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Community support helping rebuild KC Farm School after storm damages

KC Farm School Damage.jpg
Posted at 5:56 PM, Dec 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 20:49:37-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Ranchers and farmers across Kansas are dealing with major losses after wildfires and record-setting winds rampaged through the state.

KC Farm School at Gibbs Road is home to market growers from across the metro who depend on its facilities to start growing the food many KC locals eat.

Alicia Ellingsworth, co-founder and executive director at KC Farm School, said the winds ripped through their property around 3 p.m on Wednesday.

"The problem with this weather is that it's becoming so unpredictable, and we're having unseasonable and stronger storms," Ellingsworth said.

The framework and roof of the greenhouse were damaged costing the organization thousands of dollars.

"That greenhouse is just really important, we do a lot there, we grow food, it's our community space," Lydia Nebel, farm director at KC Farm School, said.

The school was one of many farms damaged in Kansas this week. A four-county fire in western Kansas is estimated to have scorched nearly 400,000 acres of land.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture doesn't know how much of a financial impact the fire had, but the departments has predicted the long-term impacts will be considerable due to the loss of crops, livestock, tools, structures and more.

"It's a significant loss of income for next year and potentially the year after," Mike Beam, secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, said.

KDA has set up a website for donations to help out impacted families, but there is a concern more damage could come in the future.

The agency said wildfires in Kansas are not uncommon, but what was unusual was the large area the four-county fire burned through.

"We are not out of the woods yet, I mean it's going to be a concern as we go clear through the winter and early spring," Beam said. "We are going to have more threatening days, and we hope we don't have a day like we had Wednesday."

Damage at the KC Farm School was originally estimated to be around $7,000 ,but because of ongoing community efforts and donations of labor and supplies, the cost was brought down to less than $4,000.

"All of the rules that we were taught as a young farmer no longer apply," Nebel said. "It impacts the life cycle of a plant, it’s causing a lot of uncertainty on how to grow, what to grow, when to put things in the ground... and that directly impacts what people to eat."

Both Nebel and Ellingsworth said the answer may be regenerative agriculture - a farming technique that focuses on using less chemicals and is used to combat climate change.

"We know what the work is and how to do the work, people are here let's join together and get to work," Ellingsworth said.

The roof of the greenhouse is expected to be put in place by Monday, and the KC Farm School is asking for volunteers to help "raise the new roof."