Sweet potatoes harvest at Central Patrol Station yields 100 pounds

Steve Mann and Scott Burnett harvested sweet potatoes in front of the Central Patrol police station yesterday morning.

By Mary Jo Draper

Passersby were a little stunned yesterday morning to see what was coming out of the ground between the Central Patrol Police Station concrete sign and the sidewalk.

“Are those…sweet potatoes,” one asked?

And that’s exactly the type of reaction Steve “the sweet potato man” Mann was going for.

Mann, who is part of a group and a movement called Food Not Lawns, wants to get out the word that the simple sweet potato is nutritious, easy to grow, and easy to store. It doesn’t need water, doesn’t require the soil to be tilled, and is self-mulching.

“My dream is to have a lot of public places planted with sweet potatoes, to help feed our community with our productive energies,” he says.

So his group started planting the humble orange plants in public places around town in 2008.

They’ve cultivated sweet potatoes at city hall, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum, and at the Midtown police station.

The movement has spread, and now some Midtown churches and other groups are replacing purely ornamental plants with the edible root vegetable.

This year, Mann was busy with graduate school, so he only planted sweet potatoes at Central Patrol.

Still, he and volunteers harvested about 100 pounds, which will go to food banks and nonprofit pantries around the city.

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