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Urban farm launches support program to help nourish a food desert

Young Family Farm gives back to their Kansas City community as much as possible because they say many people struggle to get access to fresh produce.
Posted at 9:40 AM, Jun 21, 2023

Access to fresh produce is difficult in one Kansas City, Missouri, neighborhood — something that is an issue for many communities across the United States. 

That led a family of urban farmers to take action and do something about it, while also teaching others. 

"In the African American community, it's such a tradition to have greens," said Yolanda Young, co-founder of Young Family Farm.

The Young family started out by testing their green thumb. What began as a smaller garden some years ago, is now a full-scale urban farm in the heart of the city's Ivanhoe neighborhood.

"I swore I would never have a garden," said Alan Young Sr., co-owner of the farm. 

"If my dad was alive and he could come see this, he would chuckle," he said. 

Growing at this scale took a lot of trial and error.

"It's a lot of work," Young Sr. said.

As fortunate as the Young family is with a piece of land full of fresh produce, they say that's not the reality for much of their own community.

"For folks who aren't familiar with the Ivanhoe neighborhood where we're located, the median household income is around $30,000," said Alana Henry, a family member who works on the farm. 

"The reality of those numbers, especially in light of increased cost of living, food access, and quality of life in general, is a challenge for a lot of the residents," Henry said. 

"Part of our efforts here is to produce enough to give back to folks who can't afford to buy organically grown food at a store," said Young Sr.

The members of the Young family are trying to give back to their community as much as possible, because they say much of their community is in a food desert. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has an online tool that maps out food deserts across the U.S. 

That means that not only are a significant portion of households in the community considered to be low-income wage earners, limited access to transportation and options for fresh food also contribute to their hardship.

Affordable groceries are also a considerable problem for the neighborhood, according to community members. 

This growing season however, the family is stepping in to launch a produce support program.

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"There's a term I heard recently that I relate to more than food access: Food apartheid. It's important to recognize and acknowledge there were systemic inequalities that led to the situation we're seeing," said Henry.

They are working to try and remove those barriers.

"There's often a lot of red tape with getting support so we're trying to avoid sending people down that same rabbit hole," said Henry.

The Youngs say they can start out helping 10 families in need, with the hope that they will be able to grow their efforts to help more. The family says they plan to help the families they select throughout the growing season.

The Young family holds a farmer's market every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

They recently received an award from the state of Missouri for the best family farm in their county. 

This story was originally published by Alyssa Jackson at Scripps News Kansas City