Contributed by:
Andrew Moon


Talk About It

About 9 years ago: Robert B.

Check out the DMN Editorial Post on Daron Babcock and the Bonton farm:

Thank you 2014 ELP class for demonstrating to us what the Citizen Architect looks like....

About 8 years ago: Todd H.

Your class has done an excellent job and your commitment to the project is extraordinary. Bonton is an area that has always needed the good work of the design community. Your leadership has gone above and beyond. Congratulations!

2014 AIA Dallas ELP Graduation & Class Project Recap

Learn more about the exciting class project -- Bonton Farm-Works, an urban community garden in southeast Dallas!

Excerpts from speech given by Andrew Moon, AIA at the graduation ceremony of the 2014 AIA Emerging Leaders Program

Tonight is not only a celebration of our leadership class, but also a time to reflect on the accomplishments we have made on our class project. I want to first recognize Daron Babcock who is here with us tonight. For without his vision, we would not have had such an incredible project to work on.

Over the past few months, the class learned some of the basics of urban farming, crop production, and the fact that chickens, worms, and even rabbits are a vital part of a truly sustainable farm system. We also began to understand the plight of the Bonton residents and the real reason behind Daron's agricultural testing lab. We had the pleasure of meeting those the project was intended for and many of the lives his efforts had already touched. For Daron, it has always been about restoring the community one person at a time and giving hope to the neighborhood.  

Bonton is classified as a "food desert" – a geographic area where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to obtain, particularly for those without access to an automobile. Food deserts usually exist in lower-income communities and there is much research that links the residents of these isolated areas to diet-related health problems. This is true for Bonton. And this means those who live in this southeast Dallas neighborhood are in need of access to healthier food options.  

See, for Bonton the statistics are staggering:
• 42% of its residents live below the poverty line
• 1 in 4 children are born to teenage mothers
• 80% of children are born out of wedlock
• Only 53.3% of kids graduate high school
• But most significant are the health-related statistics: Bonton residents have a 54% higher death rate of Cardio-vascular disease, cancer, and diabetes than the City of Dallas

It was out of this need that Daron purchased the vacant lot adjacent to his house in Bonton and planted his little garden.  Since then it has grown (quite literally) and many people continue to stop by to see what is going on at the test farm. The vision now is to expand the garden to a much bigger business, to serve the community by providing fresh produce and also become an economic generator, and job provider within the neighborhood where thriving businesses are nowhere to be found. The idea of Bonton Farm-Works was born with these goals in mind and our class has had the privilege of bringing this project closer to fruition. 

After our first meeting with Daron, we established the priority of tasks and methods for implementation over the course of our class.  Realizing the magnitude and urgency of what needed to be done, we offered a better chance at some hands-on work for everyone in the class by dividing up the project into smaller groups to execute each task. 

It has been said that:

Architects work in two ways. One is to respond precisely to a client's needs or demands.  Another is to look at what the client asks and reinterpret it.  (Rem Koolhaas)

This is exactly what we set out to do.

The biggest priority for Daron and his team was to get the larger, expanded farm site permitted and underway down the street from his house on Bexar Street where the City and other organizations have donated the land to do so. 

Right away the Site #1 team, led by Annelie with Sara, Ingrid, Louis, and Dan, went to work on the farm site, strategically laying out the plans needed to take to the city.  Renderings were also provided for Daron to continue to raise awareness and funds for the project.  

Concurrently, the "City Connections" team headed up by Matt began working with Daron to plan the strategy to gain the support needed to get through the necessary city approval process since it's not every day that commercial greenhouses go up in a residentially-zoned community.  Fortunately one of those early meetings was with the Dallas City Plan Commissioner for Bonton’s district Ms. Ann Bagley, who has remained one of the project's most faithful supporters.  Councilwoman Carolyn Davis has also voiced her support of the project over and over again!

So, more than six months have passed since that first meeting and having overcome many of the obstacles related to such a unique project, I'm pleased to report to you all that just last Friday, November 14th we were able to submit the Planned Development application to the City of Dallas for the proposed Bonton Community Market Garden District!  To our knowledge, this is the first application for a community garden district of its kind within our great city. 

We will continue to keep the AIA leadership and all of you aware of the progress as we make our way through the approval process and as Daron prepares to break ground in time for the growing season next spring.

In addition to the Farm site, the rest of the class spent the last few months producing a schematic design package for the proposed Community Center next to Daron's house and garden that will serve the needs of the Bonton neighborhood. 

This team was led by Scott – with Rickey, Wes, Dan, Tim, Jenna, Orlando, Greg, Julie, Mark, Aggie Paul, Cody, and Lauren.   

This team had a couple charrettes with Daron and Michael Craven of The Good Works Company to identify the building program and design. 

The Lighthouse, as it is called, is a two-story multi-functional flexible gathering space where the neighborhood can meet for community group time, enjoy cooking demonstrations or other outdoor events, a small office and retail space, a living area upstairs for transitional housing, and much needed restroom facilities for those weekends when more than a hundred volunteers come out to help in the garden and around Bonton with neighborhood restoration projects. 

I think they did an excellent job on The Lighthouse design!  And as you can see, a lot is happening in Bonton!

The final group is the Marketing team. They were tasked with establishing the Bonton Farm-Works branding guide for all of our deliverables to the client, and most notably designed the marketing brochure for site #1, and the story boards displayed here tonight. 

This team was led by Randall and Cha-Hyung with Magan, Harvard Paul, and Jake.  These guys have done a great job! 

Many months of planning and many hours of hard work have culminated in the class project work shown tonight. It may be worth noting that at the request of the client we calculated that our class, along with engineering and legal services, donated more than $135,000 of in-kind professional services over the past 8 months.  

So, as you can see, it has truly been a team effort! 

We were able to assemble a team to get the job done and I give our entire class the credit.  Not just the architects, but the engineers, attorney, and especially Daron. This may just be the biggest leadership lesson we have learned and it shows each of us how critical it is to put the right team together to get the task accomplished.