KC Farm School
Story by Dave Eckert
After a long and unpredictable winter, spring has official spung here in Kansas City. That has me thinking of planting my fresh herbs, tomatoes, and peppers. It also has me thinking of the people who do that, and so much more, every day. I dug a little deeper into one such organization recently-The KC Farm School at Gibbs Road. I was privileged enough to get a private tour there recently and came away more than a little impressed. Here’s hoping this article makes an impression on you.
Co-Founder and Executive Director Alicia Ellingsworth shared some of her thoughts about the farm, its mission, the amazing things it’s been able to accomplish, and the even brighter future it envisions. “We started the organization to bring people together on the farm, to grow food and to grow hope. The need to grow food and teach others how to grow their own food is so important,” Ellingsworth shared. Ellingsworth moved to Kansas City in 2009 to work with Cultivate KC, another farm-based charity. After nine years there, Ellingsworth left to pursue a dream that would become The KC Farm School at Gibbs Road. “During the summer of 2018, I met up with Jennifer Thomas, a neighbor of the farm and a Turner High School science teacher. Encouraged by Chef Michael Foust, we began dreaming and inviting people to meet us at the farm to discover what we might do there. By that same December, Jennifer and I had pulled together our mission, vision, and our board of members. We submitted our application for nonprofit status, and launched a brand-new organization, KC Farm School at Gibbs Road,” Ellingsworth recalled.
The school started with its initial three acres, but recently purchased another 11 across the road from the original property. “We see these fourteen acres as an ecosystem where everything works together to create harmony and food for so many. We don’t own a tractor and we don’t till the land, instead we build soil as we add compost, leaves, and other organic matter. By leaving the soil in place, we don’t disturb the life within it,” Ellingsworth shared. Ellingsworth says the KC Farm School at Gibbs Road has a mission to empower individuals through on-farm, hands-on experiences and vocational education, connecting them to the land, food, themselves, and their communities. “In simple terms, we grow food and teach others how to grow food. We have educational programming for pre-K through adult, including Ag Explorers for the littles, Jr. Growers summer camp, and our Farm Apprenticeship for ages 13-18 years-old,” Ellingsworth said. There is also Let’s Grow Wyandotte, a food sovereignty program providing support, seeds, and plants for 400 households and their backyard gardens, on-farm farmer’s markets each Wednesday, May-November, and a Community Supported Agriculture program which donates to local food pantries. “As co-founder and Executive Director, it’s my job to make sure my staff has what they need to do their jobs. We move forward through the consensus model and share leadership and decision-making authority with all staff. In just three years, we’ve seen 30,000 visitors come through the farm, clocked over 7500 volunteer hours, and provided nearly 5,000 hours of job skills training and farm apprentice education,” Ellingsworth stated.
Ellingsworth says her greatest rewards come from the children who sometimes squeal with excitement when she shares a new concept with them, or hands them screen-printed t-shirts, and she says there’s always room for you to get in on those rewards too. “We welcome volunteers year-round. We host field trips, birthday parties, and corporate team-building days in addition to our many educational opportunities. The weekly market is a great time to visit as are our spring plant sales on April 16 and May 7,” Ellingsworth shared. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a visit, volunteer, or to learn more. Yep, spring has definitely sprung, and I couldn’t be happier.