Gardener Profiles

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Meet some of the individuals and groups that are gardening with KCCG!

Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church – Harvest of Echo

Harvest of Echo Community Garden was established in 2013 at Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. The church hosts a biweekly Monday Madness dinner and study program for kids and young adults. The garden was started by Dionne Powell-Green, who helps prepare Monday Madness dinners, in order to stretch the small food budget, incorporate healthy food into the menus and educate kids about where their food comes from. Participants in Harvest of Echo Community Garden worked hard to achieve all these goals. This year they planted greens, lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers and sweet potatoes that they used in their dinners. KCCG also helped install seven water totes to harvest rain water from the roof of the church, lowering water bills for the church and making the garden more sustainable.

Deerbrook Covenant Church – Garden of Eatin’

In 2012 members of Deerbrook Covenant Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri started a group garden that they cleverly named The Garden of Eatin’. The garden began as a ground plot, but by the end of the season there was enough excitement and participation in the garden that the church decided to invest in seven raised garden beds. The raised beds have improved the productivity and manageability of the garden and this fall KCCG helped install five additional beds.

Over 30 members of the congregation regularly help with garden planting, maintenance and harvesting. The produce from the garden is donated to area organizations, including Coldwater Ministries Food Pantry, Hope House in Lee’s Summit and Langford Boys Home. This fall, volunteers from Langford Boys Home helped dig over 50 pounds of sweet potatoes. The garden continues to expand with an addition of a water spigot in the garden and a Giving Grove fruit orchard to be planted later this fall.

Glanville Towers

Mobility and transportation issues often prevent seniors from gardening. To help increase access, KCCG works to establish gardens on the grounds of senior residences. Glanville Towers is a low-income senior apartment building located in downtown Kansas City, KS where several residents showed an interest in gardening this past winter.

On the first sunny day this past spring, KCCG staff and ten student volunteers from Sumner High School helped the residents of Glanville build six raised beds right next to their building. The garden was so popular that a month later we helped residents add two more beds. The ten resident gardeners of Glanville were thrilled with the ease and accessibility that their raised bed garden provides and filled their beds with collards, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, peppers, herbs and eggplant. The gardeners leave any extra produce from their garden on a table in their community room; the fresh produce is in high demand and never sits on the table for long!

Pendleton Heights

Although the Pendleton Heights Community Garden was just formed this past spring, there are already over 30 neighborhood volunteers participating in this garden project. The success of this garden is due, in part, to their very active and well-organized neighborhood association. Seeing the tremendous interest from the neighborhood in having a community garden, Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association created a garden oversight committee to plan the community garden and help organize the garden participants. This committee sends out emails and updates their garden’s Facebook page on a regular basis. When there is extra garden produce to share they leave it on two porches in the neighborhood so people passing by can stop and pick up what they need. Garden participants also organized canning parties to preserve their harvest and applies for and were awarded several grants to fund their water spigot installation.

Up on the Roof:
KCCG Develops Roof-top Food Garden for Low-income
Seniors and Disabled

When Donald Love planted six cabbage plants in pots during the spring of 2009, he had no idea of the excitement it would cause among fellow residents of his six-story apartment building.

Donald and several other tenants at the Residences of West Paseo were interested in starting a food garden but were faced with a serious roadblock: a complete lack of available garden space. The solution to their dilemma was to start a container garden and grow food up on the roof.

The roof top of this rent-subsidized apartment building for low-income seniors and disabled persons is designed to be an outdoor living terrace and is a perfect location for beautiful and safe roof top container garden. However, their first efforts were not very successful because their containers were too small to produce very much and were often blown over by the wind.

However, Donald six cabbages planted in two-gallon recycled nursery pots thrived under his loving care (and fertilizer). The cabbages grew into magnificent specimens, inspiring the other tenants to persevere with their roof top garden. Last fall Donald contacted Kansas City Community Gardens and Ben Sharda visited The Residences of West Paseo, met with tenants and helped plan the roof top garden for the spring of 2010.

The solution to many of the roof top garden’s challenges was to use large containers filled with special growing mix. KCCG staff cut 55-gallon plastic barrels in half and drilled holes for drainage. The 27 half-barrel containers were then filled with light-weight soil mix containing lots of organic matter and loaded into the KCCG van. After arriving at The Residences of West Paseo the containers were transported on carts to the elevator up to the roof. The process of moving the containers through the building up to the roof generated even more excitement for the residents. Everyone wanted to know more about the garden.

Resident gardeners utilized every inch of growing space in their containers; they planted tomatoes, okra, peppers squash, beans, cucumbers and greens. Tomatoes were especially popular. Even with the late start, the container gardens thrived. One unseen advantage was that there were less insect problems because the garden is located six stories off the ground. In mid-summer, more people wanted to participate and to have more garden space so KCCG brought some more half-barrel containers to the roof.

Barbara x, a wheelchair bound resident who heads up the gardening group of ten residents, says the best part about the garden was picking vegetables without having to leave the building to go to the store.

Plans for next garden season include getting an earlier start, adding more barrels and trying even more seed and plant varieties.

St. Paul/Santa Fe Community Garden

Garden Location: Victor St. and Benton Boulevard Kansas City, Mo
Garden Type: Community Partner Garden
Established: 2009

What does this Garden Grow? Tomatoes, Beans, Herbs, Flowers, Cucumbers, Peppers, and Community

Garden Sponsors: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, United States Department of Minority Health, Keep Kansas City Beautiful, Lincoln University Cooperative Extension, and the Boy Scouts.

The St. Paul /Santa Fe Community Garden’s key purpose is to build community by encouraging residents get out into the neighborhood to meet each other and work together on the garden. The garden is located on Benton Boulevard, a much-driven street which runs through the heart of the Santa Fe neighborhood. Toni Gatlin, the visionary behind the garden, wanted it to be highly visible to the community. “The garden is a demonstration on how to grow food, with the intentions of getting residents interested in eating healthy and learning to cook good food for themselves and their families,” says Gatlin.

She has wanted to initiate this garden for several years. To make it happen, she collaborated with many organizations (listed above). The Boy Scouts did a significant amount of work on the garden, constructing the eight cedar raised-beds. Keep Kansas City Beautiful installed four rain barrels that will be used to water the garden.

During the two days of construction and planting the garden, many community members came out to help. There is now a core group of neighborhood citizens that take turns looking after this demonstration community garden.

Throughout next season, there will be various workshops offered, with themes centering around the garden, like how to grow food at home, how to prepare food and eat healthy, making compost, harvesting, rain barrel workshops, and many more.

Ella Thomas

Anyone who has ever bought plants at KCCG has been touched by Ella’s generosity and dedication to KCCG. Ella goes to Aldi at least once or twice a week and brings us the boxes that gardeners use to take home plants. But Ella is more than just “the Box Lady,” she has a rich history of gardening and community involvement.
Ella started gardening when she was just 10 years old, with a 12’x12’ spot in her backyard where she grew green beans. From there her interest in gardening took root. In the 1970’s she bought a home in Kansas City and grew tomatoes next to her driveway. Around this time she also became a vegetarian. Her favorite vegetable to grow is tomatoes and her favorite to eat is sweet potatoes.
As her passion for gardening grew, so did her involvement in local gardens. In the late 1990’s Ella became a member of KCCG and we helped her with plants, seeds and backyard tilling. Around that time she met long-time gardeners Jim Antwine and Rose Addison at Harvester’s while working with St. Louis Church Food Pantry and she began to help them garden their food pantry plot at KCCG’s Swope Park Community Garden. Five years ago, Ella started renting her own garden plot and raised bed at Swope Park.
Four years ago Ella also helped start a garden at St. Therese Little Flower, a church in her community. Ella began talking to Sister Ann about turning the vacant lot next to the church into a community garden. She shared about KCCG and the services we could offer. Ella gave her KCCG’s newsletter and Ben met with them and then helped them build 20 raised beds. The garden is thriving and now has 25 beds, Ella gardens in two of them.
Ella recently moved to St. James’s Place and was insistent on getting a community garden started there. This past spring she worked with KCCG staff to get the garden tilled, plan out the garden space and get residents involved. She wants to help seniors have the chance to exercise and grow their own healthy food.
In addition to all these gardens, Ella helps friends and family members around the city with their gardens on a regular basis. Her excitement about gardening is contagious and we are proud to have Ella Thomas as one of our friends and members.

SAMMY HOWELL

When Kansas City Community Gardens needs an expert to help get gardens ready to plant, we often turn to Sammy Howell.
Sammy is the go-to guy for the big tilling jobs. With a tiller attached to the back of his tractor, Sammy can move the dirt quickly and efficiently in almost any plot, provided, he says, that he can get through the gate if there is a fence.
Sammy modestly estimates he has tilled more than 1,000 community and individual backyard gardens since 1998, when he started helping KCCG.
Earlene Franks, KCCG administrative assistant, assigns most of the tilling work for KCCG, and she says Sammy’s tractor/tiller combination allows KCCG to do the much larger gardens quickly.
“Otherwise, it would take a guy (pushing a tiller) all day. It probably takes Sammy an hour” to do the same job, she says.
Sammy does almost all the gardens of more than 3,000 square feet, both community plots and individual gardens. He has a “fan club” at KCCG – people ask for him every year. Earlene says some people will only want Sammy to come to their home to till.
A friendly, easy-going guy, Sammy is an asset to Kansas City Community Gardens in several ways. A member of the Board of Directors and its Program and Marketing Committee, he always is willing to volunteer his time and talents. He achieved quite a bit of fame at the Fall Family Festival last September when he brought his horses for the children to ride.
Assisted by friends who made sure that each child had a safe ride, Sammy walked the horses and their young riders in an area behind KCCG’s Swope Park headquarters. He says he thought to offer the horse rides because many children never have ridden a horse. They likely will remember where they had their first time on a horse, he says.
Sammy grew up in Tullahassee, Okla. His father died when he was two years old. His mother and grandparents had a garden and that was his first introduction to gardening. Eventually, after attending college and working for a time, he took a job at Hallmark in shipping. He was employed at Hallmark for 27 years, met his wife there, and retired in 2002. He and his wife have property where they have a garden, and he also participates at his church’s large community garden.
Sammy is active at Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church, and in efforts to restore the community. In 1989, he participated in a march against violent deaths in Kansas City and was featured in a photograph in U.S. News & World Report. A highlight of his life was attending the second inauguration of President Bill Clinton in Washington.
Despite being busy, Sammy takes time to grow a variety of good foods in his gardens, where he plants tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mustard and collard greens, corn, and green beans, among other things. His favorite veggie to grow is eggplant, just because “I like to see them grow.” In fact, he likes to see just about anything grow, and this year he planted some crops even earlier than usual because of the warm weather.
“Sometimes you can’t wait,” he says. “You hear the birds chirping and the squirrels dancing and you just want to get out in it.” And so he does.

Tyrone Oweyemi

“Growing Up With Gardening”
Tyrone Oweyemi was 12 years old when he first started growing vegetables. His mother, Kay, had started a garden in their backyard and had also rented a plot at the Old Ballpark Community Garden at 21st and Brooklyn. She enlisted Tyrone’s help with the family gardens. “At first,” Tyrone says, “I pulled weeds – a lot of weeds.”
But, he kept on helping his mother and his interest grew as he got more and more involved with the garden. His mother then bought the vacant lot next to their house and they expanded their home garden. Tyrone took charge of the family gardening operations and soon was doing it all on his own. His next step was to set up a small vegetable stand in front of the house and sell the vegetables that he grew from the garden. Gardening provided Tyrone with opportunities to use his natural talents as an entrepreneur and by the age of 14 he was selling “poke salad” greens to a nearby grocery store.
Nine years after his first gardening experience, Tyrone has expanded to sell produce at farmers’ markets and from a parking lot stand near Blue Ridge and Bannister. He has two large backyard growing areas plus two plots at the Swope Park Community Garden, that provide him with supplemental income.
One might think that the harsh hot summer drought this year would have diminished his gardening ambitions but, at the time when most gardeners are putting their gardens to rest for the winter, Tyrone is already enthusiastically making detailed plans for next year’s gardening season.

Johnnie Ellison

Johnny Ellison grew up gardening with his family in Arkansas. When he moved to Kansas City he got away from gardening for a few years, but picked it back up and has now been gardening for over 40 years. A long-time backyard gardener, he also started gardening at KCCG’s community garden in Swope Park when he heard about it from a co-worker five years ago.

Johnnie grows a little bit of everything, but especially likes to grow okra, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Before the planting begins though, Johnnie volunteers time in February and March to package seeds at KCCG seeds. He enjoys spending time with the other gardeners, and the pot-luck lunches.

Other than gardening, Johnnie likes to spend his free time fishing and hunting, cooking and playing dominoes. None of his kids have picked up gardening yet, but he has passed on his passion for growing his own fruits and vegetables on to his brother and friends.

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