Noticing Neighbors Young Family Farm
How many markets have you been to where you’re able to see the farmer harvest the produce? Young Family Farm gives you the chance to try it out! With a mission to serve a wide variety of quality fruits and vegetables, this family owned business brings important access to the community. In this sit down conversation, Alana Henrny shares what the urban farm means to the Midtown Kansas City area, as well as the family that owns it.
For readers that may not know, could you talk just a little bit about the Young Family Farm? I would love for them to get to know who you are.
Sure. So Young Family Farm is, by name and in reality, a family owned operation—a family owned business. We are located in Midtown KC. It is in a unique area that is, of course, very populated. It is a dense area of the urban core, surrounded by what's classified as a “food desert.” The median household income here is just around $26,000 a year. So many of the residents of this area struggle with both the capacity to purchase quality produce, and accessibility to purchase quality produce options. That context, I think, is important for understanding the significance of our operation and its potential impact for residents and surrounding areas here in KC.
It sounds like you really value people being able to make those choices, with quality food available.
We believe that the provision of the food is important, but we also believe in providing the education piece to our community—the black community specifically, is who I'm referencing at this moment. We have high rates of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other effects that are related to a less nutritious diet. Some of this has a connection to the options that are accessible to folks in the urban core. You can go to the corner store, they've got liquor, they've got candy, they have chips—just not typically fresh produce options. So what we are trying to do is provide those options, and also educate people on the different food options that are out there. Many folks really just have not had exposure to a lot of different vegetables.
Hayley: Can you talk more about that?
Alana: Well if I were to list vegetables, I think of the common ones, right? Tomatoes, lettuce, carrots. But outside of that, for a lot of people, it's really limited. So we try to expose folks to different vegetables that they may not have even seen, let alone tried. Getting to harvest from the land is also a unique experience that many people, whether they have a well rounded diet or not, don't get to have. We’re not used to seeing broccoli growing in its natural state, or turnips in their natural state—so our farm gives that opportunity.
We like to harvest from the land on market days, versus just having a table with everything already prepped. People can tour our site and see the produce! We think it helps with rebuilding an actual connection with food and food production.
Are there any moments where someone was trying a food for the first time, or seeing it grow, that has stayed with you?
So many. Recently, there were some students who came for a field trip to our garden. We were walking through the rows, and they looked and they said, “Oh, what's that? Are those some weeds?” And we told them that no, they were potatoes. They couldn’t believe it, right? Because your presumption is, for whatever reason, that you would be able to see the potato. But potato plants actually grow with the vegetable underground. It's a root plant.
Hayley: Right! Alana: So when you see the vegetation above ground, it just looks like leaves. It could easily seem like a weed. But when we were able to pull the potatoes out of the earth, they were like, what! It gave us a chance to explain how potatoes grow, and the value of those moments really cannot be overstated.
The discovery process that's happening is amazing to see, and there's so much that I have learned, too. It’s fulfilling to be a part of this, and see what folks learn when they come to visit us.
Are there any traits that you see come out when people have those moments? Like, do you see a little more confidence, or a new curiosity?
I think for us, we want people to feel like sustainability efforts and food sovereignty are reachable for them on a small scale. Hayley: Right.
Alana: We want people to feel like, hey, you know what? I could do this. I can grow a few plants in my yard. I could grow a few plants at my apartment. We want people to feel like they don't have to have 50 acres in order to grow some food for themselves and for their families. That's the side of it that we find particularly inspiring, and it’s what we hope our work is doing—which is encouraging others to involve themselves in growing their own food and being okay with starting small.
If people are looking to get involved, is there some way they can come partner with you?
Yeah, so we have different needs. Of course, being a small family operation, it means there is a lot of labor and different costs associated with that. So if people are interested in getting involved or supporting us, there are some active ways and passive ways. Hayley: What do those look like? Alana: So a more passive way you could support us: you could donate to our business. We do have a website where people can go to and opt to donate. You can follow us on Instagram and on Facebook, and you can share cool posts with friends and say, hey, check out this spot. That's a passive way to show support.
Then the more active ways of showing support to us would be coming to market! Or if you have an interest, definitely volunteering. We have lots of volunteer opportunities that pop up during the summer. We need help getting potatoes planted over at another plot that we have recently acquired, and getting some brush cleared out. We have volunteer days at different weekends or weekdays throughout the year, so anyone can reach out. Those would be the best way to show support for what we're trying to do.
My last question is really broad, so you can take it wherever you want. How have you seen positivity through the work with your business? Alana:
I think that what we need more of as a society in particular, and what other cultures have identified as something that contributes to wellbeing, is connection and relationship. And I think what we have established here, albeit on a small scale, is a way to build relationship and connection. There's a lot of good in the world, and there's a lot of good in other people, but if we're stuck behind a screen or we're stuck in isolation at our homes—it makes it difficult to see or to feel that goodness. So I think when you have opportunities to really connect in conversation and build a relationship with others, you can really see that play out in a more tangible way. It’s about taking the time to get to know people, engage in an empathetic and kind manner.