Mark Gawron started as the Metro Farms & Food Systems Program Manager at Cultivate KC in November 2018. The program is a core component of Cultivate KC’s mission to develop urban farms and community-based food projects through technical assistance, growers network development, collaborative projects, and policy/systems change.
Since he started, Mark has been busy meeting with farmers and growers throughout the metro area and assisting them with things like getting city permission to construct a high tunnel, securing bridge loans for farm structures as well as participating in public education events at schools and community gatherings.
Prior to being at Cultivate KC, Mark worked for three years as a Research Technician for the state’s Fruit and Vegetable Specialist at K-State Extension. He then spent 11 years with Powell Gardens, serving as the Senior Gardener on the Island Garden and then as the lead Horticulturist in the Heartland Garden, the manager of the high-tunnel tomato production (over 26 tons), and a workshop educator across Kansas City.
Learn more about Mark
Why did you want to work with Cultivate?
I attended a farm business planning workshop led by Katherine Kelly, and I was so impressed by her and thought I could definitely work for that lady.
The best part of your job?
Visiting farms across the metro. There’s something to learn from every farmer I visit.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to start farming?
Grow what you love to eat, that way if it doesn’t sell least you won’t go hungry!
Really, think long about the vision you want for your farm and the path you want to get there. Contact Cultivate and let’s talk about it; check out the Growing Growers program; attend conferences and workshops; and talk to other farmers.
What is the biggest misconception consumers have about farming?
Your lawn is not a golf course, nor does your produce need to be perfect and free of blemish
Why is farming important to you?
Farming keeps me connected, stable, grounded. I love the work of farming: the preparation, planting, pruning, trellising, the daily tasks. And the best part is when my family eats what we grew.
What does your personal farm operation look like?
My family (wife, three kids, two dogs, two cats, and a hermit crab) live on five acres in Raymore, and we have been very so slowly establishing a farm; trying to get to a point where we are providing for ourselves before doing much selling of produce. We have a couple hundred young blueberry bushes, a recently built high tunnel in which we are growing this year—tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, onions, sugar snap peas, water melons, raspberries, and musk melons. We have some small plantings of other crops—asparagus, blackberries, fruit trees, grapes. Looking forward to establishing more in the future.
What are your other interests and hobbies?
I used to have so many, but many have been curtailed in recent years because my recent back injury. Maybe I’ll get back into them. They are sports, basketball, golf, swimming, yard and bar games (washers, pool, horseshoes, darts, bocce), and taking my kids rock climbing.
I am an avid reader. Music has always been a big part of my life since the fifth grade; playing bass and guitar. I played big band jazz throughout college and had a blues band for many years. Now I mostly get together with friends and play bluegrass anymore but its still there.
I love hiking and fishing; love the mountains.
If you weren’t doing farming/horticulture/etc, what would you probably be doing otherwise?
Probably something in the construction trades, electrical engineering, telecommunications. I ran a tile business for 7 years on the side. I enjoy building things and do have family history there. I tend to have more interests than time. I want to become a certified arborist. I want to be able to install my own solar panels. I used to write short stories and plays and always plan on returning to do so.
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