After a career spanning nearly four decades in leadership at Kansas City Community Gardens, Ben Sharda announced last Wednesday his plans to retire from his position as the organization’s Executive Director. Ben joined the KCCG staff in 1985, leading what was at the time a newly formed non-profit, providing vegetable seeds to low-income individuals who wished to start a garden in their backyards. Under his leadership, KCCG grew to be one of the largest community gardening organizations in the nation, empowering a thriving network of more than 3,400 home gardeners and 800 school and community gardens and orchards.
“It has been an incredibly amazing life experience to serve this extraordinary organization for many years and I am thankful for the opportunity to work closely with so many wonderful people in our community. It has been very exciting to watch KCCG grow and continue to grow, but our mission of empowering people and community groups to grow food has remained the same,” said Sharda.
While Ben is stepping down from his leadership role, gardeners will be happy to hear that he isn’t leaving KCCG entirely. Starting in 2024, Ben will serve the organization in a part-time, emeritus role, leading special projects and continuing to share his vast knowledge of gardening with community members through new educational initiatives.
KCCG’s Board of Directors has named Jennifer Meyer to succeed Ben in the Executive Director role. Jennifer has served on the KCCG team for the past 5 years as the organization’s Director of Development, bringing with her a background in non-profit fundraising and leadership and a passion for growing food.
“In his time at KCCG, Ben has drawn together an incredible community of gardeners, staff and volunteers, all working together to increase food justice in our community. I am honored by the opportunity to serve and lead this team as we begin our next chapter,” said Meyer, who will begin her new role on October 2nd at the start of the organization’s new fiscal year.
Board President Amanda Middaugh notes, “Ben’s leadership over the past 38 years has transformed the landscape of food access in Kansas City. The scope of KCCG is the legacy of Ben’s vision and the deep personal connections he’s made in communities throughout the metro are a testament to his heartfelt stewardship of our mission. The KCCG Board of Directors is grateful to have Ben’s continued involvement in the activities of KCCG, and we are thrilled to have Jennifer stepping into this expanded leadership role.”