Clement Forest – Build a Streetside Food 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 fresh food to improve their health. This week’s project is perfect for the person who doesn’t mind getting their hands dirty and loves seeing immediate results.

WEAR/BRING/GET – Wear shoes with significant tread and thick clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty, but will keep you warm. Bring pruned-off willow branches or bamboo poles if you have them, but you’re not really required to bring anything other than yourself and a smile! We provide work gloves, shovels and filtered water.

PROJECT DETAILS – We will be building raised beds using reclaimed natural materials. Our method involves pounding bamboo poles into the ground, weaving bendy canes in between the poles, and fastening them together with twine or long grass. Meanwhile, a cob crew is mixing ⅓ clay with ⅔ sand, moistening it, and mixing it with bits of straw. We will mold the cob in & around the canes, and then cover it to let it dry (or leave it uncovered in the sun to dry.) In later weeks, we will be plastering over the cob with papercrete and finally painting the creation with linseed oil paint.

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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