Friday, October 22, 2010

18Broadway Garden: High Profile City Block Demonstrates an Urban Ecosystem That Feeds the Hungry

A new garden is growing out of a vacant block owned by DST Systems just one block south of the new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts near downtown Kansas City.  DST is transforming land it owns at 18th and Broadway into a working demonstration site where the public can learn about environmentally sustainable urban development and food production. 

The site, named 18Broadway, includes a rain garden perimeter and agricultural interior that together cover about 2/3 of a city block.  The rainwater collected from the site irrigates the garden where food grows to feed Kansas City’s hungry.

For over 15 years, DST has operated a community garden at 10th and Jefferson in downtown Kansas City. DST employees volunteer to tend this garden and donate the produce to feeding programs for the hungry. The 18Broadway project expands these efforts to grow food for the hungry and also includes an educational component.

At 18Broadway, the interior garden has been planted entirely with edibles and includes both a demonstration area and a high-production area.  The demonstration area encourages visitors to consider the benefits of growing some of their own fruits and vegetables and shows different approaches. It features in-ground gardens as well as a variety of raised beds, including raised beds at wheelchair heights. Freestanding pots show it’s possible to grow vegetables or herbs—or even miniature fruit trees—in a limited space, such as a patio or balcony. 

Plants include familiar favorites such as peppers and greens but also incorporate less familiar varieties such as hardy kiwi, figs and yard long beans. Cherry trees, pear trees and apple trees are also part of the garden.

Fresh produce from the volunteer-tended 18Broadway Garden is donated to Harvesters – the Community Food Network.  The opening of the garden coincides with an unprecedented need for hunger relief.  A just released hunger study showed more than 37 percent of households are experiencing very low food security—or hunger—in Harvesters’ 26-county service area in eastern Kansas and western Missouri.  The USDA reports that Missouri ranks 6th in the nation in food insecurity and Kansas ranks 8th.  

18Broadway demonstrates a wide range of practical solutions for building and living in a healthy environment. Since the Crossroads area has limited green space, the beauty of the 18Broadway Garden adds welcomed sustenance for the soul - as well as needed sustenance for Kansas City’s hungry.