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Jefferson County Soil and Water Conservation District, Kentucky

Students at the Nativity Academy learn to plan strawberries.

The goal of the Jefferson County SWCD program is to connect more individuals to urban agriculture and local food production through helping people better understand their soil resources and to manage those resources for sustainable production. Launching the UAC program in Louisville provided a much-needed avenue for the district to connect with the large urban population living in houses with small yards and apartment buildings.

The district hired its first urban agriculture conservationist, whose role was to manage the UAC program and implement the district’s strategies. 59 residents in food insecure neighborhoods of Louisville were engaged through a five-week beginning gardening course put on in partnership with Jefferson County Extension. An additional 131 residents were educated through workshops on topics including square-foot gardening, cover cropping, season extension and rain barrel construction.

In the spring of 2017, work began with the Community Schools program of Jefferson County Public Schools to create after-school garden programs for students in food insecure neighborhoods. Throughout the summer, garden-based learning experiences were provided to 45 students at four different schools.

Staff met with Louisville Metro Council members representing 13 districts in the city to educate them about the work of the district and the new UAC program. Prior to the fall of 2016, it had been six years since the district had any staff working out in the community. Within the past year, knowledge of the district’s programs increased through outreach efforts at various events throughout town as well as through distribution of an online newsletter going out to 1,020 residents.

The district organized an Urban Agriculture Coalition to bring together other like-minded organizations in Louisville to work toward a shared vision. The coalition’s mission is to create an equitable and resilient food system in Louisville by supporting and expanding home and community based food production and distribution; providing agriculture education and resources; restoring relationships among the gardens, their communities and ecosystems; and work toward a shared vision. Members of the coalition include the local parks department, extension agents, urban farmers, refugee agriculture program staff and more.

This new program provided an opportunity for the district to reach many more residents and expand programming to urban areas of Jefferson County where the majority of the population resides.

In the work with community gardens, two edible buffers were designed and installed with the help of community volunteers.

Sustainability

After meeting with many city government council members and other government officials, the district received a funding increase to keep the Urban Agriculture Conservationist employed. The district also received a grant from a local nonprofit to support the Urban High Tunnel Initiative, which also provides funding for this program.

The district continues to work to raise funds to support the programmatic work of the Urban Agriculture Conservation Initiative.

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