John Gordon Jr. knew little about farming three years ago when he came up with the idea for Boys Grow. What he did know was that he wanted to work with kids in a way that empowered them.
So Gordon, who was living in California, packed his bags and moved back home to Kansas City to start Boys Grow, a nonprofit agency that mentors and provides male role models for inner-city boys from ages 12 to 15 while also teaching them entrepreneurial know-how and skills.
The kicker here: Gordon, 36, has kids from the Kansas City metropolitan area learning how to farm, how to sell the produce, and how to create and market a product. The boys have a salsa, Salsa Orgullo, that is sold in several Kansas City grocery stores.
“In reality it’s a lemonade stand times 10,000,” Gordon said. “It’s about youth empowerment. These boys are not charity cases, and I’m no superhero. They’re doing it for themselves as much as anyone else is doing it for them.”
Apart from his nonprofit endeavors, Gordon has rediscovered Kansas City. Here are a few things he treasures about the city.
Damon Smith, Special to Ink### 39th Street Corridor Southwest Trafficway to State Line Road
“I like the architecture of the buildings and the diversity of the neighborhood,” he says. “I like how they’ve kept the structure of the buildings and let the neighborhood grow around that. Some of the buildings are shotgun shacks, but they’ve been maintained.” And it doesn’t hurt that his tattoo artist, butcher shop and sushi restaurant are just a bike ride away.### QuikTrip Throughout the city
Living outside of Kansas City, Gordon missed QuikTrip, the regional gas chain. He realized his affinity for QT while driving home one weekend from Chicago. “It just makes me feel at home, from the coffee to the fast clerks to the choice of crushed or cubed ice, Gatorade on tap. I’ve never seen anything else that compares.”### Alamo Drafthouse 1400 Main St.
For Gordon, this one is simple: They serve beer and will show “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” at the same time. “It’s more of a night out as opposed to just a movie.” He warns, though, that you may want to plan ahead if headed to this theater, as the prime time and weekend shows fill up quickly. “You don’t want to be stuck in the front row,” Gordon said.### Cultivate Kansas City 4223 Gibbs Road
Cultivate Kansas City is a seven-year-old local nonprofit that provides guidance for urban farmers, including Gordon and Boys Grow. “They’ve created a whole community around urban farming,” Gordon said. “Katherine Kelly put it together and did it in a short time. They’ve been motivational for us and offered us an abundance of resources.”### Nature’s Own Health Food Market 4301 Main St.
It has been a health food store for a while, but it’s locally owned now, which Gordon loves. He is fond of the quirky building, calling it “old, but functional. It reminds me of San Francisco.” He believes that they sell some good ketchup, a Boys Grow agave paste that he’s fond of for some reason. Nature’s Own sells more Boys Grow products than any other local store.