Build Food Wealth in a Streetside Garden

WHAT/WHY/WHO? – Clement Waters Retreat is transforming a vacant 4-acre lot on the south end of Swope Park into an urban food forest and walking trail. Why is that important? The area is in a USDA food desert. That means that healthy food options are just not available to people who could really use healthy foods to help them avoid long-term medical problems associated with low incomes. This week’s project is perfect for the person who sees gardening as an exercise in faith for a hopeful future.

WEAR/BRING/GET – Wear shoes with significant tread and layered clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty, and which can be varied as your temperature comfort changes. Bring a trowel/spade and gardening gloves if you prefer your own, but you’re not really required to bring anything other than yourself and a smile! We provide work gloves, plastic spades and filtered water. We invite you to bring a portable chair if you’d like to sit on one.

PROJECT DETAILS – We will be sowing seeds and transplanting starts according to a pre-planned garden design and a planting calendar. Our early-planted seeds have been growing in the greenhouse at African Centered College Prep Academy, where the kids are learning about the plant life cycle and the usefulness of companion plants. Now we’re giving the baby plants a new home in our sculpted raised beds constructed by volunteers in March. As the spring progresses, we will encourage the plants we want by mulching them, and discourage the plants we don’t want by pulling their emerging seedlings out of the raised beds.

PERKS – Coming out to volunteer at Clement Forest usually means taking away a feeling of inner calm, since the property is surrounded by the serene Blue River Greenway. The physical work done helps relieve tension. Think of the stress relief as our gift to you for helping define this calming space in service of others.

BACKGROUND – In February 2018 an environmental involvement nonprofit, Clement Waters Retreat, acquired the vacant lot that is now Clement Forest. Volunteers from all over the states of Kansas and Missouri came to clear over 400 yards of trail, remove 30 cubic yards of dumped large items, and remove 50 cubic yards of bush honeysuckle. The project took on a social justice element when volunteers realized that much of the waste removed was from the 1970’s, when ‘white flight’ changed the demographics of the surrounding neighborhood and contractors were hired to renovate and update homes. The hired contractors saved money by dumping in the forest behind the houses, convinced that it wouldn’t matter. Now, nearly 50 years later, this organization is saying, ‘The forest does matter, and so do the people living around it.’ They plan to make the trail into a peaceful gathering place for the residents who have made the area their home.

BOTTOM LINE – We’re excited to have you join us as we help nature take back her rightful place in our hearts and minds! Food desert, schmood desert! Let’s make more food accessible to all.

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