The Giving Grove Turns Vacant Land Into Free, Edible Tree Gardens

This spring, we were at Center Elementary in KCMO planting fruits, figs and some berries. A large group of kindergartners gathered around me with their curious, sparkling eyes. We had just finished eating some pears that we had brought along to the project.

Not knowing exactly how to engage the 5-year-olds into the planting process, I decided to have everyone sit on the grass while I shared the concept of the Giving Grove. After having determined that most of the children live nearby, one boy politely raised his hand and asked, “So, my mom has to pay for this at the grocery store, and you are saying I’ll be able to walk over here and pick the fruit off the tree…….for free?”

The expression on his face and the wonderment of the group was priceless.

image2.jpegIt has been an amazing initial chapter at the Giving Grove. With three planting seasons under our belt (we began planting our trees and berries in April of 2013), we have already installed 39 edible tree gardens in our city, which includes 552 fruit trees, 327 berry bushes, with two locations that include some nut trees.

Using the Missouri Extension Department data for average production in our area, when all our trees and berries reach a mature state, they will produce more than 80 tons of fruit on an annual basis!

We already have one neighborhood (Blue Hills) which has installed two orchards with another slated for fall. That’s a great start on our vision of having hundreds of micro-orchards stretching across our metropolitan landscape, each with its own set of neighborhood stewards — generating thousands of pounds of healthy food, and building a strong sense of community around each orchard. And, we have noticed that some of our neighborhood sites that were used as a dumping ground for trash now look park-like; no trash on the grounds. It is amazing how the trees and berry plantings seem to change the ‘tone’ of the site.

We are so grateful for the support of the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City. As a new program at the Kansas City Community Gardens, the coaching, collaboration and financial support from the foundation have helped us transform this innovative idea into a reality. We look forward to jointly celebrating the fruits of our collective efforts.

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