Urban Agricultural Youth Program

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2007: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), onions, peppers, radishes (culinary), tomatoes, turnips
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops
  • Education and Training: mentoring, networking, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil analysis
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    Troostwood Gardens is an entrepreneurial program for at-risk youth that focuses on agriculture and organic farming methods. Fruits and vegetables are sold at a garden side market every Saturday during the growing season, which encourages the neighborhood to be a more active and engaged community.

    According to U.S. census data, close to 25 percent of residents living in the area surrounding Troostwood Gardens, located in Kansas City's urban core, live below the poverty line. The neighborhood suffers from a shortage of meaningful, productive job opportunities and programs that seek to engage neighborhood youth at an age when they may be more vulnerable to negative influences that pull them into activities like theft and drug use, which are prevalent in the neighborhood. In addition, the youth who live in the 49/63 Neighborhood have little to no access to basic agricultural practices and philosophies.

    Though the 49/63 Neighborhood has taken measures to improve the quality of life for its residents by implementing the CAN (Community Action Network) Center and COMBAT

    (Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax), a need for community action on the part of each of its residents also persists. Neighbors need a comfortable, welcoming meeting place that centers around true grassroots community-building.

    The youth earn income, take on new responsibilities and bring the garden to life, while being exposed to healthy lifestyle habits and the principles of agriculture. Positive themes are conveyed to them by community leaders and field trips to other area farms that give them a closer look at the complex processes involved in food production. One of these trips, taken last year to an area wheat field, helped them to understand how loaves of bread get to the supermarket shelves.

    These neighborhood young people are intimately involved in each step of the gardening process. They spread compost, till, plant, weed, research insects, water and harvest, and sell vegetables.

    Environmental concepts teach them how to be sensitive to the earth. Planting squares helps teach practical math skills. Working on the garden promotes healthy eating habits and an understanding of how to use terminology and equipment. All of these skills help them to become not just good farmers, but good people. But, in order to teach effective gardening methods, and to plant a garden that will thrive, proper equipment and supplies are needed.


    We will have been successful if ten youth spend their summers caring for the garden and learning gardening, marketing, environmental and other science principles, while gaining neighborhood leadership. Proof of our success is in the enthusiasm that the youth exhibit. At the end of the day, they don't want to leave. They come back day after day and year after year to the garden. They have begun to eat new, healthier foods, and understand the principles of agriculture, community development and the economic benefit of selling the harvested fruits and vegetables to their neighbors.

    As a result of the mailing to the 3,000 residents in the 49/63 neighborhood, we expect a 10 percent increase in Saturday market customers; which provides a social impact as neighbors have an opportunity to meet one another and build stronger relationships. The increase in produce sales builds on the local economy.

    Professors from nearby University of Missouri - Kansas City and Rockhurst University have brought their classes on educational visits to the garden. We will encourage those and other visitors to the garden so that they might gain a deeper understanding of models of food production, sustainable technology and effective youth programs. We also expect a 10 percent increase in educational tours.


    The Troostwood Garden program is unique. Other urban farming youth programs do not exist in the area. We provide a time-tested and highly successful model that other farmer/ranchers could implement.

    Our program has a unique community aspect. We witness neighbors gathering, introducing themselves to each other, addressing both their concerns with and pride in the neighborhood in which they live. They walk away with strengthened relationships and healthy, home-grown, organically-produced fruits and vegetables.

    Our farming techniques can also be successfully passed on to other producers. Others will see the benefit of our use of compost piles, organic gardening techniques, greenhouse use, wheelchair accessible beds, native plant beds and garden side market.

    Our program is ahead of the curve in involving urban youth in the gardening process and in supplementing their experiences with contact with community leaders, other farm operations and lessons in nutrition. Other youth programs such as 4-H of Jackson County, Missouri and nearby Wyandotte County, Kansas may implement elements from our program.


    Located on one and a half acres in an urban neighborhood in Kansas City. Missouri. Troostwood Gardens’ ten youth, a director, and a master farmer organically grow tomatoes, spinach, peas, turnips, a variety of greens, garlic, herbs, celery, apples, pears, peaches, and more on what was once a vacant lot. The climate in Kansas City allows for a relatively long growing season. Gardening begins in March and continues until the last vegetables are harvested, typically in late October. Fruits and vegetables are sold on site every Saturday during the growing season.

    Members of the community are encouraged to visit, tour and purchase fruits and vegetables from the garden and informative signs tell about each crop. There are few gathering places in the Troostwood neighhorhood, so the garden provides a comfortable and welcoming spot for neighbors to meet and get to know one another.


    Rockhurst University

    5200 Troost, Kansas City, MO 64110


    Provides land use and student volunteers


    Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture

    PO Box 6043

    Kansas City, KS 66106

    Features Troostwood Garden in its annual "Urban Farms Tour"


    49/63 Neighborhood Coalition

    Renee Neades, President

    5309 Woodland Ave.

    Kansas City, MO 64110

    Provides funding, features the garden in its newsletter

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.