KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An urban farmer in Kansas City is using his skills and life experience to cultivate the minds of young men.
Dre Taylor is the founder of Males to Men, a rites of passage program that works to raise “strong, conscious and productive young men.”
“A man has accountability and responsibility with himself and his community and that’s what we try to teach our young men,” Taylor said.
One component of the program involves Nile Valley Aquaponics, a plant and fish-based farm at the corner of 29th and Washbash. Taylor, who operates the farm, uses it to teach the young men in his program valuable lessons.
“[They’re] learning about entrepreneurship, how to eat healthy, understanding where their food comes from, learning how to grow food themselves and seeing farming in the inner-city,” he explained.
Taylor hosts 15-20 boys, between the ages of 7-19, every Monday. He has seven mentors on his team who serve as role models or father-figures to the boys.
“We teach them a lot of things, their history, who they are,” Taylor said. “We talk about current events, politics, school, music, a lot of different things.”
Men, just there to listen or give advice.
“A lot of young men don’t have support systems, so we try to provide that,” Taylor said.
The mentors also take the boys on field trips, bring in professionals to talk about their careers and connect them with tutoring services. They even offer $100-$150 reward to those who get a 3.0 GPA in their core subjects, per semester.
“You have to meet them where they are,” he said. “They’re pretty good kids. They’re just looking for some male mentorship.”
Jarel Stone, 11, has been in the program for about a year. The incoming sixth-grader said he lives with all women and joined because he wanted a male figure in his life.
He said he has a lot of fun on the farm but he also learning what it means to be a better person.
“You shouldn’t disrespect the people that made you,” Stone said. “[You should] always do your work in class, so that you don’t flunk and always preserve.”
Taylor described the work he’s doing as a grassroots effort aimed at keeping young men on the straight and narrow.
“I think if [people] really want to make a change in the city they need to focus on the groups on the ground, that have been doing the work to do some of that preventive work,” Taylor said.
Taylor estimates Males to Men has mentored between 150-200 young men since founding the organization in 2013.
If you’re interested in volunteering or learning more about Males to Men, click here.