2019 Year in Review

2019 was fantastic, including 6 houses saved, Greenhouse aquaponics build out & Job skills training happening at UFG. 10 year crime stats in!

Summer Internship

We’ve had a fantastic team of 10 interns this year helping make things happen 5 days a week, from schools & cities across the globe. We partnered with a Social Impact group at Harvard this year to bring in 2 interns, who recently presented their experience at UFG to the Harvard Club of Kansas City Alumni.  Such a great event! We also had interns from Drake University, K-State, UMKC, Germany, Rwanda, Chicago and Pembroke Hill High School. They researched & helped build the aquaponic expansions in the smart greenhouse and so much more, what a fun team!

Job Skills partnership with Westside housing

We’ve partnered with Westside Housing and Jackson County Combat to host and execute a 10 week job-skills training for  construction and maintenance with a cohort of 4. This summer we hosted over 1000 hours of hands on skills learned with people making a fresh start.   After completing round one, we can say it has been fantastic! We have hired 2 people, and have recommendations for the others. We hope to help expand this program which is right in our wheelhouse. We would love to do it again!  Sponsorship funding is all that’s needed to start another cohort and fund the 10 week training wage of $12 an hour.. We are willing! We have the facilities! We are always ready to ramp up with support…

This experience makes me think how great a national job guarantee program could be. It would really benefit organizations like ours, and a mutual benefit for the individuals and relationships formed.  Not to compete with for-profit, just working to fill in the gaps in the nonprofit world, learning skills for better pay in the for-profit world. It’s for people who want to work and show up helping out in the city.   We would have never met these 4 men without such a program.  

10 years of crime stats are in

For the last Ten Years, we have been collecting Type 1 crime stats for the Lykins Neighborhood, since our very first attendance of the Lykins Neighborhood Association  11 years ago, and we have seen a steady decrease in crime. The 10 year data is astounding, 39%!! For the whole neighborhood! That’s a lot of people NOT affected by this in the present.   Cheers to everyone who have put their hand to the plow. No one agency can claim the credit. Many thanks to KCPD FD, LNA, And KCMO for that matter. and the rock solid residents who won’t let crap slide on their block. Here’s to the next 10 years of doubling that decrease!  Lykins 2.0 …

Lykins holds a special place in the heart of the city.   Some of its oldest cemeteries are here. Many street names buried here. Its very name “Lykins” is shared with Kansas City’s *first mayor.   *Debated. 2nd mayor. It is one of the very first suburbs of kansas city. It was once vibrant Italian community , and now the Renaissance belongs to many nations of the earth, but the growing local economy and housing is being renovated in majority by the the homegrown Latino community that so wonderfully calls Lykins home.  Its a 40% 30% 10% 20% community of Latino, White, Black, International. It is America’s melting pot where immigrants get settled into Lykins attainable real estate . It is a mini modern Detroit as the entire boom of its creation was centered around America’s steel and war production playing host to to the army quartermaster depot for the entire midwest, with 50,000 people passing through its doors daily. Fast forward to industry bust, Closed Factories, Workforce housing gone bust.  Flight, Houses burning monthly. 25 years of rapid decay. The once recent armpit of Kansas City is the OPEN CANVAS of creativity for those with eyes to see and heart for the next generation. We honor and high five the Latino community , and Somali community and the many other communities for working for a better more family safe neighborhood for a better future for a neighborhood deeply against the odds.

Combat Liaisons

Last year UFG launched and managed a program to hire neighborhood resident liaisons that spoke various languages, 5 hours a week, $15 an hour to help spread the word about neighborhood developments. The program was a huge success and has resulted in many new residents visiting the Neighborhood aAssociation at record levels, as well as 20 or so residents becoming regular members of the Lykins Housing Committee, with regular attendance of 5 nationalities. 

Giving voice to the people is an ongoing mission of UFG.  This program is now in its second year of funding and UFG has passed the baton to Lykins Neighborhood Association to manage from within….

 Such a fantastic role these neighborhood Liaisons are playing to bring the resources and communications to the people of the community who would otherwise be disconnected. This is so very important for voices to be heard and communications to be strong ahead of inevitable developments.  Lykins is so unique in the sense that it represents 20 languages spoken at any given time at the elementary school. A neighborhood so close to the downtown core, 1.8 mi. LNA is now becoming mature and translators are keeping communications flowing, and for the first time ever is applying for its own 501c3 status.   LNA is doing everything right and finally has a budget to stand strong. 

The neighborhood has expressed a 3 Part Goal.  To preserve and grow housing at a 30/30/30 mix of 30%Affordable / 30% Workforce subsidised / 30%Market Rate houses.   All the while encouraging home ownership and a mixed socioeconomic community, not to become a concentration of poverty, or the armpit for all the cities various problems. We strive to be a community that honors and protects its current residents and its beautiful housing stock, while recognizing that entire blocks have burned down and keep burning. We need to create more housing and keep it diverse and affordable.  This fits right within the goals of UFG to help disadvantaged communities rebuild from within. Helping build economy, capacity and resiliency hyperlocally. GO LNA!

Lykins Neighborhood Office

LNA has its own office for the first time! On UFG Campus.  This Spring we renovated a boarded up house and got it back to pretty again.   Lykins Neighborhood Association has become a powerful force for protecting its residents, and expanding affordable housing and the organization is now leading its own development.   Good things are getting done at a pace we have never seen in the Neighborhood. This is the very first year that Lykins has a staff and a budget of its own. CAPACITY INCREASED in the neighborhood. 

 UFG was able to fully release this heavy hat to the Local community last year.  We can proudly say we helped hold some good ground in many lean years where UFG granted the majority of LNA budget and kept the phone tree going and the website up and hosted many meetings in hot rooms. Finally we are off of the board of 8 years, but still deep in committee.  This is just how it should play out. Our mission is not to take over but to help catalyze as much as possible and hand off as much as possible as fast as possible in 1-10 years and get the next ball rollin’. Pre-development work. Creating a place, a safe space. Ground work in rebuilding communities.

Six boarded up houses Saved on campus

In March UFG purchased 6 vacant boarded up houses just a block from the makerspace for $75K. One of the houses in the middle had burned down a month before.  These houses were a long way from habitable and knee deep in trash inside and out, quickly becoming a squatters paradise. After 1200 volunteer hours and our job skills team getting so much done, 2 houses are already occupied and serving.  Lykins neighborhood is renting the first one as their first office, and the second house provides affordable housing in trade for work by a previously homeless vet. 2 more houses should be finished by November, and we hope to partner with Lykins NA to build a slumlord relief home to help families without water or dangerous conditions, giving them temporary housing while their house is repaired or better housing acquired.  

The bigger vision for these houses requires Partnership.  With some additional capital investment we would expand the Agrihood concept by empowering and incubating food businesses in these houses/ vacant lots that could be owned by existing refugee farmers working with JVS in our neighborhood.  Farmers who could live and work locally to own their own home and business, working with UFG’s facilities to share resources, wash space, customers, marketing, etc. to make $30k to $100k a year, building local economy, capacity, and resiliency!  So that’s the dream. It may take a decade, or a year, we shall see. 

Even if necessary partnership does not come together, these houses will still be saved…

UFG now has 10 houses that were all boarded up for over 36 cumulative years.  This is the first year we’ve owned a property that MAY not have a bullet hole.  The place is now covered in flowers and grass and clean houses, new paint and some new roofs going in, and in the end, whatever it takes to deploy these houses after 20 years of decay and slumlord housing.  Loan financing has been provided by Green Pastures and Price Brothers Foundation.

Smart Greenhouse Expansion

The Educational Greenhouse is helping to incubate 2 food business now.  UFG lettuce is now delivered to chefs around the city year round. And a new company that makes fermented products and a operates a CSA on UFG lots Named M.O.R.T.   Several Lykins residents benefit from the produce grown on our land. 10 nearby low income families are sponsored for weekly deliveries of produce from a the new company.   Find out more about M.O.R.T here, They have been a great partner… and Intern of 4 years back. 

Thanks to the help of many donor partners who are chipping in to upgrade the  educational greenhouse. Half of the interior space is funded and built and producing to full capacity and the other half is coming together with additions this year.  This years additions include a gas boiler system for more efficient localized heating, heat only where it’s needed. 3000 Gallon Aquaponic fish tank additions to fertilize the lettuce Aquaponically & Fish Nursery System built in the Greenhouse.

We have built 4 Open Source sensors for the greenhouse that report wirelessly to the web. We have put up a fish cam to watch the fish conditions remotely. Big thanks to the project funders who pushed these projects forward this year : Mozilla MOSS Grant, The Janey Fund, Country Club Christian Church. So thankful for the upgrades! Still more to go to fully maximize the invested space. 

Green Thumb Project

4 Open source sensors have been built for the greenhouse this year in a research project sponsored by UFG and by Mozilla, a $5k open source innovation grant that one of our interns Goeffrey McIntyre pitched in London at the Mozfest.   Geoffrey is going back to London to present soon the finished project. The GreenThumb project has taken on a life of its own as it begins to serve the open source community with kits and Open Source tutorials. UFG is proud to Partner with Mozilla but big shout out to Geoffrey McIntyre who commanded this project  and who just started his first year in college.

Geoffrey churned out 4 open source greenhouse sensors and a website to report the data in real time , plus tutorials and kits for building your own.   All with a $5k grant. All pre college!. The project is growing nice and slow and looking for more volunteers. 

UFG kids Robotics Team needs your help!We have 7 of our 10 team members back this year, and we are ready to score!  First Robotic Lego League just released this year’s competition theme: “Shaping Cities”, so up our alley!  We are currently fundraising for the competition in December. Fees, transportation, T-shirts, computer & project materials to name a few. $2000-$5000 will make our season happen and the latter will get us some much needed laptop computers.    Donate Here

UFG Incubates

We just do.  We create space.  Space to create. Space To live. Space To Grow and make again.    This year we have created a space for a food concept business to grow , from nursery to the field, to refrigeration and washing space, internet, power, and water throughout, even housing is possible.   UFG is all about incubating anything around food, anything around afterschool programming and community, anything around neighborhood, anything about empowering local food businesses. It’s not that we have the funding or the right to be called an incubator. It’s just what you do out of necessity in the midst of a lack of what’s needed in our mission to see disadvantaged communities rebuild and take charge from within.  We incubate any idea that leads to a healthy sustainable community, especially anything that meets basic needs. We incubate an underfunded kids robotics team. We have started several businesses over the years. We are a village incubator mini tech space plus community center with housing. But all of that is just silly without the budget to be official, so we just do it anyway. This year we helped incubate a food business startup called M.O.R.T. who makes Kimchee and also has a CSA. They distribute sponsored food to neighbors in Lykins in a weekly share. They use all of our facilities and grow on our land for a small lease and keeping the land in order and producing.  

Leases Available

Between UFG makerspace and Greenhouse space and houses, there are many leases available. We have up to 5 storefront spaces each 5000 sq ft., build to suit.  Preference given to makers of anything, artists, and food businesses. Office space and storage could be made as well. UFG already has plenty of space to use for its own small budget.  Everything in our 25,000 sq ft commercial building is month to month, so there is nothing stopping your creative mind to sprawl or fit your budget in this catalytic flexible space. Contact: Admin@theurbanfarminggguys.com for more lease info.

MAKERS be Makin’

Urban farming guys makerspace is not half as cool as the stuff people be makin inside of the building.   And that is just how it is supposed to be. Check out some of the things made recently. Skittles printer will print an image of your face in 2 hours out of skittles. Guitars, Sensors, Honey. Robots, etc

Skittels Printer: 

A couple of our local makers have created a Skittle Pixel8r that uses skittles as pixels to create a unique, temporary creation!  The pieces for the machine were printed on our laser cutter & assembled to sort,arrange & drop the skittles for each creation.  A totally useless and brilliant machine!

UFG is sustaining 

UFG basic operations are sustaining for the first time in history!   We have had to cut things tight and keep a small team of 3 employees plus project subcontractors, but we are thankful that what we have built has begun to sustain itself at a critical level, and the land continues to produce.  We are so thankful for the many small donations that help us grow and invest in the next generation. Last year we struck out at grant writing for staff, and next year UFG will only have 2 part time employees in the whole operation if we don’t secure support from local foundations. We are working on this, but we can finally say that we will likely survive regardless.   We are thankful. BUT we are just short of having the capacity to be doing 10X more good with a bit more partnership and foundational grant support…. We could be doing so much more with this campus if our staffing plan was supported and funded. We do believe this is coming in the next 3 years, as well as some fantastic potential partnerships we are so eager to tell you about when they land.  Life is good, eager to grow impact! …

For the Givers only:   

We do not ever want to ask for donations from the bulk of our email readers, we just want to inspire and be inspired. To those who are giving their life & everything they have to invest in their own community, please keep going and ignore this ask, we believe in you.

BUT, to our friends that love to give or have time to invest:  We beg you, we are so perfectly positioned to have multiplied impact with some grease in the budget.   Many good things are at minimum BUT ready to go. Your donations have been making big things happen since we began.  Below is how we can expand our impact together.


Funding Needs Unmet

Robotics Team Sponsorship ‘19 – ‘20: $2k – $10K

Website Revamp $5k

Greenhouse Capacity/ Efficiency Upgrades             $40k


1 part time Program manager $25k

Additional Greenhouses on the land $20k

2 Additional Classrooms in the makerspace $80k

2 part time grant writers $24k

Fire Escape & Occupancy of 2nd floor $20k

Thank you, your continued partnership makes it happen!

-Jason Fields, President

The Urban Farming Guys

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