In episode 193 of the Disruptors for GOOD podcast, I speak with Erica Kratofil & Ashley Williamson, Co-Executive Directors of The Giving Grove, on building out a nationwide network of orchards that provide immense impact to local communities.
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About The Giving Grove
The Giving Grove began in 2013 as a grassroots effort to make free, fresh fruits, nuts, and berries available to Kansas City neighborhoods with high rates of food insecurity.
The program was launched with the understanding that an orchard must be community-led and community-driven. At the neighborhood’s request, The Giving Grove helps provide the trees, supplies, and training necessary to grow a fruitful orchard.
Within a few years, The Giving Grove helped install more than 100 orchards in neighborhoods throughout Kansas City that had faced decades of environmental and health inequities, creating beautiful community spaces that each produced hundreds of pounds of free, fresh produce for the neighborhood.
After finding success with The Giving Grove program in Kansas City, its founders began expanding the program across the nation in 2019.
Today, more than 480 of these little orchards are managed and maintained by over 800 volunteer orchard stewards in fourteen cities across the U.S, with dozens of new orchards added each year.
These neighborhood orchards have thousands of fruit trees that will produce more than 64.5 million servings of free, healthy food over their lifetimes (which can be up to 50 years or more), sequester 1,000 tons of carbon, absorb about 177,632 gallons of water per storm.
They also reduce urban flooding and soil erosion, lower urban air temperatures during the summer, reducing risks of heat-related illness, and improve soil biology through holistic orcharding techniques that avoid artificial pesticides and fertilizers, which is healthier for the earth and the people eating the fruit.
About Ashley Williamson
Ashley brings a wealth of local and international experience in program development, community engagement, and research. With a Master’s degree in Social Work Advocacy, Policy, and Administration from the University of Kansas, Ashley is equipped with the knowledge and skills to make a positive impact.
As a dedicated member of the Kansas City community, Ashley actively participates in various boards and leadership programs. Currently, she serves as the Secretary of the Unified Government of Wyandotte Board of Parks Commission, contributing to the betterment of public spaces.
Additionally, Ashley is a valued Board Member of the Community Capital Fund, where she plays a crucial role in supporting local initiatives. She also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Pride Fund Committee of the Mid-America LGBT Chamber of Commerce, working towards fostering inclusivity and equality.
Furthermore, Ashley’s expertise extends to the Advisory Committee of the Kansas City Young Farmers Coalition, where she provides guidance to aspiring young farmers.
About Erica Kratofil
With 15 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising and administration, Erica is a dedicated social worker who brings a wealth of expertise to The Giving Grove. Her background in food security, housing and homelessness, and education equips her with a comprehensive understanding of community needs. Erica’s true passion lies in community engagement, and she actively volunteers alongside her family.
Erica holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and has pursued further education to enhance her skills. She holds a Master’s degree in Social Work and Nonprofit Management from Washington University in St. Louis, which has provided her with a strong foundation for her work. Erica’s commitment to making a difference extends beyond her role at The Giving Grove.
She serves as a Board Member for The For Elysa Foundation, contributing to its mission and goals. Moreover, Erica has served as a social work field instructor for the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, sharing her knowledge and experience with the next generation of social workers.
Grant is the founder of Causeartist, one of the most influential impact business platforms in the world. Since 2013, Causeartist has been read in over 150 countries. Grant has personally interviewed 700+ impact entrepreneurs from around the world, highlighting innovations in ethical fashion, climate change, ethical technology, impact investing, and sustainable travel.