Supporter Spotlight – Len Jurden
Cultivate KC is proud to introduce Brien Darby as our new Executive Director! Relocating to Kansas City with her husband and young daughter, Brien came to us from the Denver Botanic Gardens. She was born in K.C. and still has family here. We are so pleased and excited for you to get to know her.
Brien’s food knowledge began in her childhood garden, where her father would set aside space for her brother and her to grow whatever they’d like. She helped with farms at her high school and college and appreciated the lessons farming gives to students as well as supplying food to the cafeterias.
Her first paid farming job was at a 3-acre restaurant farm in Boulder. She created a crop plan to suit the needs of the five-restaurant group associated with the farm. By then she knew that growing food was her passion! To cut down her commute, she found a benefited position with the Denver Botanic Gardens and soon built a successful suite of urban agriculture programs.
Brien learned of Cultivate KC in the summer of 2016 and thought it seemed like a one-stop shop for food access, urban agriculture training, support and advocacy. She’d been hoping for an opportunity to join the organization.
When asked what excites her about working with Cultivate, Brien replied, “Who wouldn’t be excited by the magic that is watching a tiny seed planted in the ground, grow into a plant, produce a bounty, and craft the very seeds that will start the cycle over again?” She enjoys living with the seasons and understands that each year from death springs a renewal of life. Along with the Cultivate team, she’s excited to share these seasonal rhythms and lessons and make farming and food accessible to more people.
She also recognizes that any job within the food system can be daunting, because we’re in some small part responsible for a supply chain that provides the most basic human need: food. She said, “if we approach our work with a level of respect and care deserving of our product and our customer, we should feel exalted and awed by what we can accomplish.”
Comparing KC’s urban farming scene to those in other cities, one unique aspect Brien observes here is visibility. It seems in some parts of town, you can’t go a few blocks without seeing a community garden, urban farm or community orchard project. Compared to many other comparably sized cities, she also sees more of an emphasis on farming as a profession in the urban space.
Some issues Brien sees that are not unique to K.C.’s urban farmers are the rising cost of land and competition from development as well as the myriad of challenges climate change brings. Higher overall temperatures (especially nighttime temperatures) and increased disease pressure will continue to plague cities and, by extension, urban farmers.
Brien wants Cultivate KC to remain a trusted resource for new and beginning farmers. “I want us to continue to engage in policy discussions regarding farming, food access and climate change and, whenever possible, I want us to play a bigger role in food access. Our farm sites will serve as a model for urban farming and a platform for education and research.”
When not farming or gardening, Brien enjoys reading as well as cycling, running and hiking with her family. They’re looking forward to adventuring in their new home and ecosystem.