WE Over ME Farm/Paul Quinn College
DALLAS - Located between goal posts and a score board, there are no lines marking yards, but lines marking the place where delicious vegetables will soon sprout.
The area that was once a football field at Paul Quinn College is now a two-acre farm.
“The football team was dismantled in 2007,” said Elizabeth Wattley, Director of Service Learning and Servant Leadership at Paul Quinn. “They weren’t winning many games and they were costing quite a bit of money so it was just the smartest decision to dismantle the team.”
The school created a work-study program to address a silent enemy in the southern Dallas community.
“We Over Me Farm was Paul Quinn’s response to the lack of access to healthy food healthy in the community, “ Wattley said. “So if you are from this area then you know that the nearest grocery store is about five miles away. We reached and we searched and looked for a response to get a grocery store in the area, but we haven’t been able to work it out yet.”
Students like freshman Shon Griggs and sophomore Chanson Goodson joined “WE Over ME Farm”. Students at the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) do not have a farming background.
“I’m actually from Atlanta Georgia," said Griggs. "I wanted to try something new here at Paul Quinn College. I heard about the farm and everyone was so excited about working on it.”
School officials admit it was difficult getting students to sign up for the program when it started in 2010. Now, students apply, submit resumes and go through an interview process for an opportunity to work on the project. It is now the highest paying work-study job on campus.
“When I got into it, it was me benefiting the community,” said Goodson.
There is more to this job than planting a few seeds, even though there are 108 planting beds and over 300 square feet of plantable space.
The student run project is a full farm complete with fish, chickens, ducks, beehives and even peacocks.
Students perform all the necessary jobs on the farm.
Goodson has a special love for this project. The freshman grew up in the “food desert”, so he knows the struggles of people trying to find fresh food.
“They (residents) would have to catch a bus, get family members to drive you to Wal Mart” Goodson said as he thinks about the seniors living in the neighborhood. “You have to go down the highway. To catch the bus, you gotta be on the bus for at least an hour just to get to Menards or Fiesta.”
That problem is partly solved with the WE Over ME Farm. It is the place where community members like Glenda Davis says she can pick what she likes.
“This is marvelous,” said Davis. “This is like being back home in east Texas. Get it straight from the ground.”
While the community is the main focus of the farm; produce is also sold to restaurants in the community such Hibiscus restaurant, Bolsa and Legends Hospitality at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. The school even serves vegetables grown on the farm in the school's cafeteria.
The WE Over ME Farm started as a small project with two acres of land. The school has bigger plans for not only the land, but for the entire neighborhood.
The team is talking about building a grocery store.
“Get a physical space as a grocery store that we can have some of our produce stocked in,” Wattley said. “That is on its way. I think it is coming sooner than later.”
“A grocery store is exciting, but scary at the same time,” Goodson said. “I’m anxious at the same time.”
It is a task students believe is worth every minute they spend on the farm.
“I can actually impact the community in a sense of if I get my hands dirty, if I lend a hand, then I am helping someone else out,” Griggs said.
The school partnered with big names like Pepsi to create the farm, but the program will need more funds to continue the process and build a grocery store.
On April 11, some of North Texas' premier chefs are cooking up signature dishes at "A Community Cooks".
The event will be held for the third year at the WE Over ME Farm. “A Community Cooks” starts at 6 p.m. For ticket information log on to weovermefarm.com.