Independence is stepping up its efforts in a nationwide trend toward community gardens with several upcoming projects and initiatives like the Pleasant Garden. Joanie Shover, a health educator with the Independence Health Department and a Master Gardener, provided an update from the city’s perspective during the Independence City Council study session Monday night.

Why buy it when you can grow it?

Independence is stepping up its efforts in a nationwide trend toward community gardens with several upcoming projects and initiatives like the Pleasant Garden. Joanie Shover, a health educator with the Independence Health Department and a Master Gardener, provided an update from the city’s perspective during the Independence City Council study session Monday night.

For example, LifeConnection Church in Independence had approached the city about creating a community garden, Shover said. The Public Works Department has cleared trees, and with grant funding, the Water Department has installed a water line with spigots in preparation for the Pleasant Heights area garden.

The garden has a projected opening date for this spring, and the Truman Heartland Community Foundation provided a grant to fund the garden’s raised beds.  

“It does take time,” Shover said. “This lot had a lot of trees and some brush, and as it looks right now, we are ready to begin building raised beds.”  

The Independence Health Department also has partnered with similar community gardens. Hawthorne Place already has established a garden that has grown from 10 to 25 beds, serving a total of 25 families.

“It’s quite a large lot, but as you can see, we get a lot of produce out of them,” Shover said. “The families enjoy working in them. The children come and help, so it is a family project.”

Plans are now under way to expand the project to include a children’s garden so that the Hawthorne unit of the Boys & Girls Club may participate, Shover said.

The city’s code compliance staff members have assisted in tilling at the Fairmount Community Garden, which is near the Fairmount Plaza senior apartments. A handful of the approximate 10 gardeners were older than 90 years, Shover said, “so a garden that size was hard to maintain … so we’ve gone to raise the beds, and we intend to raise those beds another level and add seven more.”

For three years, the Health Department has served the same seven families who maintain container gardens in the Hocker Heights area.  

Conversations have taken place at recent Independence Hungry & Homeless Coalition meetings on the group’s involvement with community garden efforts. Because the city’s involvement with community gardens has increased, it has formed a partnership with the nonprofit organization Kansas City Community Gardens, which offers educational classes.

Kansas City Community Gardens also offers seeds and plants. For $2, gardeners may receive 10 packages of seed and 5 pounds of fertilizer. Packages of six plants are available for $1 each through the organization.

“It’s more than enough to fill a raised bed,” Shover said.

More than 25 people attended an Independence Community Garden Association start-up meeting last week, and the group is in the process of creating a mission statement and a vision.

“The goal for this was to help make this project sustainable,” Shover said.

The group is aiming to create new partnerships across the community, such as the one formed with the Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity. It is seeking land for a community garden in Neighborhood 9 and has plans to create a garden at the Boys & Girls Club’s Leslie Avenue site.  

“I’ve seen several gardens around, and they are quite nice,” Mayor Don Reimal said. “It’s a nice undertaking, and it’s a very essential undertaking.”

NO QUORUM: Because of illnesses, the Independence City Council did not have a quorum of its members Monday night. (District 1 Council Member Marcie Gragg, District 3 Council Member Myron Paris and Mayor Don Reimal were present.)

Reimal adjourned the meeting immediately, allowing those council members present to listen to the staff reports throughout the study session. No formal action usually takes place at study sessions, so a quorum was not necessary.

 The city has already canceled one study session this month because of inclement weather.