Where Rural Ends and Urban Begins

Town and Country

Undeveloped "green" areas in Kansas City allow space for urban farms, some as big as 20 acres.

Published on: March 22, 2013

Despite living in Kansas City since October, I hadn't realized until recently the amount of green space in between pockets of development. This has been more apparent with warmer weather. In a phone conversation with Clay County Extension community development specialist Crystal Weber, she said Kansas City is actually one of the least developed cities in the country. In cases like this, the hinterland can be somewhat hard to determine – it's not quite clear where rural ends and urban begins.

Within the city proper are thick timber areas, ponds and even lakes like the 134-acre Riss Lake complete with a marina in the Parkville area. It includes parks like the 1,805-acre Swope Park, Kansas City's biggest park and one of the biggest urban parks of the United States, outsizing Central Park and Lincoln Park. This doesn't include the 930-acre Longview Lake or 4,852-acre Longview Lake Park, which are managed by Jackson County.

Wooded areas like this near Riss Lake are not uncommon within the Kansas City limits. This kind of green space allows urban agriculture in various parts of the city.
Wooded areas like this near Riss Lake are not uncommon within the Kansas City limits. This kind of green space allows urban agriculture in various parts of the city.

Near some wooded areas it's common to see deer crossing the road. In some places, it's also possible to see horses and hogs, as these green spaces include small pockets of farm ground. I had seen pockets in small towns where barns had been left standing with a few horses, but nothing like the 20 acres farmed by one family within the boundaries of Kansas City. These aren't just "hobby" farms, but farms making a profit selling locally grown produce and sometimes meat to restaurants and stores.

Of course, cattle and row crops would be less feasible than fruits, vegetables and small livestock in certain areas. Still, Kansas City's amount of green space, or space unused by people, allows urban farms to be scattered through various parts of the city.

While driving from downtown Kansas City on I-70 through these green pockets to more suburban areas like Bonner Springs, home to the National Agricultural Hall of Fame, or east on Highway 152 to Liberty, it's easy to see room for this agriculture. Rural-esque amenities like lakes and timber could reflect a desire for people living in all populations to feel connected to the land. Although this is present in all cities, Kansas City seems to have an abundance.