Best Nonprofit

Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture

What do neighborhood-blight fighters, city-jail inmates and Somali refugees have in common? Thanks to the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture, a green thumb. Four years ago, the KCCUA was just a couple of farmers who wanted to prove that growing clean, organic food and living in the concrete jungle of Kansas City could go together like vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh-cut basil. Not only have Katherine Kelly and Daniel Dermitzel cultivated a thriving base for the organization — a vibrant community farm in the Argentine District of Kansas City, Kansas — but they also have expanded the ranks of area residents with dirt under their nails and produce in their backyards. Take Bev Pender. An ex-autoworker, she acquired six abandoned lots in her KCK neighborhood and, with the KCCUA's help, turned the urban void into a farm that feeds area seniors and features fruit trees planted in honor of each of her grandchildren. Perhaps more important than teaching agricultural basics, though, the grassroots group works to bridge the gap between farmers like Pender and a public increasingly eager to eat local food. Last year, despite the summer heat, throngs of city slickers met farmers who shared their zip code, during the KCCUA's annual Farm Tour.

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