J500 Media and the Environment

Benefits of Local and Organic for the Community by brennad87


KCCUA: A place where all Americans are brought to the field and the table

KCCUA is like the Thanksgiving table: a place where all Kansas City residents can come together

There is nothing more American than Thanksgiving when Americans of all colors and religions gather around dinners symbolizing the first Thanksgiving. On that historic day, Pilgrims and Indians broke bread at the same rough-hewn table.  The table, however, was not where they first interacted. They first worked together in the fields. The story goes that Squanto reached out to the starving newcomers. His people taught the pilgrims how to grow squash and corn and beans; how to survive in a harsh land. The two groups were probably suspicious at first, but over wet earth and hoes, over back-aches and beanpoles, they came together in this act of making life-sustaining food.

Our quintessential American holiday is still about harvest and community, about sharing food and growing it together. Wouldn’t it be nice if all of America still had that spirit? But these days, big business strips the caring and interaction from food production.

Not so at the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture. In my visits to the center, I watched diverse Kansas City residents interact with each other at all levels of food production. I saw a six-year-old help with planting. I saw mother and son lend a hand in washing vegetables, and I saw customers visit KCCUA’s market stall on a bright Saturday morning. Community and food production are one and the same at KCCUA, just like at Plymouth Plantation.

KCCUA doesn’t exist off of the grid in a hippy land. Instead, it is a successful part of the local economy: providing stable jobs and adding to community wealth and self-reliance. As a small, independent business, KCCUA exemplifies an American ideal. Moreover, KCCUA promotes vitality and interaction within the Kansas City community through farmer’s apprenticeship programs and community events.

“At its heart, our movement for local living economies is about love,” wrote Judy Wicks, author of Good Morning, Beautiful Business. “Business has been corrupted as an instrument of greed rather than used to serve the public good. You know that business is beautiful when we put our creativity, care and energy into producing products and services our community needs.”

The farmers at KCCUA make it their business to foster and feed the Kansas City community, bringing together people as diverse as those who gathered at the first Thanksgiving table. In that act, the farm exemplifies the true culture of America. 

— Brenna Daldorph, group 3

Image courtesy of http://fragranceoftruth.wordpress.com

Building a Community, Educating the Future by marybethw

We constantly hear that youth are our future, but what will that future look like with the ever-increasing disconnect between our food and ourselves? A number of local, urban farmers are fighting that future, by providing youth an opportunity to relearn our food. During the summer you’ll find youth working the fields, rows, and greenhouse at J-14 Agricultural Enterprises, Troostwood Youth Garden, and Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomatoes.

At all three establishments, the education does not just happen while digging the soil. Joe Jennings, at J-14, has a rainy day “classroom” where youth can learn widely about biology, ecology, and botany. At Troostwood, Ericka Wright’s workers receive stipends for school materials and some have continued the lessons learned in the garden while in college. The Kurlbaum’s have used their tomato profits to put one of their children through school and they have plans to start scholarship gardens, the profits from which would go towards college tuition.


By working, whether as volunteers or as a summer job, both the youth and the community benefit from these operations. Studies show that youth reap many positive benefits from volunteering. The communities also reap benefits from urban farms. In providing fresh produce the farms provide health benefits and the local economy receives a boost when food dollars stay in the community.

With these and other urban farms, perhaps our food future is not as bleak. The youth who work these farms know where their food comes from, what’s in it, and how tasty it is. Perhaps they can then spread their knowledge; as Troostwood’s Wright says, “Out of the mouths of babes….”

~ Mary Beth Woodson, Group 4 blog post

Youth volunteers photo credit.

Food for Everyone by marybethw

There are as many different types of consumers of local food as there are different types of urban farmers and different types of food grown. Consumers with different needs can all benefit from urban farming. Three farms on the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture farm tour explain this perfectly. Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomatoes, J-14 Agricultural Enterprises and the Troostwood Youth Garden and provide food for many different kinds of people. 


Kurlbaum’s heirloom tomatoes are sold locally at McGonigal’s, Brookside Market, and many Kansas City restaurants including Michael Smith’s in the crossroads, Café Trio in midtown and Webster House downtown. By selling to many different places Co-owner Liz Kurlbaum can have better control over the price and feed a larger group of people.  While this urban farmer chooses to sell their product mostly to restaurants, Joe Jennings at J-14 Agricultural Enterprises has a different approach.

Jennings has developed a community based CSA where potential customers can pay 300$ for up to 500 pounds of produce. Extra food is taken to elderly community members, including some in nursing homes. Jennings also uses some of the food grown for his family.

The Troostwood Youth Garden is the only place that fresh vegetables are available in the busy Paseo Blvd. neighborhood in Kansas City.  This local produce can be bought there Monday through Saturday before dark. Troostwood feeds the community as well as educates them about the importance of eating healthy and knowing where food really comes from.

These different urban farms show that everyone can eat well with the help of urban farmers. Whether someone is eating at a restaurant, buying a large supply of food for their family, or trying to find something fresh in a busy neighborhood, urban farming is helping people enjoy food that is local, healthy and delicious.

~ Tyler Waugh, Group 4 blog post

Farmer’s market photo credit.

Location, Location, Location by marybethw

Farming no longer has to be about fields and barns. Right in middle of an urban district, on a plot of land next to a storefront or parking lot, an urban garden can sprout and bring a new source of food and sense of community. The saying in real-estate is location, location, location, but urban agriculture ignores such advice and finds a way to flourish. 3458926655_210dc3dfcf1

Deep in the suburbs, urban farmers have an opportunity to grow vegetable inside and transfer them to their yards when the seedlings are ready. Suburban homes are typically bigger and easier to climate control. Any room in the house, even the basement, can be turned into a grow area with some inexpensive grow lamps and tables. That’s how Liz and Sky Kurlbaum — of Kurlbaum’s Heirloom Tomatoes — operate their business. In their basement, right next to their washer and dryer, the Kurlbaums have traded in a table to fold their clothes on, for a make-shift greenhouse that supports thousands of seedlings. If suburban farmers are worried about the electric bill, it’s possible to start seeds in small, starter containers available at any garden store.

Right outside the city is also an ideal location to start an urban farm. For starters, land tends to be less expensive and more acreage tends to be available, not to mention more manageable. On a small farm about 15 minutes from downtown Kansas City, Joe Jennings of J-14 Agricultural Enterprises grows a wide variety of veggies as well as some fruit using about 8 acres. Because of the space available, Joe is even able to occasionally raise select livestock to complement his produce such as pigs.

Urban agriculture has previously had to fight to overcome the image that farming is something that has to be done in the country and brought into the city. Even a vacant lot, entirely surrounded by concrete can make the perfect urban farm. The Troostwood Youth Garden, located on Paseo Boulevard, fits this description precisely: It’s situated on a traffic-jammed street between houses and the occasional gas station. A major advantage (but disadvantage to the neighborhood) is that the Troostwood Youth Garden has very few produce competitors. Urban neighborhoods lacking grocery stores or farmers market sincerely reap the benefits of such a community center that promotes healthy eating. Neighboring Rockhurts university realised this and has supported the garden since its germination in 1999.

~ Bryan Dykman, Group 4 blog post

Urban corn photo credit.

Huns Garden Offers Homegrown Healing by alyv

When Pov (pronounced Paul) Huns heard that his neighbor’s granddaughter had been sick for two weeks and was running a fever, he knew just what to do.

He walked down to a little patch in his 4-acre garden next door and found a tall, green herb. He cut a few stalks and carried them up the hill to his neighbor’s house. He knocked, and his neighbor, Dawn Beckett, opened the screen door.

Urban farmer, Pov Huns

Urban farmer, Pov Huns

“Boil these in four cups of water for 10 or 15 minutes,” he said, handing her a fistful. He told her the herb, lemongrass, makes a tea that would make her granddaughter, Leanna, feel better.

Dawn did as Pov instructed and today claims that Leanna’s fever fell 20 minutes after drinking the tea.

“I know it works,” Dawn said. “I trust him over a doctor. I can’t say nothin’ but the best about ‘im.

Leanna, 9, still drinks the herbal tea, and says it’s delicious.

But Pov said he was just doing what his grandpa taught him to do in Laos, before Pov and his family were forced to leave the country as political refugees.

Born Zoou Pov Huns on April 6, 1966, Pov grew up in the rural hill town of Ban Nam Tao, Laos. Pov would know this home for only nine years.

In 1975, Pov, his mother, father and six younger brothers escaped to a refugee camp in Thailand. He spent the next five years of his life in the Ban Vinai camp with about 45,000 other refugees.

The Huns came to America in 1980, eventually settling in Fresno, Calif., where Pov finished high school and graduated from junior college and a vocational school. Although he pursued degrees in medicine and chemistry, he wasn’t able to afford the cost to finish his degrees and stopped a year short of completing his schooling. He settled in Kansas with his wife, Lor Chaxamone, in 1996.

It wasn’t until 2004, after he and his wife had welcomed four children into the world- Tzouapang, 13; Victoria, 12; Bryan, 10; and Charles, 8  – that Pov bought the vacant lot, 4730 Metropolitan Ave., Kansas City, Ks., where his farm now grows.

Pov said his initial intent was to use the land to build a new house for his family, but as the housing market started to sour and his cholesterol began to climb, Pov decided to turn the lot into a farm, where he could grow food for his family, and make himself healthier.

Pov plants lettuce in the rows between his wife's irises.

Pov plants lettuce in the rows between his wife's irises.

Pov said he especially needed the antioxidants naturally found in food, which are lost when produce is shipped over long distances.

“If you’re looking for nutrients, healthy eating isn’t enough any more,” he said. “Stores don’t have foods with antioxidants. When you buy local, the antioxidants stay with the food.”

Today, Pov’s farm grows 40 different vegetables, most of which have unique health benefits: Epazote, or “Mexican basil,” to reduce gas; bitter melon (which, Dawn warned, is really bitter) to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar; and bitter eggplant to ease the pain of menstrual and postpartum cramps.

Although Pov grows herbs for today’s common ailments, his farming methods are anything but ordinary.

“Let’s put it this way,” he said. “Most of what I do is the opposite of what you’re told to do.”

Pov works 4 acres of land yet doesn’t use a single drop of water to irrigate – he lets Mother Nature take care of that.

Farmers are told to plant onions 8-to 12-inches a part. Pov plants a bulb every 2 inches, then lets the onions pop themselves out of the ground. Because of this, Pov said he can harvest about 400 onions in 20 minutes.

The most notable feature of Pov’s unorthodox farming is the abundance of weeds sprinkling his land, some of which grow shoulder-high. The practice, he is told by friends and visitors, would make some ancestors turn in their graves. But to Pov, weeds are just “natural nitrogen.”

“It’s common practice for Americans to keep weeds out, and I’m the one that says keep the weeds in,” he said. “I don’t add fertilizer. I add weeds.”

Pov also puts his unsold vegetables back onto the farm as fertilizer.

“Whatever Mother Natures gives us, that’s what we take,” he explained. “Take only what you need and use. All the excess, return it back to the ground.”

Pov uses string from the dollar store to help his peas grow tall.

Pov uses string from the dollar store to help his peas grow tall.

Pov knows there isn’t a lot of money in farming – he made a net income of about $895 last year from the farm. But he said the money doesn’t matter to him. Pov farms for his health; he farms for his family; he farms for his neighbors and anyone else who desires more natural treatment for illnesses.

And, he said, he farms for fun.

By Aly Van Dyke

More photos found here.

Find out more about the urban farmers in Kansas City at the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture Web site. Visit its blog for informationa about the KC Urban Farms and Gardens Tour.

Victory In Vogue by mackenzies09

Victory Gardens are a hot topic right now. As Angela Greene, creator of the Salt of the Earth Youth Garden, puts it, “they’re definitely in vogue.”

Vintage Vogue Magazine Cover

Vintage Vogue Magazine Cover

As the days get warmer and the price of everything gets higher, many people decide to do more than just consume. They create. A Victory Garden can provide enough fresh produce, flowers and herbs to feed a family with enough left over to share with neighbors. You can even throw a chic dinner party for your hippest friends. Plus, there are lots of ways to get creative with your garden.

Some growing trends of the moment are tea or dye gardens, wine and beer gardens, cuisine themed gardens and using eco-friendly and recycled gardening products.

Cuisine gardens offer growers a steady supply of just the right ingredients for a series of delicious meals. For Chinese meals you‘ll want mung beans, bok choy, water chestnuts, Chinese parsley, snow peas, and ginger. For Mexican inspired dishes try tomatoes, jalapenos, bell peppers, onion, and cilantro. And a Thai palette will require kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chives, ginger, and cilantro.

A wine-pairing garden is a popular choice for enthusiasts of spirits. Red wine enthusiasts will want to grow tomatoes, eggplant, sage and olives. Melons, citrus fruits and apples are delicious options for white wine lovers.

But before you begin planning your home-grown meals, you’ll need some tools. One of the most convenient and cost effective ways to begin is by looking at what you already own. Look through your kitchen, garage and basement for items that can be recycled as garden pots, raised beds, stakes, forks, trowels and spades. Try planting in an  old Red Flyer Wagon or roller-skates. And an old head board works great as a garden gate or a trellis. Get creative!

This is one fashionable band-wagon you won’t regret joining.

-Mackenzie Steffen, Group 1 – blog post

image cred

V is for Victory and Veggies by meganr21

What is a Victory Garden?  A Victory Garden is a kitchen garden planted to relieve food shortages. Victory gardens were very commonplace during World War II.  World War II began in September 1939 and by January 1940 the United States began rationing food.  The government asked people to plant gardens to support the troops.  By growing their own food, it freed up commercially farmed fruits and vegetables for troops overseas.

By 1943 over 20 million Victory Gardens had sprung up throughout the United States in backyards, empty lots, even on rooftops in the city. As people began growing their own food canning became very popular so produce could be used outside of the growing season. The result? The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that during the war almost 10 million tons of fruits and vegetables were harvested at home and in the community.

My great grandmother had a victory garden and grew enough vegetables to supply fresh produce to some of her neighbors that were working in a defense plant.  She even built a root cellar where she kept potatoes, onions and canned vegetables and fruits to use during the winter months. She continued planting gardens and harvesting the bounty until her death at the age of 80.

When WWII ended the government stopped promoting Victory Gardens.  For many decades urban agriculture and home gardens fell by the wayside.  Driven by the economy many people are turning to home gardening this summer to supplement their diets. The recent revival of Victory Gardens leaves one question – have you decided what you’re planting this summer?

-Megan Richards, Group 1 – blog post

Photo credits: Fridge and Tunnel, Farms and Fields Project, Clemson