At Urban Harvest STL, we like to remind folks that sustainable farming is intertwined with social justice.Centuries of systemic racism have structured our food system to benefit some and exploit others. From stealing Indigenous land to enslaving Black people on plantations to exploiting undocumented farm workers, the practice of farming has been built on – and continues to exist as – a system of oppression. Even after food leaves the farm, high quality unprocessed food is typically sold at high prices at markets that are geographically and economically inaccessible for poor communities and communities of color. For example, almost 1 in 5 residents in St. Louis City in 2018 did not have reliable access at all times to enough nutritious food for an active, healthy lifestyle due to a long history of racism that favors white affluent neighborhoods. While food apartheid such as this impacts all people experiencing poverty, it oppresses Black and brown communities disproportionately.
Urban farming is a way to reclaim control over the food system.
Urban farming is a way to reclaim control over the food system. Through a network of urban farms around the city, Urban Harvest STL localizes food production and prioritizes access to this fresh, healthy produce for residents who are most impacted by food apartheid, while also sharing gardening tips and tricks with aspiring growers.
Our mission aligns with Rung for Women’s efforts to help women achieve sustained independence, making its new campus the perfect spot for our eighth and newest farm. The site will bolster both personal and community food access.
However, growing food is not just an instrument to achieve food justice; it’s also fun! The farm at Rung is a perfect example of how we like to experiment and diversify our farms with a variety of growing methods:
- Raised garden beds will provide gardening space for Rung members and source fresh produce directly to the kitchen. These include both rectangular beds that are low to the ground and deeper U-shaped beds that are accessible to wheelchairs.
- In-ground farm rows are a space-efficient way to grow large amounts of produce, while simultaneously increasing biodiversity and improving soil health.
- The caterpillar high tunnel and greenhouse will allow us to grow food year-round, incorporating hydroponics and specialty crops that require a more carefully moderated environment.
- The food forest, an Indigenous growing practice, is a fruit orchard interspersed with perennial plants that work together to enrich soil and attract beneficial insects.
- Finally, space-saving keyhole beds will be planted with pollinators and native flowers to enhance our local ecosystem and bring beneficial insects to the farm. This circular design originated in Zimbabwe and is great for easy access and helps retain moisture, distribute nutrients.
Not only do these various growing methods help us grow a wide range of produce, but also they ensure it is high quality and nutrient-rich. Perennial plants, native flowers, and pollinators attract a diverse array of beneficial insects that will do wonders for the vegetables, fruit, and other produce growing on the farm. This is part of our organic practice – rather than relying on chemical fertilizers to grow plants, we use plant-based amendments, fish waste/manure fertilizer from local aquaponic farms, and beneficial insects such as bees, ladybugs, green lacewings, and more, that pollinate our plants and protect them them from less desirable insects.
The way we garden at Rung is designed to enrich the quality of the food produced as well as the people who interact with it. We are thrilled for Rung members to participate in Urban Harvest STL’s Leadership in Urban Agriculture internship program and be involved in nurturing plants from farm to table – planting, harvesting, and then cooking the produce in the gardens. We also hope that neighbors in the surrounding Fox Park neighborhood will also participate in cultivating their community space. The site will also be a hub for our free gardening and sustainability workshops for both Rung members and the general public.
The way we garden at Rung is designed to enrich the quality of the food produced as well as the people who interact with it.
We farm to reclaim healthy food options and redesign a racially just food system that puts people before profit. And we also farm to be a resource for aspiring growers and bring people together around shared passion for food.
Urban Harvest STL believes in food rights – all members of our community should have equitable access to fresh, healthy food regardless of socioeconomic status, race or location.