Community gardens taking root in the city

Community gardens are spreading throughout Kansas City and officials say they are just getting started.

A production farm, community greenhouse, community gardens and orchards  are planned as part of the Westport Middle School redevelopment and BrightFarms Inc. is building a 100,000 square-feet greenhouse by the river.

Kansas City officials are even trying to poach gardeners from Kansas.

They are trying to get the BoysGrow operation to move from Kansas City, Kan., to 10 acres on the city municipal farm property, Kimiko Gilmore, assistant city manager, reported to the mayor today.

Other sites on the sprawling city farm property next to its old jail are also being looked at for gardening operations, she said.

“We are in the infancy of urban gardening,” she said in an interview. “Other cities have pushed the limits” and officials are studying what has been done in Detroit, Cleveland and New York City.

Officials are talking about putting a vetting group together and setting criteria for gardening operations or farm implement businesses or other related fields, she said.

In a way, she said, the city could be returning to some of its roots in agricultural and stockyards.

There is talk that the BoysGrow group might also raise chickens at the municipal farm site, Gilmore told the mayor.

The group includes about 25 inner-city boys ages 12 to 15 who do farming, sell crops and sell products such as salsa and barbecue sauce.

It is conducting a campaign on to raise money to buy land, but founder John Gordon Jr. said in a recent interview the Kansas City Star that if he can get donated land, he will use the money for things like electricity, greenhouses, solar panels and a water catchment system.

Gilmore said, “Water is always an obstacle,” but the city is looking at options, including using a new state law.

This map shows some of the community gardens in Midtown.

The law allows creation of urban agriculture zones for growers, vendors and processors, with up to 25 years of tax breaks and possible deals to buy water at cost.

In a separate initiative, officials told the mayor they expect to have six new community gardens in place by the end of the month, and 25 for all of Jackson County by fall of 2016.

A map of hundreds of community gardens in Kansas City continues to grow. (It is map number 60)