Paul Quinn College Declares Student Farm a Success

Paul Quinn College's community garden, the most visible element of a massive rebuilding effort the troubled school launched earlier this year, produced one thousand pounds of food this summer.

Director of Service Learning Elizabeth Wattley reported on the garden's progress at yesterday's Pecha Kucha, a design-driven show-and-tell held in conjunction with Dallas Idea Week.

"Things are growing," Wattley said, motioning at an image of students harvesting vegetables. "These are the fruits of their labor."

Paul Quinn partnered with Pepsi to replace its old football field with a two-acre urban farm, meant to serve as an experiential learning laboratory and a source of fresh food in a neighborhood where access to produce is limited. Community members are invited to the student-run organic farm every Thursday night to reap whatever's ready for picking, while the students - newly trained in agricultural techniques -- also help elderly community members keep up their home gardens.

"We take our strong backs and go out and help the community," Wattley explained.

But students haven't just contributed physical labor: Their academic curriculum now includes farm management.

"They're figuring out how many seeds you need for collard greens," Wattley said. "They're on the tillers, they're harvesting, they're fertilizing and they're working in the classroom."

This summer's harvest was sold to local restaurants and donated to charitable organizations; students are now planting another round of crops.

"Now, some farms have chickens and cows," Wattley said. "We have not gone there yet."

After Wattley's presentation, event host Sarah Jane Semrad told the crowd: "If you can't believe what you're seeing, it's happening in Dallas freaking Texas."

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