Nile Valley is a ‘Source of Life’
In one of Kansas City’s most notable food desserts, at the corner of 29th and Wabash, is an oasis of fresh fish and vegetables available to the community around it.
Nile Valley Aquaponics was started by Dre Taylor, co-founder of the Males to Men mentoring program and a former housing inspector, barber and insurance salesman, whose dream is to provide 100,000 pounds of food for his neighbors.
Inspired by Will Allen, a global leader in teaching and promoting urban agriculture, he wanted to make a difference in his community and the lives of others less fortunate.
“It’s nice to feel like we’re taking a piece of this neighborhood back,” Dre said in a 2016 interview.
“We took vacant lots that had prostitution and drugs on it and now have this urban oasis,” Dre said. “Today, we provide food, opportunities and tours and workshops for people in the community. That’s pretty much been the greatest reward.”
Nile Valley sells directly to its neighbors as well as to restaurant customers like Urban Café and CanIHaveABite.
Inside the greenhouse an efficient aquaponics system supports shelves of vegetables growing in streams of water fortified from the waste of tilapia being raised. The fish in turn swim in water that is filtered by the plants. Combining both systems maximizes the benefits of each while eliminating their drawbacks.
Aquaponics uses 90 percent less water than growing in soil.
The farm site is named for the Nile Valley, a region known as a “source of life” in ancient Egypt.
Dre received a Get Farming Mini Grant from Cultivate KC in 2015 for equipment and to provide a salary for support staff. He also received a mini-grant in 2017 to make improvements to the aquaponics system at East High School.
Beyond financial support, he says, Cultivate KC has helped him become part of a community of food growers and connect with people and organizations with similar missions.
Dre presented at the 2019 Annual Farmers & Friends Meeting on how to build your own greenhouse as well as sat on a panel discussing how to build community investment.
“Cultivate KC gives a voice to farmers,” Dre said.
Dre hopes to expand on Nile Valley’s own capacity with extra space and facilities to house classes and food demonstrations, but also to establish Nile Valleys all over the country. He would like to find a way to create a model that can be franchised and replicated in additional communities and is working with HOK to design it.
Along with fish, Nile Valley is home to a small herd of goats. They don’t contribute to the farm really, says Dre. They are an attraction for kids and neighbors to visit and interact with.
The goats will be present at Cultivate KC’s Grazing Day event on May 18 at the Westport Commons Farm. They will join cows from Liberty Hills Dairy Farm and ducks and chickens from Manheim Gardens to feast on the field as guests learn about growing soil and the soil food web.