J500 Media and the Environment

Reconnect With The Land by matthewtb

Reconnect with the Land…

Supplementing you diet with homegrown produce can make a difference.

My grandparents were in their 20s when FDR asked them and the rest of the nation to pick up the food slack through Victory Gardens. WWII had started, and while our troops received the fruits of our commercial farms, my grandparents and their peers were at home, learning the ways of self-sustainability and conservation as they went. Ordinary citizens reconnected with the land and filled every city green space with gardens. They were the first generation of urban farmers in this country and the project was a major success.

Today, half of the world lives in urban areas. We are relying more than ever on the rural half to produce the majority of food for not just those in the cities but for themselves also. We have some of our food shipped thousands of miles to reach our plates, when a wide variety of that food can be grown only feet from our back porch. As our society continues to grow, we will have to find new ways of feeding the planet. Overpopulation is inevitable and this will lead to food shortages unless we, as individuals, change how we interact with the land that grows our food.

Urban farms are once again starting to sprout up across the country. Citizens like Sherri Harvel, are reclaiming vacant lots and turning them into lush farms.  Aye Aye Nu is reconnecting with her Burmese heritage by farming the land with Catholic Charities, in Kansas City, Kansas.  Pov Huns is continuing his personal relationship with the earth, by giving back what he takes from it. They are all waging this new war.  It is a battle for food security, where victory is a thriving environment for all of us and a better relationship with the land.  These farmers have taken positions on the front line and now it’s our turn to join the fight.

Eating food comes naturally, so should growing it. By reconnecting with the land, we will have a greater understanding of what it takes to produce what we eat. It is a culture change, away from fast foods and frozen dinners, to give us a fresh start, where we respect our food and the land it is grown on.  In return, the food will nourish us.

-Matt Bristow / Group 2

Photo by Matt Bristow / Video by Group 2 courtesy of youtube

Benefits of local and organic farming for the tree hugger at heart by amandat09

In my first grade class, we were asked to make a poster of what we would wish for if we were granted three wishes. My list didn’t include ponies or mansions, but this: 1) I wish people would stop polluting the oceans. 2) I wish people would stop hunting animals for their fur. 3) I wish I had 10 more wishes.

The well being of the environment is something that has been on my mind since the beginning. But it goes beyond recycling and turning of lights– the food decisions we make every day have a tremendous impact on the environment, as well.

Source: New York Entertainment

Source: New York Entertainment

It is said that your food travels an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to get to your plate. Monocultures of the big agricultural corporations and the heavy use of chemicals have made food, the most natural thing in the world, into something wholly unnatural– but it doesn’t have to be like that. With the popularity of urban farming booming in the Kansas City area, it’s not necessary to use so much transportation fuel and unnatural means to get your food. You can get organically grown, top-notch quality food from right around the corner. Not only will you support your community farmers, but your footprint on the environment can dramatically shrink.

Most of the bright, shiny, perfectly shaped food you see in the grocery store has been packed with pesticides and chemicals to get it to look its best. This may seem like the normal way to eat food today, but it can really be so much simpler, healthier, environmentally friendlier and meaningful if you dig deep and get back to your roots.

-Amanda Thompson, group 3.

starting young on the farm by jessicasb
May 4, 2009, 8:12 am
Filed under: Food + Health, Local Events + Action, Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

Victory gardens are going back in style, and it’s children who are gaining from their revival.

“I show the kids — here’s a beet, here’s how you pick it, here’s what it tastes like,” says Maureen Branstetter, farmer at Drumm Farm.

Drumm Farm, in Independence, Mo., now has baby chickens, much to the children's delight.

Drumm Farm in Independence, Mo., now has baby chickens, much to the children's delight.

Being from Kansas, I always took for granted how farms were the default backdrop to the tiny towns I grew up in or around. But through the time I’ve spent at Drumm Farm over the past few weeks, I’ve seen and met with kids who regularly work in the garden, declare their love for okra and talk about how the farmers give them fresh produce for dinner.

The farmers at Drumm Farm work directly with kids, such as Sam, who is 17 and lives on the farm. “More often than not,” Sam says, “Bruce brings us the fresh food and the fresh fruit.” He says working on a farm has taught him a lot of responsibility he doesn’t think he could get from other common jobs his peers have. And although Sam says working in agriculture isn’t his No. 1 career choice in the future, he “wouldn’t mind working on a farm.”

Stories like Sam’s are similar to stories of kids growing up during the time of the WWII-era victory gardens. “I have very fond memories of working with my mother on our victory garden as a young child,” E. McFann of Delaware says. “Our backyard was loaded [with produce] and then she also had a plot on a farm down the street. Our basement was loaded with canned vegetables and fruits.”

Maureen Branstetter recalls what seniors have been telling her about having grown their own garden in the past: “‘There’s nothing like it.'”

Raising kids on farms just seems to spur responsibility, interesting stories and a good diet. NPR has done a story on four kids growing up on an Iowa farm, and how their family waits until 10 p.m. to eat dinner so they can take advantage of every sun-filled hour. And even if a family can’t afford a farm or doesn’t have the time to maintain one, there are other resources to getting their children on a farm.

Even by growing up in Kansas, kids can be removed from the origin of their food and the taste of fresh produce. However, kids raised on or near farms can learn to appreciate food earlier than if they weren’t.

“They love picking radishes,” Maureen says about some kids who visit the farm. “They’re like, ‘Can we pick radishes? Can we pick radishes?’ And one kid would tell me, ‘Radishes are my favorite vegetable now.'”

— Jessica Sain-Baird
Group 1 blog post

Benefits of Local and Organic for the Health Nut by Janie

Ok.  So maybe health pine nut would be a more accurate description.

I’m not on the South Beach diet, I don’t train for marathons, nor do I eat protein shakes.  But I do stay active, eat my veggies, and get a good night’s sleep what I can.  For most of us average health pine nuts, food is not something to be feared or micromanaged as grams of sugar and carbs.  It is a source of life, pleasure, and comfort.  Of all the relationships in our life, food is perhaps the most intimate.  After all, what we eat is converted into the building blocks of who we are.

It is easy to forget that most of the industrial produce we consume contain traces of pesticides and chemical fertilizers and is shipped in from thousands of miles away.  The idea that the food on my plate was sprayed by men in chemical resistant gear and picked before ripeness in order to survive the hours of transport makes me seek alternatives.

greensThe urban farmers and gardeners of Kansas City provide local, organic food–precisely the alternatives we need.  Their crops are guaranteed fresh, oftentimes only picked the day before market.  Farmers work bare-handed, feeling the rich soil between their fingers, unafraid that any chemicals or synthetics will harm them, their crops, or their customers.

When visiting Blue Door Farm, farmer Laura Christensen picked a piece of mustard green for me to try. I hesitated, accustomed to washing and rewashing my salad greens before eating them.  She simply popped it into her mouth, savoring its tangy taste and freshness.  I followed suit and was promptly and pleasantly surprised by its freshness and taste.  Eating locally and organically is a way to take care of your body, and a delicious one at that.

Janie Chen, group 3

photo credit

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.