Food Trees for a Food Forest in a Food Desert

WHAT/WHY/WHO? – Clement Waters Retreat is restoring the understory layer of an urban forest on a vacant 4-acre lot on the south end of Swope Park. Why is that important? The Southeast KC area experiences high crime and food scarcity. Immersive nature experiences and fresh grown foods both help people avoid the long-term medical problems associated with low incomes. This week’s project is perfect for the person who loves fruit, loves trees, or loves both at the very same time!

WEAR/BRING/GET – Wear shoes with significant tread, thick pants, and layered clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty, and which can be varied as your temperature comfort changes. Bring yourself and a smile! If you have a shovel, or if you prefer your own work gloves, please label them before you bring them, just in case! We provide work gloves, shovels and filtered water.

PROJECT DETAILS – Missouri’s Department of Conservation is sending us 350 tree seedlings that are native to the Missouri area, many of which hold nutritive value to people in at least one form (usually via fruit.) They are going to be delivered in the second week of April, and then it’s up to us to put them directly in the ground. Since we removed lots of honeysuckle bushes in the previous weeks, there is plenty of loose soil ready for these new yearlings to make a new home. This is anticipated to be the largest one-day project we’ll be hosting all year, so bring friends!

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 nature-provided food accessible to all.

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