Excited? Yeah, that’s an understatement.
Getting our little company, Dallas Urban Farms, off the ground has been one of the most exhilarating rides.
Entrepreneurship is definitely not for the weak of heart, mind or spirit.
At the beginning of April we were definitely not prepared for what was in store for us. We’ve been put through the paces, but we wouldn’t change a single moment for the world. After some of the amazing lessons we’ve learned, we thought it might be cool to share our ups and downs. Here’s what’s been going on in our crazy world.
Kind of a Big Deal
We received a couple of emails a while back
from the Dallas Arboretum. Honestly, it felt pretty surreal. That was nothing compared to when we drove in and headed to the administrative offices. If you are familiar with the Dallas Arboretum, you know how beautiful it is.
Jody and the VP of Education, Allyson Marbut discussing future programming at the Arboretum
When we met with the directors of the education department, we had no inkling that they offered so many amazing classes, workshops, and even overseas trips for their members. The classes are surprisingly comprehensive, the classrooms are comfortable, and the setting couldn’t be more engaging. We were blown away when we found out that the Arboretum impacts the lives of over 120,000 students every year, most of which are considered “at-risk”. There are some seriously important things happening there, and we couldn’t be more pleased to support these programs.
So, why were we there?
They’ve asked us to offer hydroponics classes for their adult programming this summer. (whoa.) In 2017 they are launching their 2-acre edible food garden, called A Tasteful Place, which will feature a learning lab and teaching kitchen. This is a great way for Dallas Urban Farms to directly impact the public, and help bring awareness to local food. We’re thrilled about this opportunity, and encourage EVERYONE to visit their website and find something that speaks to your soul. The Dallas Arboretum is a non-profit that does amazing work for the residents of Dallas. You just can’t visit there and leave without a smile on your face.
*sidenote: we almost eloped there, but because of our ever hectic schedule, we missed it by a slim margin, and ended up at White Rock Lake.
Please, support this amazing effort by visiting today, they are open 362 days a year!
Dallas Start Up Week
We really had no idea what this whole “Start Up Week” thing was until we were invited to be involved. Once we got our minds wrapped around it, we realized the impact it was going to have on our lives. It has been an honor to participate in two separate panels for the Social Entrepreneurship track of Dallas Startup Week 2016.
Fail. Learn. Grow.
This panel was one that we were very excited to be included on. We had the opportunity to open up, and be completely raw and transparent with what entrepreneurship is truly like. It can sometimes be an isolated existence for a founder. When you look at the stats on businesses that start and fail, then cross reference that with depression, addiction and suicide, it’s truly shocking.
Fail. Learn. Grow. was started to bring awareness to this very issue. The idea is that failures don’t have to lead to hopelessness. On the contrary, our biggest failures quite frequently lead to our greatest successes. We’ve had our own struggles on our road to
launch that have tried (in vain) to break our spirits. This special time with other entrepreneurs and hopefuls was something that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. How cool is it to have a real connection with an entire audience that understands your struggle and accepts your vulnerability?
Heartfelt Feedback from Fellow Entrepreneurs
So, there’s a lot to be said about community. Specifically the start-up community. We learned that when you open up and share your story, folks are willing to give you insight into how the world perceives you, your brand and your product. As a company that’s focused on making a positive impact in our community through food, this feedback is invaluable to us. Pure gold. It’s humbling to have others who are on very similar paths as us, tell us where we can improve, and where we’ve done a great job. Little wins keep this whole train moving up the mountain, and that’s the truth.
Here’s a GIANT thank you to every single person who took the time to chat with us this week. Your feedback and encouragement means the world to us.
If you haven’t been a part of Dallas Start Up Week before, get it on your to-do list for 2017; it’s transformative. How cool is it to live in a city that embraces this crazy community of ours? A special thank you goes out to Justin Nygren, of The Grove Dallas, and Kimberly O’Neil of Cause Studio for hosting and moderating the panels we were honored to be included on! Our community relies on folks just like these two, check out their sites and show them some love!
Feeding the Need - Dallas Urban Farms and Food Desert Solutions Panel
James Hunter of Paul Quinn College’s ‘We Over Me‘ farm was friendly, knowledgable, and gave insightful answers to the small audience, there to learn about the future of urban farming, and how urban farmers can impact the local food supply for the greater good. We fielded some great questions from a refreshingly educated group, and had an altogether great experience!
Justin Nygren (again, of The Grove) proved himself to be a natural moderator, and I (Max) enjoyed a frosty bottle of coffee.Who knew Dallas Startup Week would offer us such an appropriate topic of discussion? Oh, the surprises life throws your way..
Start Up Week 2016 Wrap Party
Dallas Start Up Week gave us the chance to socialize with other folks in the start-up community. The wrap party was pretty cool for a couple of farmers to go to. It was on the 70th floor of Dallas’ tallest building, and the elevator ride alone made the night feel special. We got all gussied up, and headed downtown for some fun. We got there early, which gave us the unique opportunity to walk the space before it filled up with people. This particular venue allows you to see a 360 degree view of Dallas. This gave us some real perspective. Looking out over the horizon and our city, the North vs South Dallas divide was SO obvious. Perspective really is everything. From up above the noise and politics of the city, you can see that Southern Dallas has North Dallas beat on beauty. The Trinity Forest and the river bed mark the beginning of some of Dallas’ most beautiful land, and some of it’s most neglected communities. This vantage only served to solidify our conviction that we are exactly where we belong in our new location. We had a great time dancing and socializing, but now it’s time to do the real work!
Women Chefs Are Awesome – Meet Janice Neal Provost
Part of our journey so far has been getting to know some of Dallas’ best chefs. One of the amazing new people we are pleased to count as a friend is Chef Janice Neal-Provost. She is one of the co-founders of Cafe Momentum in Downtown Dallas, as well as the chef/owner of Parigi on Oak Lawn. Her style of cooking has won acclaim within the foodie community, and so we simply had to meet her to talk about delicious food. One thing led to another, and the next thing we knew, we were installing some vertical towers in one of Dallas’ coolest back yards, and helping her with some raised beds. We transplanted some mint over to Parigi in the rain, and we’ve been waiting for the earth to dry out a little to tackle a giant grape vine and some bamboo. We’ll keep you posted on the progress!
Our SER Garden at Hilton Anatole – An Update
We had to take two separate cracks at rehabilitating the aeroponic section of the Hilton farm, all with a Dallas Startup Week panel tucked in between. We started early Friday morning, with the intention of finishing with enough time to go home and get ready
for our panel discussion at the The Grove. As it often happens…life happened and our plans changed. We found that the process was going to take a bit longer than we had first anticipated, so we left soaked and dirty, straight to chat about urban farming. How very apropos! After we had an amazing experience chatting with a room of supporters, we headed back over to the Hilton to finish up our task there.
What a great feeling to have it all replanted and growing! We had a great conversation with an aspiring urban farmer, who was in the audience back at The Grove, about everything from lighting to the future of the non-GMO food supply. You’d think that’d be enough for one day, yet we still had the D offices to visit.
Super Cool D Innovates Interview
Michael Gordon is one of the young journalists to pay attention to in Dallas; we had the pleasure of being interviewed by him for Dallas Innovates about how urban farming stands to fundamentally impact the city of Dallas, what trends are co
ming up in the urban farming community, and how Dallasites can participate/co
ntribute to the greater mission. We got the impression that D Magazine and Dallas Innovates lies on the cutting edge of the Dallas market and it’s culture, always looking towards the future and what does the greatest good for our city. We’re ever humbled and grateful for members of the local media that care about our mission and what we’re doing. They are definitely helping us get the word out! Check out his article here.
Something that may seem pretty insignificant to many is huge for us. We want to share a piece of our story to give a little perspective on how different hydroponic farming is from growing food in the dirt. When we started our farm in 2015, we were using vertical aeroponic towers and rock wool as our grow medium. Once we upgraded to our amazing
Bright Agrotech system, we thought we would save some cash by using the rock wool in our new system. Boy, oh boy was that a mistake! This small decision affected our entire business in a pretty major way. We needed the appropriate grow medium, and fast!
Bright Agrotech to the rescue! In less that three days, we had our amazing new Flexi-plugs. Now we’ve got seedlings growing, and racks planted, Finally. We’re so excited about getting the farm thriving, and this was just one of our many hurdles towards getting open and serving our community. Startup founder problems, y’all.
Farm Aid and Patina Green Visit
Social media can be a lot of work if you’re running a start-up, but it can also be one of the coolest
networking tools of this decade. When we got a message from Kaci Lyford, we were thrilled!
We haven’t made it out to Patina Green in McKinney just yet, but it’s been on our to-do list for a while.
She was actually reaching out to set up a time for her to come out with someone from Farm Aid. Yes folks, you read that correctly. Farm Aid. Be still our hearts.
Take just a minute to check out what Willie has been doing for farmers for over 30 years. So. The date was set, and we waited anxiously, like a couple of school kids, nervous and excited. When the SUV pulled up, we watched, mouths open as one after another person filed out of the car. Six people were here to see our little farm shop! Yikes! They couldn’t have been nicer! They listed to our story, checked out the plants, talked food and got to know a little about why we’re doing what we’re doing.
Part of the excitement we’re feeling is because we’re growing up! We started out as a couple who wanted to change the food system. Now we’re tackling the issues head on, and finding new ways to create real change. Our visitor from Farm Aid invited us to a Farm Aid event in Sonoma, CA, and we can’t wait to see where that adventure leads! If you want to come with us, check out the event page here.
Thanks to all of you who have supported us as we’ve grown. We look forward to an amazing summer!