J500 Media and the Environment

Podcast: KCCUA, Bringing the Community Together with Food by Janie

The Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture is an example of how one business can have a positive impact by supporting local farmers and providing fresh food and economic viability to the Kansas City community.

Listen to co-founder Katherine Kelly and farm manager Alicia Ellingsworth explain the inner workings of urban farming by clicking on the link below (scroll down the linked page to to select the podcast file to download):

KCCUA, Bringing the Community Together with Food: Katherine Kelley and Alicia Ellingsworth

Podcast Transcript

Seedlings at KCCUA

Seedlings at KCCUA

Brenna Daldorph (narrator): It’s a chilly, cold pre-dawn but at Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, everyone is moving. Trucks are being loaded with carrots and watercress, seedlings and sprouts in preparation for the season’s first market. Farm manager Alicia Ellingsworth describes the scene:

Farm Manager Alicia Ellingsworth:  All week long we worry: do we have enough this, do we have enough that, I mean, it’s a farmer thing. Oh, those tomato plants, you know, no one is gonna buy them or the cabbage, it’s not quite good enough, or why won’t that lettuce stand up tall? And the first thing that Katherine said to me this morning was in the dark, and she was getting there five minutes late and she said: ‘I’m sorry I’m late! I overslept!’ Well, you know, it’s understandable at four thirty in the morning. And then, she turned around with a smile and said: ‘I think the plants are gonna be all right, I think they are gonna look okay!”… All night long, she thought of this and this was the first thought she said in the morning: ‘I think it’s gonna be all right!” And, you know, they’re green and they look like a tomato plant so you know, so yeah…”

Katherine Kelly

Katherine Kelly

Daldorph: Katherine Kelly is the co-founder of KCCUA, an urban farm set in an acre of land in the heart of Kansas City.

Ellingsworth: Katherine said this morning how she’s been coming to the market here for seven years and customers come, most all of them thank us for being here. They are so excited that the market has started again. I think it means something that you can eat it without wondering how much pesticide had been sprayed on it or how far it’s come. And the food tastes good. It’s fresh, you know, we picked it yesterday.

Daldorph: The community spirit between the growers and the customers at the market is at the core of KCCUA’s business. It is just one example of the many ways in which the remarkable farm plays an important role in the Kansas City community.

The KCCUA greenhouse

The KCCUA greenhouse

Ellingsworth: Well, I’m finding out that it’s not just a farm that I got a job at.

Daldorph: As Katherine Kelly herself says:

Katherine Kelly, co-founder of KCCUA: We’re both a working vegetable farm, which means that we are geared towards production and harvesting and selling but we are also a place that builds and creates community. And the balance between those two things is not always very easy.

Daldorph: One thing is certain: KCCUA’s urban location certainly has an impact.

Kelly: Um, I’ve found that because you’re in town, you can create different relationships with people than if you are out in the country. You can more easily be part of their everyday lives. They can drive by and see other farmers, they can see farmers working in their fields, or in their gardens, which is how most people think of them. And so, there’s this way that it becomes more integrated into their daily lives.

Daldorph: KCCUA’s urban location also brought the farmers into contact with other farmers. In talking to them, Katherine saw certain needs surface and being a community organizer; she decided to do something about it.

Kelly helps a customer

Kelly helps a customer

Kelly: So, what I saw a need for was farmers needed to learn how to be farmers and how to be business people and how to market and how to source materials and I saw a whole bunch of us going through the same growing pains and it seemed to me that it’s a useful thing if you are going through growing pains to find other people and share your learning and share what you’ve figured out and learn from what other people have figured out, too.

Kelly (continued): So the first program we started was called Urban Farmer Development and it was funded by the USDA under a community food projects grant. We train apprentices here, we train volunteers, we use the farm as a learning center…

Kelly (continued): So the latest program we’ve started is called the Juniper Gardens Training Farm and Community Gardens and it came out of a several year partnership with Catholic Charities. We had been working with them to train a group of refugee women in market gardening and it’s a farm business incubation model which means that they come in with a certain amount of experience, we work with them over several years to help them develop business skills, production skills, marketing skills and then, they will graduate from the program and we will work with them to find land of their own: either that they will buy or permanent land for them to work.

Daldorph: Working with the refugee women gave Katherine one of her favorite memories of time on the farm.

Kelly: You know, at the market in the morning when we get there in the fall…we get there and it’s dark yet, the sun

Local gardeners tend their crops at KCCUA

Local gardeners tend their crops at KCCUA

hasn’t come up and so our farm–our crew–is there first and we’re unloading and then the next crew that gets there are the refugee women.  And so you’ll be there in the dark, unloading vegetables, and it will be kind of cool and crisp.  And they will be maybe twenty feet away from us, in the parking lot where we set up.  And you’ll hear their voices and their laughter in all these different languages, and you’ll hear the sound of  buckets being shifted around and tables being set up.  But there’s this sound of the market the morning before customers get there-it’s really really wonderful.  And it’s made even deeper because of–right there in that market–you’ve got people from all over the world.  And uh, so I don’t know…it’s pretty, it’s pretty magical.

Daldorph: KCCUA is not just another business; it’s part of the living, local economy.  And it gives to the community around it both fresh food and love.

Ellingsworth: I see Katherine hugging ten people a day.  People that would come, and the talks we have in the garden and the places that we bring each other that are way bigger than just food.

Kelly: The people who come here–you know, thirty years from now, forty years from now–they are going to remember the summer they spent here and they will…their relationship with food–whether they go into agriculture or not–and a good number of them will–but their relationship to food and to work is forever going to be shaped by what they did on our farm.

Podcast by Group 3–Brenna Daldorph, Amanda Thompson, and Janie Chen

Podcast music by Robots vs. Dinosaurs

Photos by Brenna Daldorph