Kristen Hanson

Kristen Hanson wanted to save the world and she thought she wanted to do it by designing sustainable cities. But after volunteering with Cultivate KC, she might have some different ideas.

That led to an interest in urban agriculture, she said, after having heard the best urban areas planned as “living, breathing organisms.”

“Urban agriculture and urban farming are obviously an essential part of that,” she said. “People need food, and they need to know how to grow it.”

So when she heard about Cultivate KC in an environmental studies course at KU, she catalogued it, knowing she would want to learn more later.The class focused on permaculture and she learned about Cultivate KC’s Food Forest, a half-acre permaculture site in Merriam, KS.

Over time her interest veered away from urban planning and instead she toyed with the idea of growing food or teaching children how to grow food. Problem was she had experience in neither gardening nor education.

Raised in De Soto, KS, Kristen stayed in Lawrence after attending KU and recently moved to Kansas City after deciding to be more serious about her career pursuits. In 2018, she became an Americorps member and now works in a literacy program at Crossroads Academy.

Kristen wanted to use some of her program hours to grow her gardening skills so she called Cultivate KC.

“I should have been volunteering a long time ago just to get smarter about what I actually wanted to do,” she said.

She has put in more than two dozen hours since September helping our Westport Commons Farm manager Dan Krull with everything from planting and weeding to measuring the field. She recently assisted with building cold frames, or low tunnels, for the raised beds where we plan to start seeds for transplants in the spring.

“I feel I’m graduating into the kind of person that I hope to be,” she said. “This is exactly what I needed. Hands-on experience doing actual things with somebody who is a great teacher and mentor.”

Kristen says the work has been an experience of gaining skills and knowledge but also realizing what her dream job might be: working in a school, helping kids learn how to garden.

“Showing up here has been integral for me and my growth as a person,” she said. “I feel like I can actually start doing the things that I want to do.”

Learn more about how to volunteer with Cultivate KC.

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