#383 Kansas City’s Sweet Potato Project

Sweet potato photograph from Wikimedia

The goal is 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes. Half will feed the hungry, through the Harvesters program. Half will feed the growers.

That’s a lot of sweet potatoes.

For the fifth year Kansas City Sweet Potato Project volunteers are cultivating sweet potatoes in parks, yards, schools, churches, community gardens – any place where the magic combination of available land and enthusiastic volunteers come together.

Roxie Hamill’s June 14, 2012, article on the project is no longer on the Kansas City Star’s Web site, but here are a few excerpts:

The project originated with a 2007 conference on local agriculture by the Center for Urban Agriculture (now called Cultivate Kansas City), said Steve Mann, one of the principal organizers. An offshoot group, Food Not Lawns, began work on the first sweet potato project which yielded about 30 pounds, he said.

In 2011 the harvest had increased enough that 1,500 pounds were donated to Harvesters. To expect 10,000 pounds of donated sweet potatoes sounds overly optimistic, but Hamill wrote the project has a higher profile this year:

For one thing, it has more city backing. This year the volunteers will be able to plant in 15 locations owned by the city. Eight of those will be in parks. The rest are along boulevards where the city previously planted annual flower beds. The budget for flowers was cut this year, so it made sense to offer the space to the sweet potato project, said parks superintendent Forest Decker.

The City Council got on board with a resolution declaring June to be Sweet Potato Planting Month.

Add some youthful enthusiasm, like the Kansas State University students who opted to build vertical walls around the city and plant sweet potatoes on them and the Girl Scouts who planted sweet potatoes to qualify for their Silver Award, and the numbers start to add up.

Sweet potato plants

Lovely sweet potato leaves, photo from Wikimedia

Long before the delicious, nutritious tubers appear on family tables, those lovely leaves will have spread their greenery over some of the city’s unloved spots as well as on carefully tended gardens. Everyone wins.

Wander over the the project’s Facebook page. You’ll know by all the photos, posts and big smiles that this is a project that makes Kansas City folk proud.

And it gives me hope.

Check out the Google map to see all the places sweet potatoes are growing in KC this year.

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5 comments for “#383 Kansas City’s Sweet Potato Project

  1. August 5, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    How have they been coping with the heat and dry weather? I think the project sounds wonderful!

    Angela

    • August 5, 2012 at 7:54 pm

      Better than a lot of plants, as they’re more drought tolerant. I’d love to see all those sweet potatoes spreading their beautiful leaves.

    • October 12, 2012 at 8:21 am

      Just ate this season’s first sweet potatoes – delicious. Great to see projects like this happening in different places.

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