One of the reasons the blog has been so quiet recently is that I was up in Overland Park helping with the National Association of County Agriculture Agents annual conference. We always have tours as part of the conference, and I helped organize and lead an Urban Agriculture tour. We visited the Kansas City Community Gardens, a couple of different farms, and the New Roots for Refugees Juniper Gardens Training Farm.
The summer has been hot up there, but as you will be able to see from the numbers of tomatoes, not as bad as it has been here.
Most of the tomato plants we saw looked much sadder – diseased, spider mite laden, etc than most of our plants here. However, the striking difference was all those red things hanging from the plants. Yes, those are real, ripe-on-the-plant tomatoes. They do exist! I’d trade my relatively healthy plants for the plants with tomatoes on them, wouldn’t you?
This urban farm is JJ Farm, and the owner, John Kaihua. He farms on 1 1/2 acres of backyards, and sells his produce through a CSA and a small farmers market. He had beautiful, huge red bell peppers of which I was very jealous! It’s pretty cool what you can do with some backyard space.
This is part of the Juniper Gardens Training Farm and the New Roots for Refugees program. You can see one of the women watering her plot. Each woman gets a 1/4 acre plot and assistance with seeds & plants, water, gardening, English, and business skills, and then sells the produce at a local farmers market. Over 4 years, the women transition to more independence and ultimately their own small urban farms, using the skills they have gained.
This is the raised bed section of the Kansas City Community Garden. Each raised bed can be rented be an individual or family, and all the plots at this garden are on a sliding fee scale, based on income. The raised beds are in areas where the soil is too clay or the drainage too poor for other gardening.
One of the Master Gardeners was at the garden the morning we visited, and he was kind enough to pick a few watermelons from their demonstration plot at the garden and let us sample. Some of them were definitely better than others. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the really good one.
Last, but not least, we visited the Gibbs Road Community Farm with the Cultivate Kansas City organization. This is a very intensive small farm in Kansas City, Kansas, where they train apprentices in small-scale organic farming. You can see the intensity with the row of squash between two high tunnels!
Either tomorrow or Wednesday, I hope to get another post up about things I was up to in the past couple weeks.
One rather new term that is being used when discussing food security is “food desert.” A food desert is a low-income area where there is little access to a grocery store or supermarket.
To qualify as a food desert, both of these conditions must be met:
- To qualify as a “low-income community,” a census tract must have either: 1) a poverty rate of 20 percent or higher, OR 2) a median family income at or below 80 percent of the census tract’s median family income;
- To qualify as a “low-access community,” at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract’s population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (for rural census tracts, the distance is more than 10 miles).
Here in Wichita, we have several “food deserts,” most notably along the southern edge of the city and also in the northeast part of the city. To view a map (with details) of the food deserts in the U.S., you can visit this page: Food Desert Locator
On a related note, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is available again. Here’s a link to the information from Wichita on the Cheap. (You can also find the info on the Sedgwick County Website, but the link won’t take you directly to the info.)
Residents of Sedgwick County who are 60 years or older and make less than $20,147 per year (before taxes) will soon be able to receive $30 in cash benefits at local participating farmers’ markets this year. The coupons will be available for use between May 2nd and October 15th.
To sign up, you can contact the Sedgwick County Department on Aging or your local Senior Center.
If you are a farmer/vendor that would like to be able to accept the coupons, you need to be signed up at the state level. You can give me a call at 660-0142 for information on what you need to do or visit the State Dept. of Health website.