When you think of the State Fair of Texas, the first thing that comes to mind might be a 55-foot talking cowboy named Big Tex®, getting a Fletcher’s® Original Corny Dog, or riding the Texas Star® Ferris wheel.
But did you know your visit helps give back to the community? As a nonprofit organization, the State Fair of Texas’ annual exposition serves as its largest fundraiser for the year. While enjoying all the fun, entertainment, and fried food the Fair offers, your visit helps benefit the community too. And that’s a good thing!
The State Fair of Texas Signature Initiatives
The Fair has brought in more than 2.2 million patrons, raising millions of dollars for its signature programs. The State Fair of Texas has several signature initiatives, such as Big Texas Urban Farms, the Big Tex Scholarship Program, and more, as an effort to give back to the community.
Buying a ticket to the annual State Fair of Texas means hundreds of fun things to do and see with your family and friends – that ticket means even more to our community. When you visit the Fair, you are helping to support and uplift the mission of the State Fair of Texas, which is to promote agriculture, education, and community involvement.
Big Tex Urban Farms Gives Back to South Dallas
One key initiative, Big Tex Urban Farms, has recently reached a significant milestone in its program history, reaching its goal of providing one million servings of fresh produce to the South Dallas community.
Revolutionizing Urban Farming
Located in the heart of Fair Park, the Errol McKoy Greenhouse is the home for Big Tex Urban Farms – a revolutionary mobile agriculture system started by the Fair in 2016 compromised of portable planting beds, hydroponic systems, and a Nutrient Film Technique system (NFT).
This unique process has revolutionized urban farming by providing a sustainable model to combat food deserts and shortages. Many neighborhoods surrounding Fair Park are categorized as food deserts by the USDA. These are low-income areas with limited access to personal vehicles or public transit and no grocery stores within a mile. The Fair’s program started in 2016 with 100 raised planter beds in a parking lot near the Fair’s administration building in Fair Park and has grown exponentially. They constantly strive to grow with the community’s needs and cultivate produce crops such as lettuce, cucumbers, micro-greens, tomatoes, and more.
“Each person attending the State Fair of Texas is an integral part of our program. With the help of our fellow community members, we’re able to continue to grow and help serve the surrounding neighborhoods,” said State Fair of Texas Director of Horticulture Drew Demler. “We’ve come a long way from where we started, and we’re looking forward to producing our next million servings for our community.”
Donating Produce to Nonprofits
As part of the State Fair of Texas’ efforts to give back to South Dallas, 100 percent of the produce grown at Big Tex Urban Farms is donated to various local nonprofit organizations and initiatives focused on hunger issues and healthy lifestyle programs, such as Baylor Scott & White Health and Wellness Institute at the Juanita J. Craft Community Center, Bonton Farms, and Jubilee Park Community Center, to name a few.
The Farms shares its passion for growth with the community by helping to establish dozens of community gardens in the area surrounding Fair Park.
The State Fair of Texas encourages all ticketholders to visit the greenhouse during their visit to see the farm and learn more about the program.
Big Tex Scholarship Program Supports Students
Another signature program that personifies the Fair’s mission to celebrate agriculture, education, and community involvement is the Big Tex Scholarship Program. Since its launch in 1992, the Big Tex Scholarship Program has awarded more than $16.1 million in college scholarships to more than 3,000 students throughout the Lone Star State.
The program consists of several different scholarship awards, including the following:
- State Fair of Texas Juanita Craft Scholarship
- State Fair of Texas Seasonal Employee Scholarship
- Youth Livestock Scholarship
- Several ancillary scholarships
Each student is awarded a $6,000 grant that renews each semester if the student meets the criteria for renewal. Tied to its mission, the Big Tex Scholarship Program supports students and helps them pursue their goals through higher education.
“The Big Tex Scholarship will help me with my future goals of becoming an immigration lawyer, debt-free,” said 2022 Juanita Craft Scholarship recipient Callie Welty. “This experience was tremendously valuable in helping me not only find my major for college but also my passion and purpose.”
When Does the State Fair of Texas Start?
The 2023 State Fair of Texas opens Friday, September 29, and runs through Sunday, October 22. To learn more about the State Fair of Texas, visit BigTex.com.