Green Infrastructure Growers mentorship program

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The Kansas City Water Services Department is implementing green water infrastructure systems such as bioswales and rain gardens to help manage stormwater and combined sewer overflow issues throughout the Marlborough community. Future projects are expected to address large green spaces, including parks, boulevard medians, and some vacant lots. These projects have the potential to promote multiple community benefits if other initiatives can be coordinated with and overlaid upon this green infrastructure work.

The Water Services green infrastructure project in Marlborough provides a unique opportunity to bring together food production, rainwater catchment, mentorship and job training through innovations in green infrastructure. A youth mentorship and job training program could teach Marlborough residents how to construct, plant, or maintain rain gardens and bioswales, how to design and install orchards and gardens as well as the water catchment/filtration systems that provide water for orchards and community gardens. The assessment of Land Bank lots conducted by Get Growing KC can serve as a reference for production potential and project opportunities. This mentorship program could be combined with the Marlborough Healthy Food Awareness and Education program, and could challenge Marlborough youth to raise the bar of green infrastructure practice as they learn.

The Water Services green infrastructure projects will require long term landscape maintenance, which provides a potential “win-win” opportunity for both Water Services and the community.  Water Services is concerned about creating a long term maintenance plan for the green infrastructure, and the community wishes to create new job opportunities for residents.  The mentorship and job training program could address routine maintenance or even the development of a nursery operation to grow replacement plants for the green infrastructure projects.

Additional information to implement this opportunity below:


Implementation pathway:

  1. Champions of the growers network meet with potential community partners and Water Services representatives to identify opportunities for partnership.
  2. Identify interim locations to host awareness and education activities until the Marlborough School is repurposed.
  3. Design a program and develop a workplan, incorporating it as part of the Healthy Food Leadership Network’s overall workplan for healthy food priorities in Marlborough.
  4. Incorporate this program into coordinated funding proposals for healthy foods implementation, and seek out independent funding sources focused on educational activities.
  5. Work with the Marlborough Community Coalition to incorporate Healthy Foods Education hub activities into design and partnerships for school redevelopment.

Champions and their roles:

The Marlborough Growers Network, a subnetwork of the Healthy Food Leadership network, could partner with green infrastructure representatives at the Water Services department to champion this work.  Diane Hershberger is the Champion of the Growers Network.

Water services project managers for green infrastructure projects in Marlborough:
Padmavathi Iyengar (Priya),
Project Manager- Green Solutions Project

Karine Papikian
Project Manager – Sewer Repairs

Partner organizations:

Get Growing KC was a leading community partner and honorary planning team member for the Healthy Foods Access component of the Catalyst Plan. The Get Growing team conducted an assessment of food production opportunities in the Marlborough neighborhoods, and led the plan process to identify priorities and opportunities to increase food production in Marlborough neighborhoods.  Get Growing offers ongoing  services such as technical assistance, workshops, presentations and mini grants. Contact Katherine Kelly  to learn more.

Bridging the Gap is Kansas City’s environmental nonprofit organization, educating and engaging Kansas City citizens, businesses and government to create a more sustainable community.  Bridging The Gap provides workshops for rain barrel construction, and the Keep Kansas City Beautiful program provides education on rain gardens and other sustainable beautification activities.  The Growers network could partner with Bridging The Gap in teaching stormwater management practices to youth as part of the mentorship program. Contact Sadie Gardner ((816) 561-1087) to learn more.

The Kansas City Urban Rangers Corp, a program of Kansas City Parks and Recreation, engage high school-aged young men and women in work that benefits the community while providing job training. Urban Rangers have mowed vacant lots in Marlborough neighborhoods.  This program is a model for youth engagement and jobs training, and a potential partnership for the Green Infrastructure Growers program.

Giving Grove, an affiliate of Kansas City Community Gardens, works to develop replicable models for edible tree gardens, facilitate the implementation of those models by bringing together the needed resources, and provide a portion of the produce from each tree garden to feed those in need. Giving Grove is a potential partner to support installation of orchards on Water Services green infrastructure project lots through the mentorship program.

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