On a cool September morning, Dre Taylor dodged raindrops while talking with several people tending beans, peppers, tomatillos, collards and more outside of a 4,500-square-foot building. This is Nile Valley Aquaponics, a vibrant fixture in Kansas City, Missouri's urban core. The name came from Egypt where people cultivated plants and fish thousands of years ago. Goats and picnic tables share outdoor space and offices occupy a nearby house.
Last summer (2018), Nile Valley Aquaponics grew dozens of fruits, vegetables and herbs, from tomatoes and squash to basil and sage, kale and Swiss chard. Its 100,000 Pound Food Project seeks to produce 100,000 pounds of local fresh fish, vegetables and herbs, creating greater access to healthy food choices, while providing volunteer opportunities and economic stability in the area. Health education is also important. Several October classes will address growing mushrooms, building a greenhouse for less than US$500, and building a personal aquaponics system.
Taylor's interest in aquaponics began following a Will Allen workshop by former professional basketball player and founder of Milwaukee-based Growing Power Backyard Aquaponics (the nonprofit has closed). After creating a personal aquaponics system and a 2013 visit to Growing Power Backyard Aquaponics, Taylor's dream expanded. Once he had a 378-liter (100-gallon) fish tank operating, Taylor began talking to potential funders.
Construction began in October 2015 on two vacant lots donated by long time residents and community leaders Harrel Sr. and Myrtle Johnson. Three conjoining vacant lots were also purchased from the Land Bank of Kansas City. Taylor and volunteers removed 18 trees, which became tables, benches and a desk.