St. Louis nonprofit celebrates 30 years of community gardening and outreach

A St. Louis-based community gardening organization ends its 30th year with a record harvest.

Gateway Greening Community and Youth Gardens harvested over 190,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits in 2014.

The nonprofit’s executive director, Mike Sorth, said the organization provides basic gardening supplies and assistance to neighborhood gardens, schools and youth groups.

“We have a number of staff who work in the community garden program to provide knowledge in horticulture and also to provide support for community development and community organization,” Sorth said.

Although gardeners bring home most of the food they grow, Sorth said, an increasing number donate some of it.

“They may grow a few beds together to donate the produce to a local food pantry,” Sorth said. “But community gardeners are starting to think more often about how their project benefits the community.”

Sorth said most of Gateway Greening’s more than 200 community and youth gardens are in St. Louis, split about evenly north and south of Delmar.

Map reproduced by kind permission of Gateway Greening

The organization also runs a 2.5 acre vegetable farm in the city center known as City Seeds. He is responsible for just under 10% of Gateway Greening’s total harvest.

But Sorth said the real focus of City Seeds was its partnership with the St. Patrick Center, a homeless service provider.

Some participants receive vocational training. Others, therapy.

“Often there are mental health issues or chemical dependency issues — both drug and alcohol issues,” Sorth said. “And so they come to the farm not for vocational training, but as part of their recovery plan, to improve themselves by connecting with nature and enjoying the therapeutic benefits of working outdoors.”

Greening the Credit Gateway

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A City Seeds graduate and current volunteer, Mike mows the grass at the Gateway Greening Urban Farm, which works with St. Patrick’s Center to provide therapy and job training to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

For funding, Gateway Greening relies on grants and donations. Sorth said the nonprofit needs to raise more than $1 million a year, about three-quarters of that to support its programs.

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