Chefs in a Garden Fundraiser Showcases Local Food and Chefs

St. Louis Chefs use locally grown ingredients to create a benefit meal for Gateway Greening

ST. LOUIS, MO. (August 18, 2016) — St. Louis’ best chefs are cooking with local produce grown at The Gateway Greening Urban Farm, community gardens and other local farms. Gateway Greening, a non-profit organization in St. Louis, educates and empowers people to strengthen their communities through gardening and urban agriculture.  Gateway Greening will host the 19th annual Chefs in a Garden Gala on Sunday, September 11 from 6:00pm-9:00pm at the event’s new venue, the Four Seasons St. Louis. The event’s media partner is St. Louis Magazine and producer is Synergy Productions. Sponsors of the event include Centene, Commerce Bank, Husch Blackwell, and St. Louis Composting.

The list to-date of chefs and restaurants participating include: Chris Bolyard of Bolyard’s Meat & Provisions, Josh Charles of Element, Robert Colosimo of Eleven Eleven Mississippi, Gian Nicola Colucci of Cielo, Adam Gnau of Acero, Grant Higgs of Missouri Athletic Club, Vu Hoang of SubZero, Tamara Keefe of Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery, Rick Lewis of Southern, John Perkins of Juniper, Tonya Tucker of Food Outreach, and Seth Verseman of 1904 Steakhouse.

The event will also publically recognize long time Gateway Greening Board Member Loura Gilbert for her dedication to the organization by presenting her with the Whitmire Award. Gilbert is the Vice President of Community Development at Commerce Bank. “Loura’s dedication and commitment to Gateway Greening have been unmatched, and as she serves her last year on the Gateway Greening board, there was no question that she should receive this award. We thank Loura for her leadership throughout her time with Gateway Greening, “ said Matt Schindler, Executive Director of Gateway Greening. The Whitmire Award is named for Peg and Blanton Whitmire. The honor is awarded annually to a volunteer, donor or supporter that has shown extraordinary dedication to the advancement of the organization.

Other event highlights include a live and silent auction, Gateway Greening’s Chef of the Year Award, special guest food judge George Mahe who is the Food Editor of St. Louis Magazine, words from Gateway Greening program representatives, and a special appearance by student chefs from Mallinckrodt Academy.  The event’s emcee is KMOV anchor Courtney Bryant and the auctioneer is Amit Dhawan of Synergy Productions.

Tickets can be purchased for $150 per person. To purchase tickets, for sponsorship opportunities, and to learn additional event details, please visit


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 The Gateway Greening 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.

Communities Make the Difference!

Summer crops at the Shaw VPA School Garden – Sweet potatoes, Okra, Squash, and a few stray Tomatoes!

I recently stopped by Shaw VPA to take photos of their awesome stump circle – but wound up taking photos of the garden instead! It may be summer break, but this is one school garden that’s still receiving regular TLC.

It’s a tough reality that the most active growing period in the garden coincides with summer break – when teachers and students are gone. It can be challenging to keep crops thriving without a dedicated caretaker to weed and water through the hottest days of summer. So what did Shaw VPA do keep their space beautiful and thriving?

Community Makes the Difference

How did Shaw VPA keep their garden looking so loved? Simple: They got the community involved.

Second grade teacher Angela Vaughn knows that no school garden is maintenance free during the summer months, so she approached this summer with a plan. Before Shaw VPA let out for the long break, she asked students and their families to sign up to take turns weeding, watering, and harvesting in the garden throughout the summer. It’s a great system that allows students to see how ‘their’ plants are doing while sharing their enthusiasm and new-found knowledge with their families.

The garden also draws in volunteers from the local community who stop in to weed, water, and even to visit with their neighbors. Since every summer helper is encouraged to take home any of the produce they harvest, very little goes to waste – even when school’s out for summer!

Sweet Potato Challenge

Shaw VPA also makes the most of the summer growing season by participating in the Sweet Potato Challenge. This yearly competition starts in May, when teachers take their students outside to plant their slips (sweet potato starts) in the garden. Over the summer the sweet potato plants grow quickly, sprouting attractive green vines that shade the soil, reducing evaporation and keeping the soil moist longer. At the same time, the vines help to suppress weeds, helping to keep summer garden maintenance low.  

One of the great things about this challenge is that the sweet potatoes are ready to harvest in October, meaning the kids get to watch the last few months of their growth and to see, touch and taste the results of their work from the previous spring. The competition ends as students harvest and weigh their crops, competing against other schools to win the coveted first place in one of three categories: Largest Harvest (lbs), Weirdest Potato Shape, and Largest Potato!

Want to learn more about the Sweet Potato Challenge? Check out Shaw VPA teacher Angela Vaughn’s story of her students participating in the Sweet Potato Challenge last year here.

Summer crops at the Shaw VPA School Garden – Sweet potatoes, Okra, Squash, and a few stray Tomatoes!

Thank you Shaw VPA!

As much as I loved spending time exploring the school garden, it wasn’t my goal in visiting Shaw VPA this week. So I wandered over to the nearby stump circle, and immediately had to smile.

Many of the school gardens Gateway Greening supports include a circle of old tree stumps – the perfect place for students to sit for an outdoor class, a reading period, or just to rest for a moment during particularly hot lessons. At Shaw VPA, art teacher Katie Warnick has transformed their circle into a fun place by having the students paint the stumps. It’s hard not to grin over all the different colors and designs the students brought into the garden!


Today I’m lucky, because a few of these stumps will be coming back to the office with me. Thanks to the generosity of Ms. Warnick and her students, 5 stumps will be included in the silent auction at our upcoming fundraiser, Chefs in a Garden. This event is one of the biggest sources of funding for many of our programs here at Gateway Greening, including the support we provide for school gardens throughout St. Louis. We’re thrilled to be able to share a little bit of the Shaw VPA school garden and its story with our supporters, and hopefully to start a stump circle somewhere new!

The best part? I get to spend the next few days smiling over the colorful stumps that surround my desk.

-Erin Wood, Communications and Fundraising AmeriCorps VISTA

Meet the Fountain Park Community Garden

Fountain Park Community Garden 01

From Trash to Treasure

From trash to treasure; that is what I would call our garden. We say that because our garden is not in the typical place where one would normally find a garden; it’s smack dab in the middle of the inner-city. In an area that is known for its crime but nevertheless it has become a rose sprouting from concrete.

Fountain Park Community Garden 02

We were sought out by an organization to start this garden ten or more years ago; and because we were weary with the vacant lot that sat next to our home being an “eye sore” we agreed. Maybe it was in our blood because my grandmother ran and looked after an award-winning garden in her time that was just about the length of an entire city block.  But we were compelled because the lot was covered with trash & drug paraphernalia and because it was convenient. The lot sat right across from our home.

Fountain Park Community Garden 03

Fast forward and here we are today, in a thriving garden that has become a blessing and treasure to our community. It has provided produce faithfully every year. The garden has received the “Malcolm Flower Bed Award” for the heirloom plant. Impressively, it has within it a “butterfly garden” that has attracted monarch butterflies; which are as of today almost considered extinct. The garden has also attracted volunteers from local colleges and people from all over the nation to help; who without their faithfulness we would not have been able to maintain the garden alone.

Fountain Park Community Garden 05

Our passion surrounding the garden is two-fold; one, to educate people of the health benefits of gardening and two, to beautify the community. We want others to experience what it’s like to eat produce that’s organic and free of pesticides. It has really been a joy.

Fountain Park Community Garden Leaders Ernest and Connie Wess’ story, written by niece Daphney Jackson

Reflecting on Rigor – Dig It STL

Dig It STL

Dig It teens are on the home stretch, with only 1 week to go before their summer jobs are over. They have done some HARD physical work, jobs that would make adults cringe and retreat into air conditioning. Last week, we harvested 6 rows of potatoes at La Vista Farm in Godfrey (in addition to rows and rows of tomatoes and carrots). It was 95 degrees, and crew members were crawling through the soil filling up buckets behind the potato digger. Some potatoes were rotten, and when crew members grabbed them, the liquefied potatoes exploded onto their hands. We were sweaty, stinky, and coated in potato goo and a thick layer of dirt. Naturally, crew were complaining and moving pretty slowly by the end of that job, and the crew leaders had their work cut out for them to keep the group motivated and working.

We stopped to eat lunch, and after lunch we had about 20 minutes before we needed to leave. The farmer gave us some options: either we could leave then, or we could speed pick green beans for a few minutes. Without hesitation (okay, maybe with a little hesitation), our crew went out into the beans.


I was incredibly proud of them. This is what it’s all about- being willing to help somebody, to do it well, and to finish the job with a positive attitude, even if it makes you sore and hot and uncomfortable.


Dig It STL


However, this is not the hardest work we’ve done this summer. The most challenging  task Dig It takes on, from the day they start until long after they finish, is the task of building a loving and supportive community from a group of strangers. Many adults comment to me that Dig It reminds them of day camp, and that it doesn’t seem like a real job. They don’t usually mean this in a negative way– they just notice all the games we play every morning, or the time we spend talking and reflecting, and understandably make an assumption that those things don’t count as work.


True, building community is not usually a central task in our day jobs, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t work. From the first day of Dig It, we push our youth to open up and share things about themselves with the group. We push them to treat each other with respect and dignity. We help them find strategies to resolve conflicts with other crew members. We play games every day to practice our group problem-solving skills and to build trust with each other. We train them to ask each other if they need help. If someone is working alone, ask if they want some company. Hold each other accountable– if a friend is slacking off, remind them that we’re here to work. We learn about how social structures like racism and sexism affect our individual group, and we take steps to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Given the choice between picking slimy potatoes in the heat or doing this community-building work, I think many adults would choose the potatoes. But out of all that community building, we get a group of young people who take care of each other, and can accomplish any task while honoring the opinions and ideas of each individual.


There is no shortcut to this outcome. No amount of money can buy a loving and supportive community. You’ve got to do the work, every day, even on bad days. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Our crew has truly shown up for each other and done that work, and it’s not the kind of thing you can un-learn.
-Carolyn Cosgrove Payne, Youth Educator