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Urban ag program makes for strong albeit unlikely conservation partner

BoysGrow students learned from Kansas City WildLands about invasive species and how to remove bush honeysuckle at their farm. Photo by Linda Lehrbaum

Dimitri is sous chef on the Culinary Team for BoysGrows Class of 2017. “For now,” Dimitri said, “I will open my own restaurant one day.” Dimitri is in his second year with the year-round farming and business program providing mentoring, entrepreneurship skills, and positive role models for inner-city boys ages 14-16. As BoysGrow cultivates a new generation of farmers, chefs, and business owners, they also have the opportunity to show these future entrepreneurs how behavior impacts water quality and about the detrimental effects of pollution on our urban rivers and streams. Dimitri already understands how important water will be to his future restaurant. “We use water for everything. We use water to clean the dishes so no one gets sick from the dirty stuff. We use water as an ingredient. A lot of our ingredients include water. Water helps us with our lives, helps us get everything done, get things clean and sanitized for us to make everybody healthy and keep everybody healthy,” he said. BoysGrow will lead the way at Municipal Farm as a catalyst for productive use of land that supports healthy ecosystems including wetlands, urban forests, riparian corridors, and urban rivers. BoysGrow and a Missouri Department of Conservation Community Conservationist are creating a sustainable farm plan for a 10-acre agricultural area at Municipal Farm. Supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program, the plan includes a restoration plan for a native vegetation buffer around the Blue River. BoysGrow will prepare the land for future productive agricultural use in a manner compatible to restoration of the health of the Blue River watershed. BoysGrow is one of five partners contributing to efforts to Renew The Blue at Municipal Farm. Other partners are Kansas City WildLands, Blue River Watershed Association, Missouri Department of Conservation, and the City of Kansas City, Missouri. The farm is 442 acres of unused land owned by the City of Kansas City adjacent the Blue River. Heartland Conservation Alliance is working collaboratively to protect the watershed though habitat restoration, environmental education, and community revitalization. "We are so excited for the opportunity to bring a neglected lot back to life,” said BoysGrow Executive Director John Gordon, Jr. “It is going to take a lot of work to create a sustainable and successful ecosystem. But with the collaborative efforts of multiple organizations, we are looking forward to establishing a large plot of the land in the urban core that can produce food and educational opportunities for the Kansas City Community."

BoysGrow tested water samples from their farm pond for chemical indicators of water quality from Blue River Watershed Association. Photo by Caitlin Dix

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