Community

Seeds of Change

seeds-of-change

The 2013 Urban Grown Farms & Gardens Tour, hosted by Cultivate Kansas City, celebrates agriculture from the concrete jungle.

Life is about changing with the times, whether it’s what we wear, what we drive or what we eat. Now, urban farmers are working hard to change the way we think about food by showing off the city’s bounty at the Urban Grown Farms & Gardens Tour. The biennial tour, held on June 22-23, promotes fresh, local food grown on farms well within the city limits.

Growth Opportunity

Hosted by Cultivate Kansas City, the tour seeks to motivate participants to learn about locally grown food, support local farmers and learn how to grow food in their respective neighborhoods. The farm tour, which began in 2005 with six farms and 200 participants, has grown to showcase 60 farms and gardens this year with a projected 5,000 tour participants. The tour route mainly lies within the 435-Highway loop but also includes a handful of sites around the 291-Highway corridor.

Ami Freeberg, community outreach coordinator for Cultivate KC, says, “We thought we would cap the tour at 40 farms, but applications kept coming in. We want more people to learn about food and growing food. This is our biggest tour yet, and we hope it will draw the largest amount of interest.”

Crown Garden, a 16-bed raised garden maintained by 75 volunteers that grow food and donate it directly to the adjacent Ronald McDonald House (2502 Cherry), will appear on the tour for the first time. “Just getting on this tour is an honor,” says Caprice Stratton of Crown Garden. “We are proud to show off our hard work.”

“Everything we grow goes right into the kitchen for volunteers to use in preparation of meals for families staying there,” says Stratton. “If it’s not used immediately, the RMH personnel freezes or cans the crops for future use.”

The Crown Garden’s major contribution is producing organic food that is used for the families and seriously ill or injured children. Stratton says, “We feel it’s very important to provide only fresh, organically grown produce for their kitchen.”

Education in the Field

Feeding local people is a common purpose for urban farms and gardens on the tour. Freeberg says, “The tour is a unique service to the community because it educates people of all ages about where our food comes from and the entire growing-to-consuming process.”

Stratton adds, “The most frequent questions people ask the volunteers at Crown Garden are, ‘How long does it take for a crop to mature?’ and ‘How can we compost?’ I think our garden shows how you can successfully enrich your soil by composting. Great soil grows the best food!”

“Our theme this year,” Freeberg says, “is ‘Cultivate the Change,’ and we hope all participants will go home inspired to dig into urban agriculture in their own way.”

Central Connection

This year, the self-guided farm tour will have a central hub for the first time located at Ruiz Library (2017 West Pennway). Participants can purchase tickets there or online at Cultivate KC, speak to experts about tour sites, join a bike tour group to visit the farms and learn more about what’s happening in Kansas City’s food and farming movement.

Freeberg says, “You can taste and feel the difference when you have that connection with where your food comes from.”

Cultivate Kansas City and the people involved in this tour encourage people to learn where and how their food is growing. Who picked it? Were pesticides used?

Where did it grow?

“Most people don’t consider these things when they shop at grocery stores,” Freeberg says. “People who grow food are passionate about it because they know the work that goes into it. The only way we’re going to change how people think about food is for them to see it.

Kansas City’s Tour de Farm

In essence, the tour encourages people to connect with local food sources and the people producing lettuce, beans, cucumbers and other produce. A sense of community begins to form by asking questions, having conversations, learning and sampling fresh food. Many of the sites will feature cooking demonstrations by local chefs, live music and fun, learning activities for the whole family.

This week-long event, which kicks off June 15, is packed with daily activities like expert-led how-to workshops, eat local night at farm-to-table restaurants and a keynote address by New York Times columnist, cookbook author and leading thinker in the food and agriculture community, Mark Bittman. The workshops cover topics like raising urban chickens, growing food in small places and cooking with the seasons.