Of Vegetables, Flowers and Snakes: Ivanhoe Residents Cultivate Their Green Thumbs


Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part blog series from the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, a Health Care Foundation grant recipient. You can read the first part here.

By Dina Newman, Advocate for Change, Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council

A cancer survivor still fighting the fight decides to take on a new challenge. Growing flowers in pots are the closest thing to “gardening,” she tells me, but it’s a new season and she believes the fresh air, produce grown with her own hands, and hard work – even if it’s dirty – will be good for her.

Mrs. Campbell is in her late 80s. She’s afraid of snakes. “But if you help me,” she told me as we began to plant collard greens at her Grown In Ivanhoe Community Garden plot, “I can do this.” We spend two hours tilling, weeding, planting and watering her raised garden bed. I unearthed two snakes. You should have seen Mrs. Campbell scamper away.

“I’m from the South,” Estella tells me. “I know how to do this, but in the past I was always so busy.” This mother of five is busy but this year she’s planted tomatoes, greens and onions in a small plot that was once a vacant lot. This food, grown only a block from her house, will be served at her dinner table.

Two boys on bicycles arrive at the Center, hot and sweaty. I think they want a cold drink of water, but they ask if they can buy seeds. “What kind of seeds,” I ask, curiously amused. “Garden seeds,” they say. A neighbor is growing a garden, the boys tell me, and she has volunteered to help the boys grow their own garden in their backyard on one condition: they had to get their own seeds. I gave them a handful of seeds and told them about our once-a-month urban farming/gardening classes. “We are here to help,” I told them as they rode off.

This is the “seed bed” of the Grown in Ivanhoe Project. A broad spectrum of workshops and classes, technical support, partnerships and learning opportunities to involve and encourage the residents of the Ivanhoe community and surrounding neighborhoods to grow and sell their own food.

Since receiving the generous grant from the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas, the Grown in Ivanhoe Project has seen an increase in residential gardens, community gardens and shared-space urban farming. Several residents have become certified Grown in Ivanhoe growers, and two are now in business for themselves selling their produce at their farm stand located at their homes and are vendors at the new Ivanhoe Small Growers Farmers Market. The Ivanhoe Boy Scouts harvested over 100 pounds of sweet potatoes and enjoyed an afternoon of sweet potato treats.

The Grown in Ivanhoe Project continues to make strides toward addressing the food insecurity issues in the neighborhood. “I can do this,” the cancer survivor tells me. “No one can take this away from me.”

View more photos of the Grown in Ivanhoe Project on our Facebook page.

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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.


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