no chemicals necessary

Andrea Bithell scoops up a handful of dirt, puts it in front of her face, and inhales. “Mmm,” she says. “You smell that? That real good mineral-y smell? That’s what you want.” It smells like dirt. But to Bithell, a master gardener who runs a startup gardening company called Oak Cliff Organics, it’s gold. A one-woman operation, Bithell manages the garden at the restaurant Smoke as well as gardens at two Dallas ISD elementary schools. Last year, she took over management of the farm at Paul Quinn College. The small Christian college in South Dallas discontinued its football program two years ago, and turned its football field into a farm. Last fall, Bithell and Paul Quinn students harvested 900 pounds of food. A portion is donated to the community, a portion is used in the school cafeteria, and the rest is sold to chefs, including some in Oak Cliff. The farm’s biggest client is Legends Hospitality Management, which provides cuisine for Cowboys Stadium. All the money earned goes back into the farm, and Bithell has big ideas for it — bees, chickens, a greenhouse, an aquaponics system. A lifelong grower, Bithell started an all-organic diet when she was pregnant with her daughter, who is now 5. That’s also when she quit using chemicals in the garden. Next, she wants to offer rooftop gardens to Oak Cliff businesses.