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Volunteers turn vacant lot in Old Northeast into community garden

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- One metro woman with a green thumb is using her gardening skills to give back to the community. She’s doing it in the historic Old Northeast neighborhood.

“When these are old enough to bear fruit, it will be basically free food for neighbors who live around here,” Jenna Wilkins said of the fruit trees recently planted.

That’s just the start for this garden off of St. John Avenue. Jenna Wilkins bought six fruit trees and two more fruit bushes to kick start the planting season. Her hope is to bring the neighborhood together through gardening.

“It’s a demonstration on what can be done to vacant spaces. It could be abandoned like it had been for awhile. But just through the efforts of our neighborhood association in making small inputs, directing resources this way, it is kind of transformative,” she said.

She first started growing food for herself and then shared her passion with the neighborhood. Wilkins already applied for grants to expand this garden. That means more gardening beds, wood mulch, and a system to capture rainwater.

“Each tree will have an average of 200 pounds of fruit each year once they get going. That’s over a thousand pounds of food going into the community just completely free,” said Wilkins.

Whether or not she receives the grant, Wilkins said she’s not afraid to finance projects out her own pocket, because she knows a little hard work will grow tenfold.

“It’s the sense of volunteerism that comes from being in a neighborhood where people care,” she said.