Good Local Markets opened a new market at Paul Quinn College this spring, bringing fresh food to the southeast Dallas food desert. Photos by Marshall Hinsley.
July 4, 2017
Confronting the dearth of supermarkets in southeast Dallas, a partnership between Paul Quinn College and Good Local Markets is bringing healthy fruits and vegetables to residents who live in one of the city’s food deserts.
Vine-ripe tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, melons, microgreens, jars of local honey and plenty of other farm fresh produce are set out for sale under pop-up tent canopies each Thursday from 3-7 p.m. at Paul Quinn’s historic campus. Most comes from farmers who grow their crops within an hour’s drive from the campus; and some is actually harvested at the school’s own organic We Over Me farm.
Along with the produce is an assortment of handmade soaps and body care products, fresh baked breads, ready-to-eat soups and homemade pickles. The availability of fresh food close to where residents live means more access to healthy home-cooked meals. This is especially important for those who are dependent on public transportation – their shopping list is often limited to what they can carry by hand on the bus ride home from the nearest food store.
Started at the end of May, the market was made possible by a grant from the USDA, says Good Local Markets director Casey Cutler. The USDA identifies Southeast Dallas as an area where residents face unusually restricted access to healthy, whole foods. Because of the scarcity of full-service grocery stores, many residents in the area rely on fast food restaurants and convenience stores, which typically offer foods void of substantial nutritional value.
“The location of Paul Quinn Market is a federally recognized food desert. This market is part of the solution to this. We show up consistently for the community bringing not only fresh produce and food, but the actual farmers, growers, producers and more. We have vendors from southern Dallas and the very community in which we are serving, showing that these aren't farms that are across the country delivering them food, but their neighbors and the very farmers and hands that pick their produce,” Cutler says. “Creating these connections is equally as important at the market, and having the We Over Me farm on site just strengthens that connection one step further.”
Beyond just offering fresh food for sale, Good Local Markets General Manager Arielle Richman says the market also helps patrons to build a sense of community while they support a more local economy.
“Our markets are all about community. Basically, this whole nonprofit was started by individuals who thought how great it would be if they could buy fresh, local produce from their street corner,” Richman says. “Good Local Markets supports the notion that all consumers regardless of where they live should have access to local, fresh, nutritious food, and that the ideal situation is if a consumer is part of a commercial system where he or she is buying this food from a neighbor that they know. That way, food comes from close by, the consumer has a relationship with the grower. This supports a community in so many ways – commercially, socially, economically and nutritionally.
During the market, the school hosts a farm tour at 4 p.m. which gives market patrons the opportunity to learn more about how the food they’re purchasing was produced and how they can grow their own fruits and vegetables. In 2010, Paul Quinn College tilled up its football field and made it into a fully functioning organic farm where students learn job skills.
“The great advantage of this market is that we are located near the We Over Me Farm, a football field converted to farm. It is a wonderful experience to not only buy fresh produce from the farmer, but to also see how it is grown. James Hunter, the farm director as well as his Paul Quinn student interns have been a joy to have because they are so dedicated to sharing their hard work to anyone that asks about the farm,” Cutler says.
A sizeable amount of the produce sold at the market comes from the campus farm says James Hunter, director of the farm.
Paul Quinn College famously turned its football field into an organic farm in 2010.
“We’re one of two diversified vegetable growers that are selling at the market, and then there are the more specialty growers as well that do things like microgreens or honey. We grow more traditional vegetable crops. About a third to half of the produce being sold at the market is from Paul Quinn’s farm.
“We are hyper diversified so we’ve got about 60 different vegetable crops growing throughout the year. Right now with the summer months, we have have a lot of cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and then we also have herbs, different salad greens and shoots.”
Starting with just five vendors, the market has now doubled in size in the few months it’s been open. Casey says she’s been pleased to see patrons enjoying access to a greater assortment of fresh food while learning about how to cook some of the more exotic offerings available at the market.
“I had such a great conversation with a community mom who was shopping for her newly pescatarian daughter. She didn't have any idea what she was going to feed her, but she knew that shopping at the farmers market would give her ideas and would support her daughter in her new lifestyle choice. It was so cool watching her learn from Jennifer Chandler of Chandler Family Farms about each new vegetable and how to cook it,” Cutler says.
“We see many folks who are alumni of Paul Quinn College at the market. On the very first Paul Quinn Market, I saw several parents who were just picking up their kids from the last days of school and stopped by to see what was going on. At least one of those is a mom who is now a vendor at our market,” Richman adds.
To ensure that the foods are accessible to everyone, the market has also arranged to accept payment by the state’s Lone Star card from patrons enrolled in the Federal SNAP food assistance program.
“It is great to prove that farmers markets are all inclusive and support food access,” Cutler sas. “It isn't a trend, it isn't just a community event, but it is method of bringing food access, and it is a solution to food injustice.”
The market at Paul Quinn College is one of two new markets started this year by the nonprofit Good Local Markets. The organization also manages Oak Cliff’s Tyler Street market across from Tyler Street Christian Academy and White Rock market near White Rock Lake; the three farmers markets fulfill the organization’s goal of supporting local agriculture and educating buyers about the benefits of buying sustainably produced, fresh whole foods.
“All of the vendors at any Good Local Market come from within a 150-mile radius of Dallas and are a grow-your-own, or produce-your-own product,” Cutler says. “We go to every farm to ensure that farmers are growing what they are selling at the market, and that they have ethical farming practices. We do not allow resale at the market.
“On average, food travels 1,500 miles to get to your plate. At Paul Quinn, the furthest farm is 60 miles away. The produce at the market is picked the morning of the market and is sold to you by the very farmer. How rare and wonderful it is to be able to talk and learn from the very person that grew the food that is about to nourish you. You won't find this connection at the grocery store. You won't be able to learn about the very process, and just how hard it was, to grow that food if you find a barcode on it. The flavor, the freshness, and the farmer is what makes buying produce from the farmers market so special.”
“We have heard a great and positive reaction from the community,” Cutler adds. “They are thrilled to have a market, and we already have repeat customers. What is really amazing is that community members continue to ask, ‘How can I be a part of this?’”
Paul Quinn Market
About: Dallas-based Good Local Market opened its newest location in May.
Hours: Thursdays, 3-7 p.m., March through December
Location: Paul Quinn College, 3837 Simpson Stuart Rd, Dallas