Future of Westside Community Farm uncertain as city council mulls budget cut

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It takes a lot of seeds to grow a garden.

Leaders with Kansas City Community Gardens fear their non-profit efforts may suffer if Kansas City council members slash their annual funding. The council is considering a reduction for that community group by $32,000 annually.

Marcella Morales-Gaona has big goals for the green space located at 21st and Bellevue, which sits just behind the Tony Aguirre Community Center. Morales-Gaona has spent decades helping operate Switzer Neighborhood Farm, which is now known as Westside Community Farm.

"Peaches and pears and plums! Oh, my!" Morales-Gaona laughed, while surveying that green strip, which is home to about 100 fruit-bearing trees.

Morales-Gaona operates the farm in cooperation with the Westside CAN Center, a community-based group that provides support for people living in Kansas City's western end. She plans to move her entire community garden, which is located nearby, to the 21st and Bellevue plot. Westside CAN Center got its kickstart for the garden from Kansas City Community Gardens.

"If they lose their money, I'm losing that as well. Not just me. My community," Morales-Gaona said.

On Tuesday morning, over 100 people packed into the city council's Housing Committee Meeting at City Hall. Many attendees came to show support for Kansas City Community Gardens, demonstrating how their groups have benefitted from the council's funding.

Kansas City's Council currently provides Kansas City Community Gardens with $78,000 annually. If the proposed cuts take effect, that total would shrink to only $45,000.

"We're going to be struggling, and we'll just have to find (funding) somewhere else. It's a must thing. It's all about sustainable living," Morales-Gaona said.

"(Losing funding) is the thing you're always afraid of," Ben Sharda, Kansas City Community Gardens Executive Director, told FOX 4 News.

Sharda says his agency has assisted 260 community groups establish gardens, where crops are often donated to less-fortunate families. His non-profit uses the council's funding to provide everything those groups need to get started.

"It would probably mean less gardens. We'd be able to spend less time at gardens. You'd be able to get less help, physical, lumber, soil, garden tilling. It would make a difference," Sharda said.

Kansas City Council members aren't expected to make a final decision for another few weeks.

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