What Can We All DO to Heal the Racial Divide in America

Bonton Farms, located in is Dallas Texas, is driven by “the mission to restore lives, create jobs, and ignite hope in a once forgotten and neglected neighborhood with some of the most marginalized people.” This remarkable place is so much more than an urban farm. It is hope, health, opportunity, employment, nutrition, education, community, and so much more. It has redefined what community means to the poor and homeless of Dallas. In this episode, hear from the inspirational founder of Bonton Farms, Daron Babcock. He shares his passion for the community, how it all began, and how Bonton can serve as a guide for cultivating change in impoverished communities all across America. “Investing in the soil yields healthy plants; investing in the soul yields healthy people.” -Daron Babcock. Learn more about how to visit and support this cause at https://bontonfarms.org/

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Ron:

Welcome to the show, Daron.

 

Daron:

Thank you, Ron. It’s an honor to be here.

 

Ron:

I guess our paths crossed about three years ago.

 

Daron:

Yes, sir.

Ron:

I’ve been following you on social media for the last three years. And you know, back to some of the things we share in common, I mean, we both lost wives at an early age and let me say losing a wife like we did in cancer will make you go a little crazy and I didn’t pick any fights because I’m a chicken and I got knocked out in high school. And I know you were a wrestler… but I did sit naked in my backyard drinking wine and smoking cigars until my homeless friend made me put some clothes on and get back in the house. So anyway, let’s get started here has a guy like you living in an upscale neighborhood 30 miles north of Bonton even know that it exists?

 

Daron:

Well, I had a friend of mine that was at a ministry down in this neighborhood and another friend invited me down here one day, and I came down just I think mostly out of curiosity, to find out what was going on. And you know how it goes you when you first come down, you probably might be a bit anxious, a little bit apprehensive, and also a bit curious. And then all of a sudden, you see this beauty in people and in some ways, when I realized that I had been swimming naked… you know, there’s this old saying shows when the tide goes out, you can see who’s been swimming naked. And so, you know, I had been operating in this world and being a part of a community and as part of my recovery has been giving back. I mean, I don’t know how to stay sober aside from a part of that journey is serving. And so I was always trying to find something to do to serve. And when I came to Bonton, I realized I got slapped in the face with the reality of how ignorant I was to the plight of so many of my brothers and sisters, and neighbors in Dallas. And I think it was a two prong thing. I fell in love with these men that I first started getting the opportunity to build relationships with. I saw so much in them that was like me and where I had been. The difference was when I was at my darkest, my family and friends came and carried me when I couldn’t carry myself. I had given up but they didn’t give up. And I met these men that had been through more probably in their life, most of them than I had been through by the time they were one… than I’ve been through my entire life, and they were still standing and I had such admiration for their resiliency, but they also just didn’t have that support group fighting for them. And I felt like that’s what God, I felt like a tug in me that was pulling me here that was out of this world. It was an inner thing. It was a spiritual thing. And, you know, I don’t understand it. But my Bible says that God’s the same yesterday, today and forever. And he is consistently known for using foolish people to do amazing work. And I feel like I resemble that remark. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. And he has me here in some ways, because I don’t know and I’m not capable, and I have to depend on him every day to get through this.

 

Ron:

Well, you got into your ministry a little bit differently than I did. I did because my late wife’s final request. In fact, the last thing she ever said to me before she transferred on her passport to heaven. She said, Please don’t give up on Denver. God is gonna bless your friendship in a way you can never imagine, so she gave me a job to do. And I ran from that job for about a year until, you know, God got a hold of me and, and told me that I was doing exactly the opposite of what she asked me to do. So I decided I would go back and try to start doing that. But I do know where you’re coming from when you say, giving back is what we are. I feel like that we owe all of this to God for the forgiveness and mercy that he has shown us and the life that he has given us.

But I know that going back to the days you grew up in Amarillo… And I know that you and I both shared something that we kind of got inspired by our grandfathers on the grandfather’s farm because my grandfather was my hero, but my father was an alcoholic and not much of a father. But my grandfather was my hero. So he inspired me and I grew up with on a farm, so I’ve always kind of wanted to get back to the farm as well. And that’s why when, when I hear about Bontonfarms, it makes me want to get my hands in the dirt down there.

 

Daron:

So yeah, you know, I was fortunate enough to have a great father and amazing grandparents all the way around. I’ve just been so fortunate to have a really strong, beautiful family that is, is if they were the definition of the word, there’d be a picture of him there. But my father was smart enough to know that what the farm instilled in him and his life. And so while he, we grew up in the city of Amarillo, he was smart enough to send me to the farm in the summers to learn about life. And so you know, that planted something in me that I think those of us that had the privilege of experiencing that will never be able to shake that and nor do we want to.

 

Ron:

You know, some of the best days of my life were spent horseback in the palander canyon on the ranch and used to go there every year at work for the spring round up. So I love that. I love that part of the world; people sometimes don’t understand West Texas until you know it’s in your blood, you live there…

Back to Bonton… what is the reason for Bonton exists, give us a picture of Bonton for those listeners who don’t know it.

 

Daron:

You know, I think the important thing to say is background, right? I mean, I can tell you that in our community, you know, we’re a community that struggles. So much so that a couple of things when I first started coming down here, you couldn’t come into this neighborhood unless somebody brought you here. And it didn’t matter if you were white or black. If you’re not from the neighborhood, you couldn’t come into the neighborhood. And it was so rough that the city decided that it needed to rebrand it, they changed the name of our neighborhood. And, and so that was what that was kind of what Bonton was known for is this really rough, violent, broken place. We have about half our kids will graduate high school and about half will go to prison before their 25th birthday. We have the second-highest teen birth rate in the city. It’s been a food desert for a half a century. So we suffer from more than double the rate of cancer and stroke and heart disease and diabetes and childhood obesity than the county we’re in. And I could go on. But the important thing to understand is that we get what we created. You know, Bonton was formed after the Emancipation Proclamation where freed slaves were trying to find a place to live. We’re on the banks of the Trinity River. So a lot of freed men’s communities were built along the river because it was a floodplain and nobody would harass them here. And so that’s how Bonton started. And as Dallas city center started forming, people from our community and others around it started trying to get closer to downtown to take advantage of jobs and that was not allowed at the time and they started bombing them. And originally they referred to this part of town as bomb town after those bombings, and after that the mayor at the time was a mayor savage tried to get public housing down here to keep the colored folks where he said they belong. And we got two public housing developments here, in a floodplain, where it flooded every year and they put gates to keep the water in when it would flood. This is how our community was born. And so when I give those statistics of the brokenness of our community, I always want to go back, it’s not the people we created this place that produces a broken product that produces people that have overcome and fall for opportunities and, and for their place in this world. And so when I got introduced, I had a bunch of friends that started saying, We need help, and we want to do better, but we don’t know where to get started. And that was an invitation for us to start talking about what we could envision the future to be like. And we’ve been working from that day till now to build the future that we want, not what others built.

Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with Daron Babcock!