August 15 FarmWorks Discussion

Wednesday, August 15, a couple hundred community members, passionate about sustainability in St. Louis, gathered for some locally-produced brews and to hear some locally-produced ideas from FarmWorks at Schlafly Tap House.  FarmWorks is a partnership project effort between Gateway Greening, local developer, Craig Heller, and the St. Patrick Center.  Gateway Greening, which has been in operation for 28 years, has multiple aspects to their organization as presented by Mike Sorth, executive Director of Gateway Greening:  Community Garden Program (place for like-minded individuals to gather; Gateway Greening organizes and installs the gardens and by doing this hopes to “solve problems block by block”); Youth Garden Program (same program as Community except in school setting and use the garden as a “high impact learning tool”); City Seeds Urban Farm (partner with St. Patrick Center to obtain the clientele who is then given job training in the gardens); and Urban Roots (privately raise $50,000/year and use those funds to plant and beautify the median in Kiener Plaza each year).

Gateway Greening decided they wanted to be a part of FarmWorks because they constantly seek a “local solution for a global problem,” via financially sustainable and commercially viable project.  And with these goals in mind, FarmWorks has evolved.  Craig Heller, a local developer in St. Louis for over 20 years, was present to discuss the details of this major undertaking on the North Riverfront.  Heller noted that as a partnership, they want to make St. Louis a city to create opportunities for people.  So using four acres of land with six buildings, FarmWorks has evolved.  There are four major components to FarmWorks: housing, urban agriculture, green business incubator, and an educational piece.  The housing aspect will be 56 studio style apartments in one of the buildings, targeting at-risk community members to reside there and give them a chance to make fresh starts.  The first residents are expected to move in in late June 2013.  The urban agriculture aspect will grow tilapia and sturgeon for commercial sale, as well as produce, and utilize a hydroponic method of growth (no soil).  In terms of the green business incubator, FarmWorks will offer warehouse space to start-up green businesses.  The educational component will be open for tours to school children, have university coursework, and open gardens to visitors.

As a result of FarmWorks, there are numerous desired outcomes.  Most importantly, the goal is a sustainable project.  This means a project with limited inputs and many outputs.  Additionally, they expect: 100 new full-time green jobs, 2.5 million lbs. of produce/year (not including the outputs which Gateway Greening generates), 0.25 million pounds of tilapia, 3,800 pounds of caviar, 1 million kilowatt hours of energy/year and so much more.

The talk was concluded with a Q&A portion of the evening.  What an enlightening, education and interesting presentation and we look forward to seeing the many benefits the FarmWorks project will provide the the St. Louis region as a whole.

Many thanks to the Livable St. Louis Network for putting this together.

More details on Farmworks.