St. Isidore’s Garden receives Grower of the Year award

The VanBoovens were surprised by the Silver Spade Award, but very pleased. They accepted it in the name of all their workers since 2011. (Photo courtesy of After the Harvest)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — St. Isidore’s Garden was established in 2011 on Missouri River bottom land owned by St. Gabriel Archangel parishioners Norman and Edith Van Booven, as a project for the parish Youth Group to help feed the hungry in Kansas City. Since then, it has grown into a partnership with After The Harvest, a local organization that trains volunteers to glean, that is, picking up produce that was missed at harvest time and distributing it to agencies that serve the hungry, including Harvesters.

Early in December, the Van Boovens received the Silver Spade Award as Grower of the Year from After The Harvest at a dinner at One Park Place, formerly the BMA Building at 31st and Southwest Trafficway.

Norm quipped that his wife of nearly 50 years had been wanting to get into that building since they were dating. “Edie finally scratched that off her bucket list.”

He continued, “The dinner was quite impressive. Several awards were presented. The award we accepted was the Silver Spade Award. To describe this memento: it is a silver hand trowel. The engraving on the back reads like this: After The Harvest. 2018 Grower of the Year Award, St. Isidore Garden. That means that everyone who has worked in this garden — tilling, sowing, pulling weeds, watering, mulching and crawling around the plants harvesting the produce is recognized by this award. We were proud to accept in the name of ALL the workers involved in the garden.”

Emily Worm, Gleaning Network Manager for After The Harvest, said the Van Boovens received the award for their growing consistency, and increasing amounts of produce since they connected with the gleaning and distribution organization. She said they were great advocates for After The Harvest, having connected them with two other farmer/growers, one in the village of Birmingham in Clay County, Mo., the other next door to St. Isidore’s Garden.

There is a hunger problem in the Greater Kansas City area, but it’s not necessarily those who are homeless. Most of the people struggling with getting enough food to feed themselves and their families are working adults, seniors and children.
In 2017 alone, After the Harvest gleaned 60 varieties of fruits and vegetables and brought in 118 semi-truck loads of rescued produce (about 42,000 pounds in each truck): potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, melons, onions, peppers, green beans, corn, turnips and more so that hungry people had access to healthy food.

In 2012, its first year, St. Isidore’s Garden produced 4,400 pounds of produce, 7,566 pounds in 2013, and in 2014 set its record of 12,329 pounds. The total for 2015 was 8,061 pounds, 2016 was 7,667 pounds, 2017 was 9,467 pounds, and 2018 was 12,012 pounds. Add it altogether and the garden produced 65,102 pounds of vegetables for agencies including Little Sisters of the Poor, Our Lady of Mercy Country Home, Harvesters, and others that feed the hungry.

“We will display this award in a prominent place, so all workers can get a visual,” Norman said. A former salesman, he is familiar with incentives and awards. But the Silver Spade is different.

“The greatest reward for us is knowing that we are assisting in feeding the hungry,” he said.

For more information on St. Isidore’s Garden or to volunteer, contact Diane Pickert, St. Gabriel Parish. For more information about After The Harvest and ways to help the hungry, visit



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November 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph