Spring is Here! (at Urban Roots Farm)

In the midst of a dense wet snow, the steering committee for the Conservation Innovation Grant huddled in a warm greenhouse at Urban Roots Farm (in the middle of Springfield, Missouri). Adam Millsap, who runs the farm with his wife, Melissa, gave us a tour of the high-tunnel greenhouse and showed us the fresh green kale, spinach, carrots, and other delicious green things growing in the dead of winter. Adam highlighted some improvements that he plans to make in order to make Urban Roots a zero-runoff property. When all of the pieces are in place, no rainwater will leave the farm in the form of runoff into the street or ditches. The rain will soak in to the ground, evaporate out through plants, or it will be captured and used on the farm to irrigate crops.

Many of the projects planned for the farm are the same projects that we can utilize in our own homes and yards. Rain gardens are a beautiful way to capture and absorb rainwater that would normally wash pollutants out into the road and down into storm drains. They provide habitat, shelter, and food, to urban wildlife, especially birds, in areas that they may not spend time in normally. These flowering native landscapes also increase the aesthetic of your home and neighborhood, making it an attractive place to the passersby. All of the benefits are topped by the wonderful feeling of being surrounded by flourishing plant life in your own yard.

The phrase “Meeting dismissed!” lingered in the warm air of the greenhouse. These words usually find people shuffling papers, putting on coats, or rushing out, already half-way through the door. Not so with this meeting. We were temporarily suspended in the fresh green sights and smells. No one took so much as a step toward the door. Everyone breathed deeply and looked about in wonder, amazed by the miracle of bright green plants growing only a few feet from the inches of snow kept at bay by a simple frame and sheet of plastic. Surrounded by life, we all took a moment to recharge before stepping into the bright white winter outside. I am not sure about the others who were there, but the warmth of the garden stayed with me all day.

Mike Kromrey & Rob Hunt

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