Missouri Urban Farmers Thrilled by Gift of Land

June 5, 2015 06:56 AM
Missouri Urban Farmers Thrilled by Gift of Land

Urban farmers who lost land in Kinloch that they had farmed for decades are now sowing seeds in Berkeley, and they're thrilled with the change.

The construction company that owned the Kinloch plot tore it up for an expansion of a business park, and the amateur agrarians thought that spelled the end of their efforts to stock their dinner tables. Last winter, though, the company, Clayco Inc., deeded the roughly 50 farmers their new 12-acre plot in Berkeley, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

"These guys have always been great stewards of the land," Clayco chairman and CEO Bob Clark said. "Before, they didn't actually have any claim on the land. Now they have rights to it."

The farmers, who range in age from their early 30s to late 70s, no longer have to haul in water for their crops like they did on the Kinloch land. The fields in Berkeley offer them access to a nearby hose connection. They also now have a building with bathrooms, a kitchenette and plenty of space for dominoes games they play whenever they're not busy working on the land.

"Completely better here," said one farmer, 74-year-old John Knox, of Northwoods.

(Click here to view a St. Louis Dispatch slideshow of the farmers.)

The farmers say they like to work in three shifts — the early birds arrive around dawn and then give way to the noon shift. The late arrivals are often seen watering, weeding and harvesting fruits and vegetables until sundown on summer nights.

"We like to stay busy," said Joe Spears, 70, of Rock Hill.

But it doesn't mean that's it all work and no play. He recently sipped a cold beer at the farm and played dominoes with three other longtime farmers, all 65 and older. They said they would have been working in the fields had spring rain and cold temperatures not made the ground muddy.

"We enjoy ourselves," Spears said. "But we work hard, too. Always have."

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