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CWE Farm

New City School: The ABCs of creating a community garden

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Earlier this summer I found CWEnd-based illustrator Maggie Pearson (see 2013 post here) picking juneberries, aka service berries, on Euclid. She was a little sheepish about getting “caught,” as she wasn’t sure that picking berries off city trees was legal (she later found out that it’s ok).

It seems that birds had devoured berries from 15 juneberry trees on New City School’s campus at Lake and Waterman, and Maggie was scrambling to gather enough fruit to make jam for the school’s Farmer’s Market. That’s when I first learned that Maggie and another parent, Julie Lazaroff, had started a community garden at New City School the previous summer.

Their game plan, including information regarding grants they received, may offer a blueprint for others thinking of organizing a community garden at their own children’s school.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

When I followed up with a visit at the end of June, the women said this project had been on their radar for a long time. Maggie was largely responsible the garden’s design—”she has a beautiful aesthetic,” Julie said.  Julie, a dietician and yoga teacher, credits an apprenticeship at EarthDance Organic Farms with adding to her knowledge of soil preparation and plant materials.Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Last July the “partners in crime,” as Maggie, left, and Julie, right, identify themselves, started work with encouragement from New City’s Head of School Alexis Wright and advice from Matt Lebon of Custom Foodscaping. They removed a tether ball and digging area to make room for the new garden.  The school’s groundskeeper Bill Sprung built the arbor, trellis, and planting beds. A group of 20 volunteers had the garden up and running by the start of the 2018/2019 school year.

The area is designated as additional classroom space for 1st through 6th graders. “We are teaching our kids to be Stewards of the Earth,” said Maggie. “In addition to learning how to grow food, they’re using math skills when they plant seeds, and learning lessons in environmental science as well.”

Last spring, 3rd graders planted radish seeds, then harvested and tasted them 30 days later.  Julie took the radish greens home and made pesto and quiche for the kids to sample. New City is in the process of raising funds for a maker space that would include a kitchen so that the kids can learn to cook what they grow at school.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Photographs above: Parent volunteers at work in the garden, and snapshots of the Garden Club’s Farmer’s Markets (there were 2 last year). Proceeds from sales are used to purchase seeds and other supplies for the garden.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The pair was able to secure two grants for their project. A grant from the Whole Kids Foundation (Whole Foods) was used for the garden’s infrastructure, and a second, awarded by Missouri Wild Ones, was used for a pollinator garden which they planted alongside the school, shown above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The pollinator garden at work, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright   Left above: New City offers outdoor classroom experiences for pre-schoolers as well. Just outside the entry to the 3-to-4 year old classrooms there are a few vegetable beds which are tended by pre-school teachers during the school year, and the garden committee in the summer. Right: Last February there was a “Chicken Arrival Party” for chickens rented from locally-owned The Easy Chicken. Fuego & Ginger (names chosen by the students) were cared for by a different grade each week. The chickens were sent home for r & r this summer, and will return in the fall.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

After all the rain we’ve had this summer, the kale and Swiss chard were flourishing when I visited. Bottom photo left: Felt “smart pots” are filled with herbs for a sensory experience. Bottom right: The committee planted strawberries as “eye candy” for the kids, hardy kiwi, blackberries, and a fig tree.Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright   Grape vines are growing on a new fence built by Julie and Maggie’s husbands at the east edge of the garden.

Over the summer vacation, committee members stop by twice a week to weed and harvest. There are three other community gardens on Waterman between Kingshighway and New City School. The granddaddy of them all is the CWE Farm which was started 10 years ago by Arthur Culbert (and which I have posted about many times). There is also a garden at Central Reform Congregation and at First Unitarian Church.

The organizers of New City’s community garden thank Arthur Culbert for his contribution of advice, plant materials, and herbs he’s brought to their garden.  Most importantly though, Culbert created a citizenship curriculum for New City 4th graders, and the food the students help plant is donated to food pantries at Trinity Episcopal Church and Second Presbyterian Church. His initiative became the catalyst for Central Reform and First Unitarian, some Westminster Place neighbors and now New City to join in the effort to feed those less fortunate in the neighborhood.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The photo above shows New City’s soccer field with a section of the garden in the foreground.

Julie and Maggie are mindful of the fact that there has to be a plan of succession when their children graduate from New City. They have begun working on a long-term integrated program with Head of School Alexis Wright.

The women are visibly proud of what they have created and excited that the garden has become a learning experience for the parents who volunteer as well.  Many have taken what they’ve learned home to start vegetable gardens of their own. That, plus seeing reluctant eaters at least taste a radish, makes it all worthwhile. “My 5-year-old, Auggie, really disliked salad until we started growing our own lettuce,” Maggie said. “Now he loves it.”

New City School, 5209 Waterman (at Lake).

 

Short takes

Wild things

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Forest Park Shop News  That Uppity Theater Company Sustainable Backyard Tour M.A.D.E. Left Bank Books Forest Park Forever CWEA House Tour CWE Farm Beyond the Flower Pot

photo courtesy of Washington Place resident

A deer sighting is not something you’d expect to witness on a residential street in the Central West End.  Recently however, neighbors on Washington Place near Lake Avenue woke up to this surprising scene.

After contacting the administration at Forest Park Forever, I was surprised to learn from Katie Stuckenschneider, Marketing and Digital Media Manager, that deer reside in Kennedy Forest (behind the Art Museum).  On the same day as this photograph was taken, there was a call for service reporting an injured deer in a McPherson alley, which isn’t a happy thought. Hopefully these creatures will sense that the grass is greener in Forest Park, otherwise we may have to consider deer-resistant plant materials, a fact of life for many county residents.

About 8 years ago wild turkeys were spotted (just after Thanksgiving by the way) picking through late fall gardens on Pershing Place, and then on McPherson Avenue east of Taylor. At the time they were a novelty—until they weren’t. When they eventually crossed (flew over) Kingshighway and headed to Westmoreland Place, most observers were delighted they had moved up to fancier pastures.

Sustainable Backyard Tour

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Forest Park Shop News  That Uppity Theater Company Sustainable Backyard Tour M.A.D.E. Left Bank Books Forest Park Forever CWEA House Tour CWE Farm Beyond the Flower Pot

The 9th annual Sustainable Backyard Tour takes place all across the city and county this Sunday, June 23, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. This is a self-guided, free tour. If you’re looking for inspiration on how to make your garden more sustainable, there are 39 gardens to glean information from, so you’re bound to get some helpful tips.

Two of the gardens on the tour are in the CWE. The Central West End Farm, above and below, is located at 5057 Waterman (just west of Kingshighway). The Gift Garden, as it was recently designated, was spearheaded by CWE resident Arthur Culbert 9 years ago. Read more about it here.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Forest Park Shop News  That Uppity Theater Company Sustainable Backyard Tour M.A.D.E. Left Bank Books Forest Park Forever CWEA House Tour CWE Farm Beyond the Flower Pot

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Forest Park Shop News  That Uppity Theater Company Sustainable Backyard Tour M.A.D.E. Left Bank Books Forest Park Forever CWEA House Tour CWE Farm Beyond the Flower Pot

Another CWE site to visit is a shade garden on McPherson east of Taylor, above, designed by Yvonne Hamilton, whose landscape design business is called Beyond the Flower Pot. Register for the tour here.

CWE House Tour

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Forest Park Shop News  That Uppity Theater Company Sustainable Backyard Tour M.A.D.E. Left Bank Books Forest Park Forever CWEA House Tour CWE Farm Beyond the Flower Pot

From left, 2019 House Tour volunteer Nancy Culbert, Central West End Association Executive Director Jess Campbell, and right, CWEA President Kate Walter, were photographed last Sunday afternoon on Kingsbury Place, the site of this year’s 44th annual CWEA House Tour.

Word from Kate Walter is that following a very successful Preview Party on Friday evening with 150 guests in attendance, the numbers were down a bit on Saturday as compared to 2017’s House Tour on Fullerton/Westminster Place.  Both the early morning rain and  the region-wide celebration of the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup win were cited as reasons for the lower turnout.  The good news is that Sunday’s attendance more than made up for Saturday.

Look for information about The Central West End Association 2020 tour early next spring.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Forest Park Shop News  That Uppity Theater Company Sustainable Backyard Tour M.A.D.E. Left Bank Books Forest Park Forever CWEA House Tour CWE Farm Beyond the Flower Pot

photo courtesy of StLMag.com

Have you seen the terrific piece reporter Jeannette Cooperman wrote for StlMag.com about Left Bank Books as it celebrates 50 years in business? It’s full of fascinating information about the characters involved in the independent bookstore’s beginnings, some of the well-known authors who made appearances, and co-proprietors Kris Kleindienst, above, and Jarek Steele. Be sure to read it here.

On tap for the weekend

Delmar Maker FairNicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Forest Park Shop News  That Uppity Theater Company Sustainable Backyard Tour M.A.D.E. Left Bank Books Forest Park Forever CWEA House Tour CWE Farm Beyond the Flower Pot

 

The lot across from M.A.D.E. on Delmar (west of Kingshighway and east of Union) stands empty now but this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. the Delmar Maker District – St. Louis, MO, in conjunction with Third Degree Glass Factory and the The Magic House, St. Louis Children’s Museum, is hosting a grassroots festival for 80 local makers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs from across St. Louis.

There will be some fun hands-on maker activities that the whole family can be a part of too. There will be food trucks (Hot Dog Daddy & Catering, Bombay Food Junkies, Just 1 Taste Catering), and drinks from Juice Master and Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, as well as a Kids Corner by the Magic House.

Parking will be available on the street.

At projects + gallery on Saturday 

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Events, Sightings Forest Park Shop News  That Uppity Theater Company Sustainable Backyard Tour M.A.D.E. Left Bank Books Forest Park Forever CWEA House Tour CWE Farm Beyond the Flower Pot

Founders of CWE Farm publish “A Gift Garden”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

“It’s best to take the picture while we’re harvesting,” Arthur Culbert said, as he and his wife Nancy were hurriedly picking the last of the summer’s bounty grown at the CWE Farm to benefit neighborhood food pantries. With the first frost in the forecast, there was little time to pose for photos the morning I visited to learn more about the couple’s new book, A Gift Garden. The illustrated book, which the Culberts have been working on for the past 2 years, was inspired by their experience working with all the 4th graders who have participated in the “Citizens Making a Difference” curriculum at New City School.

The book launch is scheduled for this Monday, December 10, at The Mahler Ballroom (more information follows).

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

Photos above: Arthur Culbert and 4th grade students at New City School.

Arthur started the CWE Farm 8 years ago on a vacant lot in the 5000 block of Waterman (just west of Kingshighway). Over the past 7 growing seasons the farm has produced approximately 16,000 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables for food pantries at Trinity Episcopal Church and Second Presbyterian Church. Tying the farm’s mission to eliminate hunger in the community to a program for neighborhood school children where they learn where food comes from, how to plant and grow it for those less fortunate to enjoy, was a brilliant idea and what inspired the Culberts to write A Gift Garden.

“We hope that the book will inspire others and initiate a movement working together towards eliminating hunger,” said Nancy, who co-authored the book aimed at a 4th grade reading level and up. They were able to work almost every vocabulary word that New City School 4th graders learn into the story. Arthur added that Nancy brought a magical touch to the writing.

The Culberts, who have been married for 11 years, have backgrounds in the public health arena. Arthur was dean of a public health program in Boston for 31 years before moving to St. Louis 13 years ago, and Nancy recently retired after 16 years as the Director of Student Services at the College for Public Health & Social Justice at SLU.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

Central Reform Congregation and First Unitarian Church, which are neighbors of the CWE Farm, contribute vegetables from their own gardens to the CWE pantries as well. Together they have contributed an additional 1400 pounds of produce. Generous “alley” neighbors from Westminster Place have also joined the effort by contributing produce from their backyard gardens too.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater Food and Drink For Children Health & Wellness Urban Gardens  Trinity Episcopal Church Second Presbyterian Church Nancy Culbert Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation First Unitarian Church CWE Farm Central Reform Congregation Arthur Culbert

December 10, the date of the book launch, coincides with the 70th anniversary of first proclamation of the Universal Declaration of  Human Rights which in Article 25 declares that everyone has a right to food.

In A Gift Garden, 10-year-old Bea, described as a super hero, declares: “Every person has a right to food,” as she and her friends develop a project to help feed the hungry. The book’s characters decide to become citizens making a difference and work toward planning, building and growing a community gift garden.

Tickets for A Gift Garden Book Launch at The Mahler Ballroom, 4915 Washington, $25 (for soft cover book) to $35 (for hardcover edition), include a copy of the book, a CWE Farm signature drink, light hors d’oeuvres, and music. At 7 p.m. there will be a reading by the authors followed by a Q & A led by KMOV reporter Alexis Zotos. Tickets are available on Eventbrite here. A Gift Garden will be available soon at Left Bank Books.

CWE Farm is a non-profit organization. Proceeds from Monday’s book launch benefit Gift Garden Fresh Food Foundation.