The sun hangs low in the sky over WE Over Me Farm at Paul Quinn College as a crowd of more than 400 filters onto the football-field-converted-garden-converted-five-star-restaurant. Warm, orange light illuminates the smiles of each guest as they take eager steps out onto the soft earth where the annual “A Community Cooks” event is held. Three years ago, the college turned an unused football field into an organic farm for the residents of the Highland Hills area around the campus where the closest grocery store is five miles away. Now the neighborhoods, as well as local restaurants, have a source for fresh food.
More than 20 chefs from their respective Dallas restaurants showed up to feed the familiar faces of the community. The eclectic range of guests came from all over the Metroplex—Dallas, Plano, McKinney—but earthy landscape, soft music and exceptional food reminded me more of a family reunion. There was even rumored to be a few Austinites present among us. Wattley affectionately referred to her supporters as a “smörgåsbord.” There’s really nothing like phenomenal food to bring people together. Eddie “Lucky” Campbell shook up specialty drinks for guests all night.
Lucky danced and jived as he served up cocktails to the crowds, and his enthusiasm was echoed through the gathering. There’s really something to be said about the whole mission of WE Over Me Farm, which is what brought all these people together. If you haven’t heard the message, farm manager Andrea Bithell lays it out.
The farm, which aims to provide healthy foods to an area that has traditionally lacked a supermarket within walkable distance, sells food at a discounted rate to families in the community. Bithell says you can give someone a few bucks and send them to a fast food dollar menu, but that doesn’t really solve the issue of hunger in low-income communities. Homegrown food does something the fast-food market can’t: It feeds the body and mind, Bithell says. She explains what $2 spent at her farm can do versus a few bucks spent at a fast food joint.
“You can buy a burger off a dollar menu,” Bithell said. “Are you full? Yes. Are you fed? No.”
The farm started in 2009 as a partnership between the school and Pepsi-Cola. It has since produced more than 10,000 pounds of fresh, organic produce. Its mission models off something Bithell calls the “Four C’s”: community, cafeteria, charity and chefs.
The farm gives 10 percent of its sells to charity, as well as feeds 400 to 500 Highland Hills families per week. If those numbers aren’t something to be astounded by, I don’t know what is.
Expect BIG things from this modest, 2-acre farm. And that’s what Dallas is about, right? Expect dishes like braised lamb and spring carrot salad, fresh spring pea soup and strawberry gazpacho made almost exclusively from the fresh produce grown right here on this farm by the students of this college.
As the sun set over the farm and the night came to a close, Paul Quinn President Michael J. Sorrell announced, “One promise: we are just warming up.”
Aimee Pass is a senior at the University of North Texas studying journalism, English, and political science. She has been interning with D Magazine since January. She is a long-time food-lover, first-time food-blogger.