How to Volunteer at Community Gardens in St. Louis
Land that has been abandoned or vacated is now providing communities with fresh, organic produce—a system that allows urban farming to help combat the pressing issue of food deserts in the city. A food desert is an area with little access to affordable and nutritious food—something that people of every socioeconomic background should have. With the help of community volunteers, these four urban gardens and farms continuously work to increase the accessibility of fresh, sustainably grown produce for everyone.
1.Urban Harvest STL
Urban Harvest is an organization that works to eliminate local food deserts by producing fresh, healthy produce that is accessible and affordable for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Urban Harvest grows fresh produce at each of their six urban gardens in downtown and North St. Louis and partners with nonprofit organizations that help to distribute the food to those with limited or no access to nutritious meals. Urban Harvest also hosts events and classes to help educate the public on sustainable food systems.
Volunteers are encouraged to sign up online and fill out a form that coordinates your skills, interests, and location. Guests are welcome to help out at the FOOD ROOF Farm any Saturday between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. (May 1-Oct. 31). Volunteers will experience urban farmers and community members working in unison to grow food in a variety of urban agriculture methods. Volunteer groups of five or more are invited to garden Tuesday-Friday mornings from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. between April and October.
2. Gateway Greening
Located in Downtown West, Gateway Greening is a nonprofit organization seeking to educate and engage communities through a unique mix of garden and urban agriculture initiatives. Since 1984 the program has been providing urban gardens and fresh produce to St. Louis locals. Though their biggest urban garden is located on Pine St. and N 23rd St., the organization supports over 200 community gardens and greening projects in the St. Louis area.
Each year, the Demonstration Garden’s 20 communally maintained raised beds produce an average of 1,500 pounds of food that is shared with volunteers, staff, and often donated to a nearby soup kitchen. Fill out a volunteer form online and use this map to find a garden near you.
3. Goodlife Growing
Goodlife Growing is an urban farming company that relies on organic farming methods to produce quality, local food all year round. Located in Vandeventer, the community-based organization is dedicated to combating urban decay and food insecurity in North St. Louis. In addition to growing organic produce, Goodlife Growing provides garden and farm setup and management, educational services, composting services, and a CSA package. With multiple pick-up locations, the farm provides fresh, seasonal produce by a weekly or monthly schedule to those who support the program.
The farm also has a weekly produce stand from 10 to 4 p.m. each Sunday at the farm. The produce is also sold at the Soulard Farmers Market on Saturdays. To volunteer, you must attend a weekly information session at the farm any Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit the Goodlife Growing website.
4. EarthDance Farms
Located in Ferguson, Missouri, Earthdance Farms operates on the oldest organic farm west of the Mississippi. Since 1883, the farm has been producing organic vegetables, fruit, and livestock without the use of chemicals. EarthDance is now a teaching farm, sharing the craft of organic farming with people from all walks of life. The 14-acre farm is a model of sustainable food production and the EarthDance team teaches Organic Farm School classes, cultivating the future of food leaders.
EarthDance donates produce to community events such as Clay Cafe, a monthly dinner program served free of charge, and gives to food pantries in Ferguson. Since 2013, the farm has partnered with Operation Food Search to provide farm-fresh ingredients for their cooking classes for low-income families, seniors, and youth. The farm also sells produce at the Ferguson Farmers Market and Ferguson Winter Market. Visit the EarthDance website to apply for volunteer shifts, classes, service positions, or internships.
Photography from top to bottom courtesy of Peter Feghali, 榮達 陳 and Victoria Bilsborough.