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James W. Mitchell, Andrew Clark and Sam Macdonald harvested peppers from the community garden.

Sharing the harvest

UMKC garden returns for its second year

The UMKC community garden is a tranquil spot. The area around the birdbath is a floral feast for the eyes. Scrap lumber has been turned into a bench at the west end of the garden, and an inviting hammock hangs nearby. The compost pile is much larger than last year's - with leaves, grass clippings and vegetation sitting near the top of the container.

Plans for this year's garden began in January, and by March, the garden kick-off luncheon attracted more than a dozen students who took home seeds to start plants. As they did last year, the Kansas City Community Gardens came through with inexpensive tilling and helpful advice. The UMKC Garden Collective was back in business.

Increase in size and harvest

After such a good experience last year, UMKC left the community gardeners on their own to continue their work.

"They trusted us to take care of the plot," said James Mitchell, who is working on a bachelor's in music and is a UMKC Garden Collective member.

This year's garden is double the size of its forerunner, with another big section under cultivation and four beds added, and its yield was better than the previous one. Some of the produce went to a few uninvited guests - squirrels and bugs. They ate two enormous sunflowers down to mere stalks. Mitchell planned to grind up peppers and collect human hair - two substances that are considered natural squirrel and bug repellents – to place around the plots.

Sharing the harvest

During a particularly prolific growing span this year, the Collective gardeners gave their neighbors sacks of produce. This enticed many who lived nearby to help with weeding and other chores. Also, the gardeners placed an ad with Craigslist for free produce. They not only gave away dozens of cabbages, eggplant, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and corn - they gave many takers a rare taste of healthy, homegrown, organic vegetables.

Sodexo serves it up

Some of the produce and herbs found their way into meals served by Sodexo, the UMKC dining services.

"The produce and flavorings were well-received by our diners, and I'm anxious to have more," said Chef Mike Gagni. "The Sodexo staff chose to feature cuisine from around the world every Wednesday, so it was good to have herbs and vegetables available from the Garden Collective that we could work in to our international menus."

Sodexo would like to add produce and herbs from the garden's next harvest. Also, Sodexo is making connections with local farms and truck gardens to purchase more raw foods from them. Gagni names a dozen cities and communities where they have found good sources for foods that are grown locally - apples, squash, and tomatoes - from outstate Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.

Get involved

If interested in the Garden Collective, contact James Mitchell via e-mail or visit the Facebook page, and he will notify you of upcoming work dates.


Posted: November 22, 2010

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"The produce and flavorings were well-received by our diners, and I'm anxious to have more."

Mike Gagni
Sodexo chef

Ian Ramsey helped pick radishes that were used in a meal on campus.

Eggplant was also picked in addition to the radishes and peppers.