I hate to admit it, but in the 20-plus years I’ve lived in Kansas City I’ve only been to Powell Gardens once. And, that single trip was for this article! I’m embarrassed by that, but this much I can say – that lone visit will lead to many more.
Powell Gardens has a long, lovely, and delicious history dating back to 1948 when Kansas City businessman George E. Powell, Sr. acquired just under a thousand acres 30 miles east of Kansas City. Powell turned two-thirds of the land into a family farm, which was later donated to the Kansas City Area Council of The Boy Scouts of America. The scouts used the farm as a regional camp until 1984 when preliminary work began on developing the land as a botanical garden. In 1988, that vision was realized, and now, some 30 years later, Powell Gardens offers 970 acres of gardens, amazing architecture, a nature trail, and a calendar chock full of special events and classes.
There is much to admire and experience at Powell Gardens, but what most interested me was their Community Supported Agriculture program, now in its second year.
“I came on at the end of the 2015 season, and what I saw was a lot of waste,” Haley Drake, Heartland Harvest Gardener and CSA Coordinator told me. “It seemed silly to me to have a 12-acre food garden that no one was eating out of.” In part because of what Drake observed, the CSA program was pitched, approved, and implemented in 2017.
The Community Supported Agriculture program provides produce, over 2000 varieties of plants, from its 12-acre Heartland Harvest Garden, which is sustainably and organically farmed. Only in its second year, the program has already doubled in size. It’s small, just 40 full and half share members, but the impact on the community and the gardens could be very big.
The man in charge of the garden is horticulturist Mark Gawron. “We have to supply a box of produce every week for 30-weeks starting in late April and running till mid-November,” Gowran shared. “So, having to supply those products for 30 weeks requires a tremendous amount of planning as to what and how much to plant in order to fill 40 boxes every week.”
“It’s not just about the 40-members who get their boxes. It’s the people who come out here after those members have shared their produce. And, it’s the volunteers who help us harvest and pack the boxes. They see it. They feel it. And, they know that this food is alive and this food is fresh,” Drake commented. “I heard somebody say that you need a farmer three times a day, every day. I like that. That’s my kind of farmer.”
There are options for both payment and participation. Half share members get less produce, and each member, half or full share, can either pick up their boxes at the garden or at two drop-off sites, one at Heritage Park in Lee’s Summit and a second at the Kauffman Garden in Kansas City. If interested, the best way to sign up is by visiting online at powellgardens.org/join-give/community-supported-agriculture. I’d suggest doing it now as the CSA program will very likely sell out early on.
Both Drake and Gawron say participating in the CSA program is a great way to connect with the garden and the community while eating some of the healthiest, freshest, and tastiest produce around.
“It’s direct community involvement. The food doesn’t travel far. And, it’s neighbors buying from neighbors,” Gawron said.
Finally, speaking of traveling far, if you’re one of those who thinks Powell Gardens is a long way to go, it took me just 50 minutes to go door to door from my home in Liberty. I know I’ll be back out there soon, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.