The Gem of Fort Worth

Opal’s Farm is a volunteer-dependent, urban farm that sits east of downtown Fort Worth on 5 acres of fertile land created by the Trinity River. Opal’s Farm is a volunteer-dependent, urban farm that sits east of downtown Fort Worth on 5 acres of fertile land created by the Trinity River. It uses 100% organic farming methods and places emphasis on soil conservation and protecting the environment. Opal’s Farm is named after life-long educator, counselor, and community activist Opal Lee, who is a Fort Worth resident of nearly 90 years.

Opal Lee was born in 1926 in Marshall, TX. At ten years old, she moved to the 7th ward of Fort Worth, which is now known as Terrell Heights. She attended Wylie College for her undergrad and North Texas State University (now UNT) for Masters in Counseling and Guidance. She then went on to teach at Fort Worth ISD for fifteen years and counsel home-schooled students for nine. She met her husband, Dale Lee, in 1967 while teaching at McCoy Elementary School, and he was the principal at Morningside Elementary.

Opal’s dream of creating an accessible source of fresh, nutritious, locally grown foods to combat the “food deserts” in Fort Worth. In an article published by the CDC, a food desert is defined as an area where “residents lack adequate access to fresh fruits and vegetables”. It largely refers to communities that must travel more than 1 mile to reach the nearest grocery store. “A lot of people don’t know what it is to have fresh vegetables. The only choice they have is the convenience or dollar store down the street, and that’s usually a small selection of highly processed junk food void of nutrients”, says Farm Manager Greg Joel.

Southeast Fort Worth lies in a food desert unidentified by the USDA. In the 34.8 square mile area, there are but two grocery stores. Two. Meanwhile, fast-food restaurants and corner stores continue to plague the area with tobacco, alcohol, and processed snacks, which contributes to poor quality of life, and is only worsened by the lack of economic opportunities and transportation options.

But Opal’s ventures in activism don’t stop there. After decades of campaign efforts by Opal, Joe Biden signed Senate Bill S.475, which made Juneteenth an official federal holiday in 2021. For this, she is now known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth”. She is also a founding member of Transform 1012 N. Main Street, a non-profit. In January 2022, it announced the acquisition of a former Ku Klux Klan auditorium. The organization plans to renovate the building and reclaim it as the Fred Rouse Center and Museum for Arts and Community Healing. Fred Rouse is a Black man who was lynched by a Fort Worth mob in 1921.

We thought precious stones took thousands of years to form, but this gem is only 96 and spreading beauty throughout her community. Opal’s Farm is always welcoming new volunteers, so check out their website and follow Opal’s Farm on social media to stay updated on the schedule!

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