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December 13, 2016 | Tags: ,

Top 10 Questions our Volunteer Team Hears!

Recently we sat down with our Volunteer Team to find out what questions they hear most often. From tabling in the community to working with volunteers in community gardens across St. Louis, these are the top 10 questions our volunteer team hears!

Are you the same as Great Rivers Greenway? Don’t you do the trails?

Nope! The names sound similar and both organizations are invested in making St. Louis a greener, healthier place to live for everyone in the community. However, we go about it in very different ways. Gateway Greening uses the Power of Growing Food – in school gardens, community gardens, and urban farms – to build stronger, healthier communities throughout St. Louis.

Community gardens come in many shapes and sizes: tree & shrub plantings, native gardens, perennial beds, street beautification projects, and our personal favorites, school & community vegetable gardens! These gardens don’t just beautify their neighborhoods. They also bring neighbors together to meet and interact with their community over something positive and fun! Gateway Greening currently supports more than 220 active gardens throughout St. Louis City and County.

“A major difference between Gateway Greening and other community gardening organizations remains its reliance on neighborhood groups to develop and manage their own gardens, which greatly increases the number of gardens it can assist.” – Sue Reed, founding member of Gateway Greening

Where does your funding come from?

Gateway Greening has a wide base of funding from individual donors, private foundations, corporate foundations, corporations, and public funding.  Gateway Greening currently has funding from the City of St. Louis, State of Missouri tax credits, and the USDA.

To help support Gateway Greening programs, please consider becoming a Member or giving a gift today!

What do you do in the winter?

As the growing season winds down, most of our staff shifts from actively working outside in gardens around St. Louis into planning and preparation for the following year. By the time the snow flies we are:

  • Planning all of the 130+ Community Education Workshops, Pints ‘n’ Plants, & Food Policy Lunch ‘n’ Learn events we’ll host in the coming year
  • Working with groups who are starting or expanding a school or community garden
  • Cutting lumber for all of the compost bins, benches, and raised beds we’ll award for new garden installs & expansions in the spring
  • Tabling at community events all over the city, sharing information & recruiting new volunteers
  • Busy at local schools, helping teachers & students connect curriculum to things happening in the garden
  • Revising planting rotations at The Gateway Greening Urban Farm, then locating new materials
  • Setting up food distribution relationships with local organizations and community members
  • Evaluating our programs and making adjustments & improvements
  • Writing grants to continue funding our various programs

The Gateway Greening Urban Farm and Bell Demonstration Garden may be closed for winter, but we’re still as busy as ever!

How many staff do you have?

Gateway Greening has a full time staff of 13, supplemented by seasonal staff positions, AmeriCorps VISTAs, Interns, and of course, our amazing volunteers! After reading the rest of this blog, visit our website to “Meet the Crew.”

How can I start a garden?

We can help with that! But before we do, check out the the interactive Map of Gateway Greening Gardens on our website to see if there’s an existing garden active near you! With more than 220 active gardens throughout St. Louis City and County, you may be surprised to discover there’s garden just a block away.

If you’re still interested in starting a community garden, then we’re happy to help! Over the last 30 years we’ve put everything we’ve learned about building long-lasting garden projects into our garden development process, and we’re here to guide you through it. Stop by our website and explore the Start Your Own or Join the Network page to learn more about the development process and discover your “next step.”

Anyone can start a garden, but there are long-term benefits of working through our development process and becoming a Gateway Greening Network Garden. Beyond guidance in laying the groundwork for a sustainable project during development, network gardens are eligible for many exclusive services such as: expansion grants, free ornamental plants, vegetable seedlings, tool loans, reduced rates of educator led classes, and an assigned staff liaison to provide quick support for gardening questions or other issues that crop up in the garden.

Do you want/accept compost?

Not currently. Gateway Greening doesn’t have the necessary storage space to collect, maintain, and re-distribute compost.

Instead, we encourage our network of school and community gardens to install compost bins at their locations. That way, they have a space to dispose of garden waste and a ready source of healthy compost at their fingertips!

Network garden members may apply for our signature 3-bin compost system through the biannual garden expansion grant. Or, keep a weathered eye on our events list! We offer at least one compost-bin building workshop for the general public each year.

Do you have problems with theft and vandalism?

Yes, we’ve experienced occurrences of theft over the years at several Gateway Greening owned properties. The community and school gardens we support are also no stranger to tool and food theft. That’s why we take steps to educate the public about how those items are used and also mitigate the likelihood of theft.

Food is often taken from the school and community gardens we serve, and a big part of that is passersby not being aware that they shouldn’t take the food. Several of our community gardeners have discovered that posting friendly signs to educate visitors about the space and how the produce is used curbs stealing. Other gardens have incorporated strategic plantings to hide ripening food from sight. When possible, many gardens secure their space by raising the funds to install perimeter fences that keep unwanted guests out. Ultimately, it’s up to the gardeners to decide how they would like to handle food theft in their garden.

Over the years, we’ve also seen tools and other materials stolen from both school and community gardens. To minimize the risk of tool theft, we began offering sturdy, lockable tool sheds to gardens that lacked a protective storage space through our garden expansion grants.

Where do you sell your food?

Good question! Depends on which location you’re asking about.

School and Community Gardens that are part of the Gateway Greening Network have full autonomy in deciding what happens to their produce. Some choose to donate everything they grow to local food pantries or sell it at farmer’s markets, but the majority of them choose to leave distribution of produce at the discretion of the gardener that grew it. Bell Demonstration Garden operates similarly, sending produce harvested home with the day’s volunteers and then donating the extras to St. Patrick Center’s food pantry.

The produce grown at The Gateway Greening Urban Farm is sold at several locations throughout St. Louis. First and foremost, our farm is supported in part by our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. This basically works as a subscription service for food, with members purchasing their ‘share’ in the spring, providing much needed funding when the farm needs it most. In return, we’ll provide them with weekly boxes full of fresh produce throughout the growing season!

We also have a few wholesale and retail contracts with local organizations like Food Outreach, City Greens, and the St. Louis MetroMarket. By partnering with these organizations we’re able to make our produce accessible to local communities at an affordable price! Any extras are then donated to the St. Patrick Center food pantry to be turned into hot meals for those in need.

Do you have a garden in my neighborhood? Is the garden at… one of yours?

With more than 220 active school and community gardens in our network, it can be difficult to remember which gardens are part of our network at the drop of a hat! That’s why we developed the interactive Map of Gateway Greening Gardens that’s found on our website. It lists every garden we work with throughout the city and county, and also displays how that garden is used. If you haven’t explored it before, then we recommend you stop by to check it out. You might just be surprised at how many gardens are active near you!

Another option is to look at the signs around the garden. Gateway Greening has been providing new and expanded gardens with attractive signage for nearly 20 years. These signs will typically have the garden’s name, a quote or mission statement, and the Gateway Greening logo.