The 1.3 acres of the Broadmoor Urban Farm on the campus at the Center for Academic Achievement has been plowed, composted, and planted. Now, opportunities are growing for Shawnee Mission students.
The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Signature Program oversees the farm, which is on the same site as the district’s student-run, farm-to-table restaurant “The Broadmoor Bistro.”
In May, a farm expansion project, including a greenhouse and tractor barn, was completed with support from the 2015 bond issue and several generous donors. Staff members have been working with students, alumni, and volunteers to prepare the soil, lay irrigation tubing, and plant seedlings. The greenhouse will allow maximum production year-round.
There are plans to install a hoop house over one field to grow year-round outdoors, like a mini greenhouse.
“I think the farm is a really good idea that allows all students to have this experience and a hands-on learning opportunity,” said Paige Eshnaur-Meador, an incoming Shawnee Mission South junior enrolled in Commercial Baking through the Culinary Arts Signature Program.
The first step to prepare the fields for planting was to do a deep plow of the soil, with the goal to save some of the soil from construction debris and aerate other areas where there is a great deal of clay. The deep plowing helps soften the young soil so it can hold moisture and root systems can grow. Rainwater is captured and used for field irrigation.
Chef instructor Robert Brassard oversees the farm with instructors Chef Justin Hoffman, Chef Steve Venne, and Matt Ziegenhorn, who helps with community volunteers and partners. All are staff members of the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Signature Program.
“Our goal is to provide hands-on, visual, learning,” Brassard explained. “We want to create food food memories for our students, and give them learning they can take with them. We want to be a resource for our school district and provide fresh fruits and vegetables, knowledge about nutrition, and a career path for students interested in sustainable farming.” A wide variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs are planned for the farm. Using companion planting, there are tomatoes, pole beans, and cucumbers planted next to each other to provide shade and easy access for tying.
Okra, five varieties of lettuces, root vegetables, and pumpkins, have been planted organically and pumpkins are being harvested. One bed is open for “chaos gardening” where any leftover seeds or seedlings are all planted together. The farm will first and foremost serve as a classroom and provide volunteer and entrepreneurial opportunities for high school students.
It will also be a field trip destination for elementary and middle school students where they might pick their own pumpkin or learn about how food goes from seed to plate. As conditions allow, learning will be year-round and will include classes outside of the culinary program. When biotechnology students, attend classes at the CAA, they will grow and analyze mushrooms and measure the PH value or nitrogen level in the soil as part of the “Biotech in Agriculture and Pharmaceuticals” class. Dr. Kenneth Lee, Biotechnology instructor, spent time at the farm this summer with two students testing the soil to make the PH level more neutral so plants can grow better.
“The expansion of the farm allows us to expand our classes and provide even more experiences to students that will give them the skills they need to go directly to work or college,” Lee noted.
Students in the Engineering Signature Program will have the opportunity to develop irrigation systems incorporating the slope of the land or build the architecture of a terraced field. Summer internships and entrepreneurial projects like a curbside farmers market during the pandemic or canning salsas and jams for sale will all be possible.
The Broadmoor Urban Farm is also made possible through many essential partnerships including Powell Gardens, Cultivate KC, Gibbs Farm, The Giving Grove, Slow Food Kansas City, Joann Schwarberg Landscape Architecture, and Missouri Organic Recycling. This includes generous donations from the Clay Blair Family Foundation and the Hudson Family Foundation. Brassard notes that the goal to constantly model good nutritional behavior, be locally sustainable, and provide life skills is an innovative model that could serve as a roadmap for other school districts in the area.