About 30 miles south of downtown Dallas sits a slice of land owned by three Park Cities families but cultivated almost entirely by refugees.
(ABOVE: Land is available for refugees to work at Mars Hill Farm in south Dallas. Courtesy Mars Hill Farms)
Primarily a flower farm, but with areas set aside specifically for growing grass-fed beef, honey, and other vegetables and herbs, Mars Hill Farm exists to hire refugees and give them an environment where they can “acclimate to living in the United States,” said Julia Schwarz.
She and her husband, Blake, own the farm along with Julie and Trevor Farr and Kendall and Jonathan Herb. The couples describe the farm as a way of sharing Jesus Christ’s love.
As an example of the farm’s global reach, two full-time employees are refugees from Homs and Damascus, Syria.
“Our community is full of supportive, compassionate people who care about local farming and the needs of others.” -Julia Schwarz
“As we were getting to know some of the refugees, we came face to face with the difficulties they come up against in trying to find jobs,” Schwarz said. “Many are from agrarian backgrounds, and they know farming, and they love being outside and working the land. But there was really nowhere for them to do that and still stay close to the community and services that Dallas provides.”
Plots of land are offered free of charge with the hope that, eventually, enough people will be working on Mars Hill to provide them full-time work as employees of the farm.
The refugees also help run the Mars Hill Farm booth at different farmers’ markets on the weekends.
Mars Hill officials said they have workers from Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and countries throughout the Middle East.
“Dallas is such a United Nations hub for refugee resettlement from places around the globe,” Schwarz said. “Refugees are often presented as a drain on our economy, but the reality is that they have really valuable skills. They just have no way to use them because of the language differences and other barriers.”
The farm also offers a flower subscription program. Orders are delivered by a refugee employee to houses every week.
The flowers are a favorite in the area and have led to residents also signing up for grass-fed beef deliveries.
“We have had a huge outpouring of support from the community,” Schwarz said. “Our community is full of supportive, compassionate people who care about local farming and the needs of others.”
Schwarz and the other families are hoping the farm will serve as a gathering place for Dallasites to come and meet the refugees.
“We have party rental spaces and special events, and we hope those will bring people in to experience the farm and meet our employees,” Schwarz said. “Our goal is to create a sustainable, for-profit business that will serve the refugee community and give the broader public a place to come and interact with people from all backgrounds.”