“Such is the power of a community garden. It has an almost magical power to transform the urban landscape.”
The downtown St. Louis community garden is a testament that food can be grown in the urban core, and we can develop a local food system right in our own backyard, even if one does not have a backyard in the traditional sense! Not only are we growing food, but we have grown a community of friends and neighbors that are actively contributing to their health, and the sustained health and welfare of our social fabric.
In the spring of 2011 a group of grass roots downtown residents organized to create the first downtown community garden, located about one block N of City Museum in the heart of the City of St Louis. In our first year, over 30 urbanites grew nearly 1000 lbs. of food, of which 182 lbs. were donated to charity.
Volunteers spent about 575 hours working in the garden in our innagural year, from installing a sun canopy to building an urban pumpkin patch, and from planting flowers to weeding.
We hosted the first annual Haunted Harvest Festival where 90 people from the community harvested their own pumpkins from the urban pumpkin patch and enjoyed live music by the South City Serenaders.
We displayed the artwork of local artist Claire Frandsen in our flower beds. The NOK (nose + beak) sculptures added an element of whimsy and delight to the garden.
Throughout the process, we have nurtured community partnerships to help further our mission and expand the impact of our project. Through a partnership with St. Patrick Center, gardeners are collectively growing 4 garden plots for donation to McMurphy’s Grill, a full-service restaurant for training clients struggling with homelessness and mental illness, located just a few blocks from the garden. Local artist Claire Frandsen is displaying sculptures in the flower beds, hopefully the first of many art installations to grace the garden. Organizations such as the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis, the Downtown St Louis Residents Association, and Gateway Greening have supported the project from the start, helping promote garden updates and events through social media outlets and newsletters.
Together we have created a green, urban oasis in our backyard and enhanced biodiversity in the city center. The garden has been a great success and has led us to grow our next project, the FOOD ROOF, which will be the first rooftop farm in the city. It will be located just a few blocks from the garden in the heart of downtown. Our goal is to increase access of locally grown, fresh food to more families in the community.