Community Gardens Enhance Kansas City Neighborhoods
It is mid-October. The end of the harvest time at many community gardens. The last of the tomatoes are still green, there are still rows of lettuce but gradually the beds are switching from vegetables to fall flowers or simply put to bed for the winter. The gardens, though winding down, are still lush and green. They add beauty in the neighborhoods where they are situated.
Urban gardens represent fresh, locally grown food. But they also represent the shared experience of working the soil–interacting with neighbors in planting, tending and harvesting produce. Community gardens offer families and communities healthy food produced without the financial and environmental cost of transporting the food. Looking forward, community gardens provide low-cost food to those with limited resources, opportunities to use abandoned properties to enhance, rather than detract, from the desirability of a neighborhood. These gardens can provide opportunities for individuals, neighborhoods and organizations to have a source of income from the sale of locally grown produce. Some sell food for profit to neighbors, restaurants or through farmers’ markets. A few donate all their produce to Harvesters or provide it to families of student “farmers”. incorporate gardens as part of community ministries.
There are easily 40 such gardens in metro Kansas City. They are located on main streets and quiet streets. They are on church property and school property. They are planted, maintained and harvested by students, church communities and restauranteurs. A very few local gardens include chicken and tilapia—yes, the fish—others offer berries and herbs, in addition to, or instead of traditional vegetables.
Many of these gardens are neighborhood gathering spots. A few have benches, fountains, and even tables. Live music is often a part of the weekend activities. There are also cooking and nutrition classes.
While the new breed of ccommunity gardens focus on fruits and vegetables, Kansas Citians cannot ignore the classic beauty of the Kauffman Gardens across the street from the Kauffman Foundation and the lovely garden adjacent to the New Reform Temple on Gregory.
All these gardens enhance the lives of neighborhoods and the overall life and health of the community. They help shift the balance toward healthier neighborhoods.