Dallas’ Paul Quinn College Organic Garden Produces More Than Food

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Dallas’ Paul Quinn College Organic Garden Produces More Than Food

Green Bank gift helps new orchard


Paul Quinn College’s President Michael Sorrell has a goal to improve the availability of quality food in southern Dallas. The college and adjoining n0ighborhoods are in a zip code where the nearest grocery or convenience store is more than four miles away.

“As the saying goes, you are what you eat. The benefits of a healthy diet impact kids and college students—poor diets diminish results” notes Sorrell. “It’s hard to believe that in a city like Dallas, we have large segments of our city that qualify as food deserts. Paul Quinn College is going to change that. We started on the campus and now we’re working in the neighborhood. ” A food desert is any area with a high poverty rate and low access to affordable and healthy food. When coupled with the transportation issues faced by low-income neighborhoods, this results in significantly limited access to healthy food.

Sorrell took over the leadership of Paul Quinn College five years ago. Since then, the college has stabilized its accreditation, transformed the student body, removed 15 unused buildings and has its sights set on expanding in the coming years. Sorrell is also focusing on food availability in the community.

Sorrell and community leaders have been talking to grocery retailers and are working to secure a store for the neighborhood. Not moving as fast as they hoped, the college did something bold--two years ago it gave up the football field to start a two-acre organic farm.

It’s been named accordingly—WE Over Me Farm. The farm provides food for the community, their campus dining hall, and area restaurants, but it also forms the foundation of their Social Entrepreneurship program in the Business & Legal Studies Department.

“Farming is a craft that produces many skills. The students are quickly learning about scale and returns. These are the building blocks of entrepreneurism,” notes Elizabeth Wattley, director of service learning food for Good Farm. “Our students are seeing first hand costs vs. returns, probability, forecasting and sales skills. It’s a lot more than a big garden.”

10 percent of the harvest is donated to local charities and organizations and distributed by food pantries around Paul Quinn College. It’s also used in the college’s cafeteria. The rest is taken to local farmers’ markets and sold to some of the top restaurants in Dallas.

With support from the Associate Leadership Council of the Real Estate Council Foundation of Dallas, the farm recently added a greenhouse, solar lights and an irrigation system to help double production. Green Bank is also involved—a recent contribution helped provide support towards a fruit orchard.

“Michael Sorrell’s leadership and innovation has transformed Paul Quinn College into a source of pride and commitment of both its students and community. The WE Over Me Farm is truly a modern day ‘Field of Dreams’” said Nancy Cope, private banker with Green Bank. “Through the Real Estate Council Foundation, we were introduced to the college. We’re now helping with their plan to establish a plum and peach orchard. It’s been inspiring to witness the farm’s progress and the positive impact it’s made for the college and community.”