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Proving A Farm Can Redefine An Urban Community
Have you ever heard of a “food desert?” Let our guest, Trog Trogdon, Vice President of Bonton Farms educate you on what it is exactly and why it matters.
The work being done in the Bonton Community of Dallas is an excellent example of local residents taking action to better the health of a community.
“Now you got all these people working together, coming together, and eating together – and now that’s a blessing by itself to me.”– Bonton Community Member
This model is a great example of private citizens working together in conjunction with local businesses to better a community.
Our Conversation with Trog
AMP: Most people aren’t familiar with what a “food desert” is. Can you tell our readers what it is exactly and more importantly the effect it has on a community and specifically Bonton?
TROG: A “Food Desert” is any community (with over 500 people) that does not have a grocery store (access to healthy food) within a 1-mile radius. Typically in “food deserts,” the rates of diabetes, cancer, strokes, and heart disease are significantly higher than in other areas. Compound this with a lack of transportation, and you have severe health problems.
In Bonton, our nearest grocery store is roughly three miles away. On top of this, 63% of our people do not have transportation.
Therefore, we have double and triple the rates of cancer, strokes, diabetes and heart disease than the city and the county of Dallas.
In order to get groceries in Bonton, it takes about 3 hours round trip and you can’t purchase ice cream, meat or any other perishable items that would be ruined by the trip itself. So, our neighbors shop at the local liquor stores and live on out-dated, higher-priced, processed food thereby increasing their risk of preventable diseases.
Because of that, the cardiovascular disease rate here is 54% higher than the rest of Dallas, and the rate for diabetes is 45% higher and 58% higher for cancer — so we knew we had our work cut out for us.Daron Babcock, Founder of Bonton Farms
AMP: Can you share how the farm has grown from a small garden next to the founders’ home to a full-time working farm with a newly opened market?
TROG: Daron Babcock moved down to Bonton about 8 years ago to work with a ministry called H.I.S. Bridgebuilders. He quickly realized the incredible need for jobs and healthy food.
In fact, if you divide Dallas in half by Woodall Rogers, 98% of the jobs are North and 2% of jobs are in South Dallas. So Daron planted a garden and began to work with a few guys in the neighborhood.
I came on board a bit later and we began building more infrastructure and added chickens and other farm animals to the garden. Then Habitat for Humanity donated a couple of lots, the city donated a couple more, a private owner sold us another and then a church sold us another and we ended up with 1.2 acres on the end of Bexar St.
After successfully growing food, creating more jobs and igniting hope in Bonton, a businessman donated 40 acres to us about 15 minutes away and then we began to see even more needs in the community that we could help with.
In 2017 we became our own ministry and we started to broaden our efforts to help people holistically with not only food and jobs but in education, housing, finances, and transportation.
Now with the opening of The Market at Bonton Farms, we have created over 30 jobs, host cooking classes, Bible studies and much more including initiatives in every area I just mentioned. And, we were the first restaurant to open in Bonton in decades and are technically no longer a food desert!
AMP: In this time, what positive changes have you seen in the community?
TROG: Options for School: Thirty children ages 4-6 will begin studying at a private Christian school this year.
Transportation Increase: Over eight people have earned their drivers licenses and also have acquired cars.
Homelessness is Decreasing: We have created a pathway from homelessness to homeownership within 15 years and our first potential homeowner just moved into our first of three houses on June 3rd!
Financial Fortitude: Every person in our program develops a budget and gets a bank account if they would like one.
In short, I would say that there is more hope, more pride and there are more options for people to survive rather than going back to the streets and old ways.
AMP: Do you currently have any partnerships with the medical community who are providing services to Bonton residents? If so, what does this look like and what difference is it making?
TROG: Over the past five years we have reached out to our personal friends in the medical industry for help… doctors, dentists, etc. but in the past six months, we have partnered with The Agape Clinic who provide a full-service of medical services for the people that work with us. We have also partnered with The Root Cause in order to increase awareness of diabetes, catch it early and coach people through a healthier way of living if they are already suffering from it.
We have also been in conversations with Baylor Scott & White and other organizations to help us facilitate nutrition classes and other offerings for our community.
AMP: Hope is a powerful thing. There have probably been many lives changed by the farm and the hope it has provided. Can you share one specific example of the change you’ve seen?
TROG: The gentleman that manages our 40 acres two years ago was living with his parents, estranged from his children, in a house next to our farm and struggling with addiction.
He decided to go to rehab and nine months later was completely sober and he had also given his life to Christ and gotten baptized. On top of that we hired him immediately after he completed rehab, helped him get his drivers license and a car, we paid off his court fees, helped him get a place to stay and he even got a bank account.
He is now managing the 40 acres and is rebuilding his family relationships.
AMP: On your website, you state that Bonton’s cardiovascular disease rate is 54% higher than that of the city of Dallas. Diabetes is 45% higher. Stroke is 61% higher and cancer is 58% higher. What change are you seeing in these alarming statistics?
TROG: We honestly don’t have these statistics yet but we hope to in the years to come.
I think awareness is the key right now. Everybody in the community is talking about health and what they need to do better.
Through The Root Cause, we have two people in the community that are trained diabetic consultants & many neighbors have been screened.
Milton, one of our long-time neighbors gets his blood pressure and blood sugar checked regularly. Many of our people have had significant dental issues fixed. Kim (who originally managed our Extension) got off all of her insulin etc. after working with us and learning more about diabetes and her condition.
Just three years ago, when we would give our tours, most people we spoke to had never heard of a “Food Desert,” today almost all our volunteers (from Dallas) are at least familiar with the term. This is a big win. Also, many other gardens and farms are popping up throughout our city.
AMP: If someone wanted to learn more about the farm, what is the best way to contact you?
TROG: For general information, we have several youtube videos and a website:
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsdYUXVTv5PSY0C5YbV5IlwWebsite: www.bontonfarms.org
They can also contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Growing up on a dirt road in a small town in southwest Missouri gave Trog a love for nature and God’s creation at a young age. After graduating high school, he attended Campbell University in North Carolina where he earned his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in Business Administration. After finishing his degrees, Trog came to Texas for a business opportunity, but the Lord had different plans. Over the past decade, he has served in multiple ministry endeavors, such as being a Cares Team with Apartment Life Ministries, helping plant a church in Frisco, and being a Discipleship Minister with Christ Church Plano. He now serves as an urban missionary in south Dallas as the VP of Bonton Farms where he invests his time in God’s creation, growing food and making disciples.
Trog is married to a beautiful woman named Mendi and has three children, Sevyn, Rok, and Truth. If you get to spend time with him, you will often hear him talking about seeking first the Kingdom, losing your life in order to save it, and the importance of discipleship. He is passionate about helping the poor, feeding the hungry, and sharing his faith in Christ.