The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) department joined host Kimberly High at Joppy Momma’s Farm in south Dallas for a Groundbreaking Ceremony for a USDA People’s Garden.
Story and photos by: Dee Ann Littlefield, Public Affairs Specialist, Henrietta, Texas
The USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) department joined host Kimberly High at Joppy Momma’s Farm in south Dallas to house a Groundbreaking Ceremony for the USDA People’s Garden grant awarded to the farm. Over 75 community members, fellow urban farmers and agency representatives attended the Nov. 18 event.
The event was held at Joppy Momma’s farm which High has had in production since 2021. The grant will help expand the farm’s operation with the addition of a high tunnel and rainwater catchment system which will help increase the farm’s contribution to urban agriculture and the community.
People’s Gardens engage the community to grow fresh, healthy food and support a resilient local food system, teach people how to garden using sustainable practice, nurture habitat for pollinators and wildlife, and provide greenspace for neighbors to gather and enjoy.
“The garden is a model of what local gardens can do to build community, grow local and nutritious food, nurture greenspace, and inspire people through the experience of preparing healthy food,” said NRCS Texas State Conservationist Kristy Oates in her remarks to the group. “We are proud to partner with Kim and her passionate pursuit of creating access to fresh produce and even classes on how to prepare dishes with them to allow families to choose a healthier diet.”
High shared that her entire family has suffered from diabetes. She lost both her parents and a brother to complications with the disease and she and her three remaining brothers also have the disease, with one brother having a leg amputated as a result. After receiving the diagnosis of being an insulin-dependent diabetic 10 years ago, Kim left a 32-year career in the insurance business to make growing healthy food her full time job.
She helped start the now highly successful Bonton Farms in Dallas, as well as was the manager of the high-profile community garden on the former football field at Paul Quinn College. Two years ago, Kim started her very own urban farm on property that was her grandmother’s in the south Dallas community of Joppa. She explained that all the people in the community of Joppa called her grandmother “Joppy Momma” because she welcomed them all at any time. Kim’s goal when she started the urban farm was to make healthy food readily available in the neighborhood.
“I committed to growing good food and eating a healthy diet, learning new ways to prepare the food I was growing,” High told the crowd. “I was twice daily insulin dependent, but I changed my diet, and it changed my life. I have been in diabetic remission now for seven years because of healthy eating. Food really can change your life.”
Dr. Philip Huang, DCHHS director, spoke about the importance of a healthy diet as they key to longevity and feeling well. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price spoke about the community of Joppa and the high level of poverty as it relates to health and access to nutritious food. Joppa is in what is considered a “food desert” because of a lack of stores that sell healthy and affordable food to in the community. “This farm and Mrs. Kim are changing that,” Price stated.
Through her decade long experience building and growing community gardens, Kim has frequently worked with the NRCS staff, especially Urban Conservationist Michael Brooks, mostly for technical assistance. Michael helped Kim with soil testing, nutrient management planning, irrigation, crop rotation, mulching and more.
After the groundbreaking part of the ceremony, attendees were able to watch a rainfall simulator demonstration which vividly illustrated what happens what the raindrops fall on the ground under different conditions. Michael’s management scenarios included compost, ground with grass cover, ground with residue management and ground with no cover and bare soil exposed. The audience was amazed at how clear the water runoff was from the cover crop and how much water was retained in the compost sample. Everyone agreed they would not want to drink the muddy water with soil particles that ran off from the bare ground example. Michael and his team also had an inflatable soil tunnel on site to give guests an “underground tour” of the vital role soils play in food protection and environmental health.
USDA is working to increase urban agriculture as it plays an important role in growing not only fresh, healthy produce, but also providing jobs, beautifying their neighborhoods, and offering access to fresh, healthy food in areas where grocery stores are scarce. Visit the USDA People’s Garden website for more information. Visit Home - Joppy Momma's Farm (joppymommasfarm.org) for more information on location and hours of operation.