When Yolanda and Alan Young started their backyard garden in the Ivanhoe neighborhood, they didn’t plan to one day have a full-fledged, successful farm business like they have now.
In the 1980s and 90s, the two were dedicated to improving the Ivanhoe neighborhood, which at the time had the worst crime rate in Kansas City.
“It was literally and figuratively dark,” Yolanda said about the neighborhood. “The infrastructure and crime were horrible.” The neighborhood faced obstacles like illegal dumping, vacant and blighted properties, gun violence and drug houses on nearly every block.
The Youngs helped create a strong neighborhood council, which brought in resources and programming, which over time helped revitalize the neighborhood. The neighborhood council led community clean-ups, cook outs and presented positive activities for the youth to engage in. They also brought in master gardeners to teach community members how to start their own gardens.
Leaders from the neighborhood council say that with help from the Kansas City Police Department, more than 700 drug houses in the Ivanhoe Area have been shut down since the 1990s.
“We had a holistic approach to turn the neighborhood around,” said Alan, who was president of the council association for about 11 years.
The Youngs said there has been a vast improvement in the neighborhood, but they still have a long way to go.
“Here we are still working and trying to make a difference,” Yolanda said standing in the quarter-acre Young Family Farm, managed by three generations of Youngs who are dedicated to eliminating another obstacle in the Ivanhoe neighborhood: its food desert.
Yolanda said before they started their garden and farm, they had to drive a long way to get access to decent meat and produce.
“This is a food desert, which is connected to bad health outcomes,” she said.
The Youngs started the Young Family Farm in 2017 after buying an abandoned lot next door to their home that was used as a dumpsite. They’re now selling their fresh and organic vegetables including okra, tomatoes, collard greens, beets, carrots, Swiss chard and squash to more than 100 people at their weekly markets.
The Youngs hold their market at the farm located at 3819 Wayne Ave., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. On Wednesdays, people can pick up orders they place online: at https://youngfamilyfarm.square.site/s/order.
Young Family Farm Impact
Their daughter, Alana Henry works as operations manager at the farm. She said the farm has had immense impact already on the surrounding neighborhood, inspiring others to learn about growing their own food and starting their own gardens.
Reggie Hill, came out on a Volunteer Day, to help and learn more about growing food. She wants to grow her own garden at her home.
The Young Family Farm is looking to host more volunteer days for community members to come out and help on the farm. Look out for more volunteer days on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/youngfamilyfarmkc.
“Lots of people don’t know how fruit and veggies grow in their natural state,” Henry said. “Here, people see it and feel like it’s accessible to them and they can come and learn, versus being that passive consumer when you go to the grocery store and it’s already picked for you. That’s very transactional and there’s no connection there.”
Currently, the farm is run by the Young family: Henry and Yolanda, their daughter Alana, and sons Alan Jr. ‘AJ’ Young, Aaron ‘AY’ Young and Alex Young. The Youngs also have help from their six grandchildren.
Henry hopes long-term, the farm will be able to operate without her parents being engaged every day. She wants to see them retire and feel financially secure.
They are also expanding the farm to a few lots nearby and they hope to have a pumpkin patch and melon field.
The Young Family Farm is nominated for the KC Pitch’s “Best Local Farm.” Vote here: https://vote.thepitchkc.com/goods-and-services/best-local-farm?fbclid=IwAR2Wps_87Q8OFKmrbMMFvRmlQrEcV_S-lbtY5Aa6yWug5gy8glX4gsxpgqo.
Visit the Young Family Farm website here: https://youngfamilyfarm.square.site/.