Editor’s note: During the month of March, in honor of Women’s History Month, The Star will feature glimpses of daily life of women who make up part of the thread of Kansas City.
On the east side of Kansas City, just north of a curve in Interstate 70, in the northeast corner of the 64128 zip code, stands La’Trice Murray.
The 37-year-old woman surveys her modest yard by her modest house, inherited from her great aunt, in the midst of the city’s urban core.
She turned to that yard, to the soil beneath her feet, when the pandemic hit. When it grounded planes. When it put her work traveling the country as a technology trainer for Cerner on hold.
She sank her hands into that dirt as a pastime, putting down seeds that grew up into peppers and tomatoes. She took them to her grandmother, who taught her to garden, and noticed others at the senior living facility lacked fresh produce.
Then she noticed families in her east side neighborhood lacking reliable transportation to supermarkets outside of their urban community. She noticed they turn to convenience stores lacking plentiful produce.
So she made a plan: provide affordable food to communities in food deserts. She planted her urban farm.
In her zip code, with the lowest life expectancy in the city, she has tapped into more than a demand. She’s tapped into a need.
Murray went on to secure a restaurant contract. Church members came for green tomatoes the size of softballs. A local Caribbean restaurant bought her scotch bonnet peppers.
Her small plot of land, an oasis amid the bricks and pavement, became the cornerstone for her business she calls Black Farmer Jane.
Since plucking her first peppers and tomatoes, the plan for her urban farm has spread to three other plots of lands in three other cities.
Back home, Murray is mapping out plots for her harvest melons, pole beans, okra and peas. She’s selling wine she labeled “Teneil” — her middle name, meaning “passionate champion,” another gift from her grandmother. She’s deciding where to place the cool shade of a cherry tree.
She’ll begin sewing seeds again in April, when the earth thaws and the skies warm. She’ll bring bees to yield honey, body balms and sweet roasted nuts.
She’ll till and plant, water and weed until a colorful crop springs from the land.
Her urban farm.
“It’s like you’re just in the world at peace,” she said. “There’s nobody but you and God and the garden.”
Murray’s backyard farmers market is expected to open on Saturdays in July. You can follow her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/BlackFarmerJane/. Black Farmer Jane also has urban farms in Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Memphis, Tennessee; and Dallas, Texas.