Shawnee Mission’s Broadmoor Technical Center is about to get a green thumb. The vocational school, which houses the district’s specialized culinary classes, will be turning its courtyard into an educational garden.
By BETH LIPOFF
Special to The Star
The project is a partnership between the Shawnee Mission School District and the urban agriculture group Cultivate Kansas City. Kansas State University’s agricultural school also will provide assistance.
The idea “was really the genius of Bob Brassard,” said Katherine Kelly, executive director of Cultivate Kansas City.
Brassard is the culinary arts coordinator at Broadmoor and is in charge of its cooking programs and restaurant, Broadmoor Bistro.
“As long as I’ve known him, he’s been really engaged in the local agricultural community and teaching his students to prepare high quality food,” Kelly said. “There’s a lot of people who have great ideas, but Bob can look down the road and see what’s possible... and start making it happen.”
Brassard said sustainability is an important part of the program’s certification from the American Culinary Federation.
“We were looking at the impact of really educating kids from seed to harvest on food and showing them the entire picture,” Brassard said.
Although the garden will support the Broadmoor Bistro, its produce will also go to family and consumer sciences classes all over the district. In the summers, Brassard said he hopes to have adult education classes for the general community there.
“The biggest challenge for the community is that they’re supporting farmers markets, but they don’t know how to use the food,” he said.
It will take some time before the garden is up and running. Brassard has been working on the design with Kelly and landscape architect Joann Schwarberg, who is donating her time to the project.
“The interior garden is a space that needs to be aesthetically beautiful and engaging for people to walk around. It’s very much a public space,” Kelly said.
Part of Cultivate Kansas City’s role in the project is to “act as a sounding board” and help with research, budgeting and project development, Kelly said.
Brassard has already seen his students at work in a garden when they did a service project at a community garden in Wichita.
“They were really interested in getting their hands in the dirt and planning (the garden),” Brassard said.
Because students are not in school all year, “they want to hire someone who’s really going to manage the garden on a contractual part-time basis,” Kelly said, adding that the garden manager would also work with students.
Some of the features planned for the Broadmoor garden include a vertical herb garden, a hydroponic living wall, edible flowerbeds, fruit trees, 17 garden beds, three perennial beds and 100 mushroom logs. Brassard said they intend to make use of trellised plants to maximize the produce yield for the space they have available.
Eventually, he also hopes to have some sculptures or other artwork there. Another element will be a cooking demonstration area that will include a smoker and a wood-burning stove.
Because the courtyard is surrounded on all sides by the school, “it’s a protected environment,” Kelly said. “It’s going to be warmer later in the fall and earlier in the spring.”
That benefit and some strategic planning with the garden’s layout will extend the growing season — an advantage when a good part of the school year takes place in the winter months.
Funding is another issue. Brassard estimated that construction and materials will cost at least $200,000. He has applied for a $100,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture and has already received a different grant from the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation.
Chefs in the area are conducting fund-raising dinners for the program.
“I’ve worked on farms over the years, with people who were chefs, and being engaged in that direct growing,” Kelly said. “…It makes you a better cook. It makes you a more interesting cook. This is going to take his program and the Shawnee Mission School District to another level.”