Cultivate Kansas City's Newsletter - August-September 2013
Gibbs Road Farm cultivating community of leaders in food, farming
By Ami Freeberg, Community Outreach Coordinator, Cultivate KC
Each growing season Cultivate Kansas City’s Gibbs Road Farm is home to four or five apprentices. Apprentices, or the “field crew”, are typically people who are interested in pursuing a career in agriculture and want to get their feet wet to see if they’re up for the challenges of running a farm business. Even though farmers’ markets don’t open until April, the apprentices start gearing up for the growing season in January, under the guidance of the farm manager. From picking spinach in the snow, to pulling weeds with the sun beating down, to washing lettuce on a chilly fall day the field crew is the muscle behind the Gibbs Road Farm.
As the seasons come and go, new groups of apprentices cycle through, each with their own unique culture, their own ideas about food and agriculture and their own lessons that they carry with them.
We reconnected with some former apprentices to learn about what they’re doing now and how their work with the Gibbs Road Farm has shaped their life’s path. About 40 percent for former Gibbs Road Farm apprentices are still farming, either on their own or on someone else’s land. Many of Kansas City’s urban farmers today got their start as an apprentice on the Gibbs Road Farm (formerly Kansas City Community Farm and Full Circle Farm), including Sherri Harvel of Root Deep Urban Farm, Laura Christensen of Blue Door Farm, and Dan Heryer of Urbavore Urban Farm.
Many apprentices continue to work in the urban agriculture and local food movement in other capacities, even if not directly farming. From fundraising and marketing for Cultivate Kansas City, to extension specialist, to nutrition education, to community activism – it is clear that people who come through the Gibbs Road Farm as apprentices carry with them a deep passion for good food and changing our local food system.
Jill Erickson apprenticed at the farm in 2007 and is now working for Cultivate Kansas City as the Development & Communications Director.
“Working here connected several dots that had been floating about in my life in a real and tangible way,” Jill explained. “I was reminded how much I love to work outdoors and I began to understand more deeply about where my food comes from and about its health, its impact on the environment.”
Kat Loeck apprenticed in 2010 and 2011 and is now working as the Regional Vegetable & Fruit Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ithaca, New York. She is helping commercial farmers, teaches yoga and volunteers on a friend's farm to build up her tractor/machinery skills.
Last summer Kat worked as a production specialist on a vegetable farm in the North Country of New York State while she earned a Master of Science
“Farming is my passion, and I'm currently trying to figure out how to farm as my livelihood,” said Kat. “My apprenticeships, specifically at Gibbs Road, pushed me to understand my place in the world as a steward of natural resources.”
Kat is co-teaching two online vegetable courses for beginning farmers through the Cornell Small Farms Program this winter. nebeginningfarmers.org/online-courses/.
Lacey Stephens apprenticed in 201 and 2011. She holds a degree in nutrition and is currently finishing a graduate program. This summer she was a market assistant for the Beans&Greens Mobile Market, as well as working as the Farmers' Market Cooking Demonstration Coordinator for the University of Missouri Extension Cooking Core program. She helped maintain and worked with students in several school and community center gardens. Soon she will be headed to Montana State University for an internship in health and human development with an emphasis in sustainable food systems.
“In my time at Gibbs I not only discovered a passion for growing and an unparalleled appreciation for thoughtfully cultivated food,” said Lacey. “I was introduced to an entire community of people who were working in diverse ways to better our food system and our community.”
“Connections within this community gave me job and volunteer opportunities that allowed me to develop skills to share my passion for locally grown, healthy food,” said lacey. “Seeing people in this community in action inspired me to figure out how I can best contribute to developing a food system that contributes to healthy individuals as well as a healthy environment and community.”
“Apprentices at the Gibbs Road Farm learn so much more than how to grow food or run a farm business,” said Lacey. “As a member of the field crew, many apprentices note connection – with their fellow crew members, with the local food community and with nature – as a highlight of their experience.”
Sarah Dehart apprenticed in 2011 and 2012.
“Feeding ourselves is one of the most basic activities to engage in, and growing food has become not only a labor of love, but also seemingly a spiritual task, explained Sarah. “And, of course, I certainly wake up earlier, go to bed earlier, and have found myself naturally falling into the rhythm of Mother Earth, day to day, season to season.”
Kat suggests that if you are curious about farming, read a tons of books.
“If you want to farm and have a solid vision, be an apprentice on a farm where you can gain the specific skills you need (and live on that farm),” shares Kat. “Everything we do makes us better farmers.”
If you would like to learn more about our apprenticeship programs, visit our website or contact Ami[at]cultivatekc.org