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Maggie Pearson

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).

 

CWE Flea debuts Saturday, September 7

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Food and Drink For Children Handmade  Maggie Pearson CWE Flea
One of the items on that proverbial wish list for the neighborhood will get checked off next Saturday, September 7, with the launch of the CWE Flea—a fun outdoor marketplace on the parking lot at 449 N. Euclid (at Washington). Amy Howell and I have been mulling this over for a while and working hard at putting it together for the last month and 1/2, which is really pushing it. But we have the location, the vendors and excitement from those that have heard about it…so there's no turning back!

Don't think for a minute this is your ordinary garage sale—we have fabulous vendors with really interesting stuff. Spread the word and plan to stop by the first & third Saturdays in September & October to see what's happening at the CWE Flea. If we can make the outdoor marketplace a success this fall, we'll start up again next spring.

A special thanks to CWEnder Maggie Pearson for the fabulous logo and flyer design you see above. A  banner goes up on the CWE Flea site this weekend, so look for that too.

For general information use the blog email or CWEFlea@gmail.com.

See you September 7th and 21st, and again October 5th and 19th!

CWEnder Maggie Pearson and her art

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Handmade Services  Maggie Pearson Katie O'Connor Alex Pearson

Maggie Pearson is a busy mom, wife, and occasional construction-crew supervisor (she and her husband are still tweaking the renovation of their stunning CWE home), but no matter what else happens during the course of a day, this talented artist carves out some time to draw.  Now that her second son Auggie has celebrated his first birthday (the elder, Jack, is almost 5), Maggie is ready to get back to her design business creating art for invitations, birth announcements, weddings, and corporate clients, etc.

Maggie’s artistic talents can be traced to both her grandfather and her mother who strongly encouraged her three daughters in their creativity. Though Maggie wanted to become an urban planner after graduating from SLU with a degree in public policy, she found herself on a different bus after she and her husband Alex moved to San Francisco—in Maggie’s words, “right after the bottom fell out in 2001.” While working for Condé Nast in San Francisco, she learned technical drawing and design, and lost her heart to illustration.

After the couple returned to the CWE ten years ago, when Alex took a job as Director of the Solution Center at Express Scripts, they lived in a condo on Laclede. Maggie worked for Alive and St. Louis Magazine and ran her design business on the side. They bought their 3-story house on a large lot a couple of years ago, just across the street from her sister Katie and her husband Tim O’Connor.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Handmade Services  Maggie Pearson Katie O'Connor Alex Pearson

Front and center in the photo above is the imaginative holiday card Maggie designed for Circus Flora’s FloraDora. Design work is squeezed into small bursts of time when Auggie is sleeping or after the children have gone to bed for the night. Her design services, which cover the whole process from beginning concept to finished product, are very reasonable, starting at $50 an hour. Maggie was eager to note that she sources local printers for her invitations and announcements, everything is done right here in St. Louis.
Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Handmade Services  Maggie Pearson Katie O'Connor Alex Pearson

Maggie also enjoys writing and illustrating children’s books, which are as yet unpublished. She describes her illustrations, above, as having a “spirit of Halloween” feeling, and finds inspiration from the late author and illustrator Edward Gorey and illustrator Gris Grimley whose drawings lean toward the dark side.Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture Handmade Services  Maggie Pearson Katie O'Connor Alex Pearson

Give this clever woman a pen and paper and she will quickly sketch your home or business, see examples above, which would make a wonderful gift too. One of our favorite drawings from long ago is a sketch of our former Lenox Place home that an artist who lived on Pershing Place gave us.

To contact Maggie Pearson for more information about her design and illustration services, email her at maggiehpearson@gmail.com.