The Kansas City University (KCU) garden has provided the community with an abundance of fruits and vegetables since they put down roots in 2008.
Over the past 13 years the garden has grown to produce vegetables and fruits ranging from tomatoes and lettuce to cilantro, parsley, swiss chard, and even cantaloupe.
This spring season so far, they have harvested around 130 pounds of produce.
“At its peak this garden was producing 1,800 lbs of produce a season, we’re hoping to get it back to that,” said Dr. Sherrie Howell, co-chair for the garden and KCU Family Medicine Physician. She works in the garden alongside her co-chair Sara Mosinger, Medical Librarian at KCU.
One of their primary receivers is Della Lamb Community Services. The gardeners take requests from them as they serve the immigrant population in Northeast Kansas City.
“We supplement them with fresh produce,” Howell said. “Thursdays are our harvest days because we take it over to Della Lamb, and Friday is their distribution day so it gives them time to divide it up and package it however they want to package it.”
Della Lamb has helped them by supplying reusable bags to put their fruits and vegetables in.
“We’re trying to do everything as organically as we can,” Howell said. “Another thing we’re doing is getting away from plastic. We used to harvest and use plastic grocery bags but that’s not good for the earth and the earth is our community too.”
Once the students return in the fall, KCU’s health and wellness program, Champs, will bring students over from Della Lamb to show them where food comes from and how to harvest.
KCU also partners with The Giving Grove, which supplies them with cherries, apples and pears.
“The Giving Grove are our fruit trees that are specifically to donate to food banks,” Howell said. “It’s an organization affiliated with Kansas City Community Gardens where we get our supplies from and they give us tips on how to do these things.”
The garden is cultivated by a group of five to seven volunteers with most if not all being medical students from KCU.
“The students volunteer their time,” Howell said. “They do get the ability if they want to, to put it on their CV as service to their community because it is a volunteer activity.”
Mallory Feenstra, a medical student at KCU, looked forward to volunteering as it would be her first time being on campus and interacting with other students since the pandemic hit last March.
“It’s really nice to be able to do something hands on, it’s not something that’s just all words,” Feenstra said. “It’s nice to see the fruits of your labor, literally, and we get to help the community in a direct way. It’s just nice that it’s something that benefits the community in a healthy way too, we’re giving them healthy food.”
Although Howell is the co-chair for the garden, she is also a volunteer that is being paid by the university for her volunteer time.
“The university is really committed to the service aspect,” Howell said. “As an employee, I get 16 hours of paid volunteer time. I’m in charge but this is volunteer time, I’m a full time faculty.”
Being mostly volunteers, students and faculty enjoy helping out in the garden rain or shine.
“Our students put a lot of energy in this garden,” Howell said. “They’re so joyous when they’re out there, we have a lot of fun out here in the garden. And I really like it so they see me as a person, not just force feeding them knowledge.”
For more information on community gardens and programs, visit kccg.org and to apply to volunteer click under the Volunteer Tab.