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Kansas City Camp Teaches Ag To Youth
Nearly 10 acres of vacant lots at the center of Kansas City, Kansas, have been transformed into a mini farm to teach urban kids about agriculture.
  Camp C.A.R.V.E.R (City Agricultural Resourceful Visionaries Entering Real-life) features gardens, chicken and pigeon coops and beehives. A nearby house has a basement filled with a home-built freshwater aquaponics system to raise fish, microgreens and mushrooms.
  The basement is in the home of camp founder John Drew, who grew up in the same neighborhood and discovered his passion for animals and agriculture in 1976 when he was in sixth grade. A career day class and personal attention from a Tuskegee veterinarian, Dr. William Swoope, clinched his desire to become a veterinarian. He graduated with a B.S. in Animal, Poultry, Dairy Sciences and Industry from Tuskegee University’s College of Agriculture. Afterward he was sidetracked by a higher calling to become a minister and returned home to Kansas City. In 2000, he started thinking about how he could share his passion for agriculture with the kids in surrounding neighborhoods.
  “A lot of children are influenced by so many negative things including gun violence, bullying and the drug culture,” he says. “If I can show them that they are literally walking over $17.99/lb. walnuts that they can sell–as well as fresh eggs honey and produce–I can impact a change in their mindset.”
  Drew recognized there was available property in his own neighborhood and decided to bring the “farm” to the city where he could direct projects while running his transportation business, caring for his elderly father and serving as a pastor.
  “Our overall goal is to expose inner-city youths to the joys and the benefits of agriculture and animal husbandry along with the principles of faith, patience and discipline for lifelong applications,” Drew says.
  Camp C.A.R.V.E.R. has grown without any grant funding. Drew says he’s been blessed with in-kind donations, volunteers, permission to use land and water resources, and personal contributions. For example, the group recently acquired a retired fire truck and plan to put young people to work contracting watering services for local farmers and gardeners.
  Thanks to the current interest in local food and urban agriculture, people are more excited about agriculture than they were in 2000 when Drew started.
  “All of the kids love the animals, and they love to see the garden stuff grow,” he says, noting that like most kids they are still learning patience when it comes to weeding and some other gardening chores.
  While most of the activity occurs in the late spring and summer, Drew says kids stop by in the winter excited about upcoming projects and field trips that Drew takes them on with vans and buses in his transportation fleet.
  With the groundwork in place and kids aged 3 to 16 excited about agriculture, Drew wants to take Camp C.A.R.V.E.R. to the next level, which will require financial and organizational input. He wants to show the kids that farming is a positive and profitable alternative.
  One of their projects is homing pigeons, which can be rented for weddings or graveside bird releases popular with the many local funeral homes. Beehives could be expanded to harvest and sell honey and to rent to farmers for pollinating crops. The kids are already excited about a project to make lip balm from the beeswax. More eggs could be incubated for kids to raise chickens in their own backyards.
  “We want to be able to market our own products with our own brand name,” Drew says, noting garden produce can be sold to local restaurants and at farmers markets. “We have the means to transport with box trucks and vans.”
  To grow and meet the goals, the camp needs a utility compact tractor with a bucket, at least 25 hp, to pull the tiller and plows they already have. An old 1948 2N Ford tractor has worked long past its prime.
  Drew would also like a reefer truck to deliver fresh produce and fish. Thanks to a pet store that moved and donated all its fish tanks and Drew’s own resourcefulness, his basement is slowly becoming an aquaponics farm with 3,000-gal. of water to raise four or five species of fish, microgreens and mushrooms.
  Drew humbly notes that he is not doing anything new; God is directing his steps, and he is always open to suggestions. He already has a broad network of supporters.
  “People can help by prayer. Prayer changes things,” says Drew. And, of course, financial and equipment contributions are very appreciated.
  He appreciates the successes so far with kids that have gone on to ag education from among the 200 children who have had experiences with Camp C.A.R.V.E.R. on the farm and in the city.
  He welcomes donations and inquiries from anyone interested in his program.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, John Drew, Camp C.A.R.V.E.R., 4600 Sortor Dr., Kansas City, Kan. 66102 (ph 816 437-4385; truetransport@hotmail.com).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #1