economic development and improve access to healthy food. 

“We quickly realized that one of the first things we needed to do to make an impact is to advise the city on how to make ordinance changes,” informs advocate Liz Goulding. “Right now, there are a lot of unnecessary hoops to jump through and it is difficult to start urban agriculture or small commercial farms. We are figuring out what changes are prudent.

“Some people would like to see aquaponics, a powerful way to feed a lot of people, but it is not currently legal.”

The city’s Office of Environmental Quality, the Zoning Ordinance Committee and some council members on the Economic Development Committee are partnering with the Urban Agriculture team in an effort to get things done.  

Above, courtesy of the Dallas-based Fresh Food Alliance.

Members of the team envision that neighborhood and commercial property owners will connect to people with a propensity to grow food.  

The city will not provide plots of land on which to farm, rather the farms would be on private property such as small residential lots where possibly a former house stood or small empty commercial lots.  

A great deal of information is being gleaned by looking at cities like Austin, Detroit, Seattle, Chicago, and Minneapolis.

Goulding says that Dallas is not modeling after other groups, but looking at other cities to see what they are doing.  

Presently, the group is also looking into where the vegetables can be marketed. 

People who are not interested in growing their own food, benefit from being involved with a group and children enjoy seeing where their food comes from. All ages can connect the dots to many unanswered questions and benefit.  

Goulding says that urban agriculture is at a critical point in Dallas, in that people want to buy local food and meat.  

“Council members respond to what their constituents want, but they are not mind readers. Two or five years from now, we will still need to let council members know that people want to buy local food. The only way that can happen is that there are people who grow food and people who buy food.” 

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