Growing Food in Justice


This past weekend Iron Street Farm in Southside Chicago hosted Growing Food in Justice’s (GFIJ) annual conference aimed at dismantling racism and empowering low-income and communities of color through sustainable and local agriculture. I was able to attend this years gathering and bring back to the Gateway Greening team new strategies to engage our communities in sustainable ways.

Iron Street Farm is in affiliation with Growing Power. Growing Power is a national nonprofit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. Growing Power implements this mission by providing hands-on training, on-the-ground demonstration, outreach and technical assistance through the development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner.

Growing Power and Gateway Greening have very similar missions and its always exciting to see what others in our field are doing. There is so much to be learned from them and vice versa that it only made sense to attend. I was able to sit in on many discussions/speaker series such as “Just Labor within the Food Justice Movement?” “Tools for Community Engagement in Seeking USDA Funding”, and “Environmental Justice 101”. Attendees also got to hear “Women in Action” and Will Allen – founder of Growing Power, speak to the group about the work they have been doing this past year and where they would like to see this movement go. In addition to all these amazing seminars and speakers we also got 3 meals a day provided with produce from the farm. Including a formal sit down dinner and less formal BBQ. Members of Iron Street Farms Youth Corps a program very similar to GG’s Dig It program assisted staff. I am so grateful to having been able to attend this years gathering and look forward to next year. Check out these amazing organizations websites to learn more:


Val Lovasz – Food Distribution Coordinator



With fall approaching faster than a speeding squirrel, Clay 1st graders explored the trees, vegetables, flowers, and grasses at Clay Elementary that are going to seed in our garden this week. The class remembered many facts about seeds from garden class last year. One student raised her hand and said solemnly, “You only get one chance to plant them. If you don’t take care of them and they die, it doesn’t come back.” Other students talked about the tiny leaves (cotyledons!) hidden inside the seeds that pop up when you plant them. After asking them where seeds can be found (one student, straining to reach into his memory for several minutes, finally burst out, “KIWIS HAVE SEEDS!”), we determined that seeds can be found inside fruits, and that not all of those fruits are ones people can eat.


Then we sent them out on their own to fill up plastic cups with all the different kinds of seeds they could find. The first place they wanted to look was in the dirt. They ran to the dirt pile and started looking for seeds already in the ground, with no success. We had to show everyone how to shake seeds out of coneflower heads, and scramble into the woods to find acorns. We squeezed honeysuckle berries and pokeberries to see if there were seeds inside. As you can see, we ended up with quite a haul:


nelson seeds4 nelson seeds6


As the students lined up to go back inside, they did something they wouldn’t have known to do an hour before. Passing by some dried up flower heads, they absent-mindedly shook them into their hands and pocketed the seeds. I felt a rush of pride, watching the ancient knowledge of seed saving trickle into the consciousness of a new generation.

Gateway Greening ‘Chefs in a Garden’ Benefit Raises $100,000

DSC_0002Funds generated will support Gateway Greening’s work to educate and empower individuals to strengthen their communities through gardening and urban architecture

Some of St. Louis’ most talented chefs recently gathered at the Palladium Saint Louis on Sept. 13 to serve their signature dishes for a good cause, as Gateway Greening hosted its 18th annual Chefs in a Garden fundraising event. St. Louis Composting served as the presenting sponsor for this year’s event, which featured gourmet food prepared with ingredients grown at Gateway Greening gardens and local farms. The fundraiser generated over $100,000 to benefit Gateway Greening’s programming.

Chefs and restaurants that participated in this year’s event were Lona Powers of Lona’s Lil Eats; Bradley Hoffmann of Planter’s House; John Perkins of Juniper; Adam Karl Gnau of Acero; Chris Bolyard of Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions; Seth Verseman of 1904 Steakhouse; Tyson & Anna Long of Winslow’s Home; Nicholas Hatfield of Food Outreach; Ivy Magruder of Panorama; Sandia Hoorman of Piccione and Bethany Budde of SqWires.

This year’s menu featured a full spectrum of foods, from scallops to fried pickles! Piccione Pastry provided sweets treats with a mini cannoli station, while Chef Budde of SqWires refreshed the crowd with the restaurant’s signature homemade watermelon lemonade. This year’s “Chef of the Year” award went to Chris Bolyard of Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions, who received recognition for his “braised collard greens & smoked ham hock with pork rinds” dish.

Guests also enjoyed a special selection of quality wines and local microbrews and took part in live and silent auctions to benefit Gateway Greening.

“This year’s Chefs in a Garden event was another success for the organization,” said Mara Higdon, Gateway Greening Assistant Director. “It was an evening of fine cuisine prepared by some of the best chefs in St. Louis, We would like to extend a special thank you to St. Louis Composting and our other sponsors, Centene; Commerce Bank; Anova, Husch Blackwell; The Koman Group; Missouri Foundation for Health, Osborn and Barr, and Great Southern Bank for helping to make this year’s event possible.

“St. Louis Composting is happy to partner with Gateway Greening to help accomplish their mission to educate and empower the people of St. Louis to strengthen their communities through gardening and urban agriculture. I think more organizations like Gateway Greening need to exist,” said Patrick Geraty, owner of St. Louis Composting.



Gateway Greening Names Matt Schindler Executive Director

Gateway Greening finds a new leader in Downtown St. Louis Community Developer

ST. LOUIS, Mo. (September 23, 2015) — Gateway Greening, the downtown St. Louis non-profit organization that promotes urban community gardening, has completed its search for a new leader by naming Matt Schindler its new Executive Director. Schindler succeeds Michael Sorth, who led the organization for four years, and is now the Director of Conservation and Community at Great Rivers Greenway.. Gateway Greening has an approximate annual revenue of $1,000,000 and 11 full time and three seasonal employees.

schindlersqSchindler comes to Gateway Greening after many years with Downtown STL, Inc., (formerly the Partnership for Downtown St. Louis) where he held the position of Director of Community Development. His accomplishments at Downtown STL, Inc. included various initiatives for public improvements, transportation studies, commercial and residential development, and his work with the St. Louis Streetcar Company. His previous work experience includes seven years at the International Institute of St. Louis where he worked in program management and business consulting and development, and time working with the United States Peace Corps,in Gyumri, Armenia.

“I am proud to be joining Gateway Greening.  As an organization with a mission to educate and empower the people and communities of St. Louis, I look forward to helping further that mission and expanding Gateway Greening’s reach in the community,” said Schindler.  “With a great staff, engaged board, and a tremendous number of volunteers and supporters, Gateway Greening will build upon its great work and continue to improve St. Louis through gardening and urban agriculture.  I am looking forward to getting my hands dirty, both figuratively and literally.”

Schindler’s educational background includes a Master of Arts Degree in International Relations from Webster University in St. Louis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and German with a Minor in Economics from Drury University in Springfield, Mo.

About Gateway Greening

Gateway Greening is a non-profit organization that educates and empowers people to strengthen their communities through gardening and urban agriculture. Gateway Greening has been working to provide creative, grassroots solutions to urban problems since 1984. Programs include supporting more than 200 community and youth-focused gardens across the St. Louis area through educational opportunities, grants and technical assistance; urban beautification projects that enhance the downtown St. Louis urban landscape; and City Seeds Urban Farm, a 2.5 acre farm in downtown St. Louis that provides therapeutic horticulture and jobs training programs to individuals who are homeless and underserved.

For more information on Gateway Greening and its programs visit or call 314-588-9600.




What’s driving you crazy in your school garden? For this 1st grader, it’s a giant weed that refuses to be pulled out.


nelson pulling weeds nelson pulling weeds2 nelson pulling weeds3


There’s a difference between the ongoing tasks of a school garden– mulching, watering, everyday weeding– that cause us stress, and the individual stressors that I like to call ‘tolerations’.


A toleration is something annoying or stressful that’s easily fixed, and once fixed, doesn’t need to be revisited again for a long time. For example, at Clay Elementary, we only could only have one hose running from our water spigot at a time because we didn’t have a splitter. Once we took half an hour to run to Lowe’s and buy the splitter, we never had to think about it again, and we can now water far-flung corners of our garden at the same time.


What are your garden’s tolerations? Is there a hole in your rain barrel? Does the head of your shovel keep falling off? Do kids repeatedly trip over an inconveniently located raised bed? Have everybody involved with your school garden make a list. For bonus points, you can mark which tolerations will take 10 minutes or less to fix.

Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)

According to LaManda Joy the author of Start A CommunityFood Garden, Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is an approach that helps communities and groups focus on what they do have instead of what they don’t. The ABCD approach is very powerful because instead of creating anxiety about what a community may be lacking it encourages group to celebrate their strengths.

After assessing its strengths Mallinckrodt Academy School Garden joined hands with Gathsemane Lutheran Church across the street from them.  Pr. Kendra Nolde embraced the idea of holding the student and parent organized Farmers Market with open arms. Fontbonne University students also partnered up with school students to provide nutrition based handouts and attached recipe cards to the produce school students were selling. This summer project allowed students to learn many life skills that couldn’t be taught in classroom. Along the way, students raised approximately $600, which went toward purchasing Journals for 100 students.


Most of all, this project allowed for community building. It was great for school parents and students to get to know the kind folks over at the church. It was great for churchgoers to see the faces of the students that attend the school in their neighborhood and meet the parents.


After the end of 6 weeks of Sunday farmers market, Pr. Kendra reached out to see if many curious folks at the church could get a tour of the garden. This past Sunday Corbin and Davin from the 3rdgrade volunteered to lead the garden tour. Parents and students are a great asset and wonderful advocates for a school garden.  Cobin and Davin were so proud they were picked to give a tour. They were a bit nervous about talking to a group of people but did a fabulous job when the time arrived. Isn’t this how great leaders start out?

In the pictures below, the students are showing off their school garden.


They found a monarch chrysalis hanging outside the cafeteria door