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Activists prepare to open first rooftop community garden in St. Louis

Community gardens

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(NaturalNews) Planting a garden is to believe in the future. A nonprofit group named Urban Harvest STL believes in a brighter future for St. Louis, Missouri, and plans to reconnect the community with its food. It wasn't long ago when rioters and looters took to the streets in St. Louis and nearby Ferguson and showed their frustration with law enforcement, destroying property as they went along.

The activists with Urban Harvest STL have a much different vision. The ambitious nonprofit recently signed a lease giving them access to the top of a two-story building. What they plan to do on top of the storage facility is truly revolutionary. Their plan is to build a rooftop community garden that produces vegetables year-round and teaches school children how to grow their own food. Now this is true activism. The seeds are being planted for a real positive revolution that heals the world and brings people together.

The initial planning is being carried out by a loose network of community gardeners. Mary Ostafi, the nonprofit's founding director, said the project will begin as a community garden on a 10,000 sq. ft. rooftop and will expand to involve others in the St. Louis community.

"We're going to have an outdoor classroom, as well as a gathering space for community events," Ostafi said. "We'll be raising chickens and tending bees." The two-story building is just a couple of blocks east of the City Museum at the corner of 14th Street and Constitutions Plaza. Initial construction costs are estimated to be around $300,000.

The rooftop farm will be overseen by a part-time farm manager, and the rest of the work is projected to be completed by volunteers. When the farm is complete, it will include a large greenhouse that will supply produce through the winter months as well.

Volunteers will be able to grow their own food. The extra produce gathered is set to be donated to a homeless services provider named McMurphy's Cafe at St. Patrick's Center. Otherwise, St. Louis residents will be able to purchase shares of the harvest through a community-supported agriculture program.

Ostafi said the initial planning doesn't include a lot of diversification but is optimistic. "I think there is an opportunity to enhance that mission as we have the farm built, to reach out to a broader component of the St. Louis region to get more people involved," Ostafi said. "But right now, it's just kind of grown as a grassroots initiative."

In addition to reaching out to various demographics of people, Ostafi and Urban Harvest STL plans on getting schools involved. A charter school named Lafayette Preparatory Academy has already partnered with Urban Harvest STL and is making preparations to send students to the rooftop garden regularly as part of their science curriculum. Imagine schools opening their doors and allowing students to touch something real and beneficial in the world! Teaching children how to grow their own food is something that every school should embrace. This is an important skill that has been buried and lost in our culture. Our dependence on monoculture, pesticides and the depletion of food nutrition has led us to a point of reckoning.

Will we rise and paint a brighter future? Do we believe in our health, in our food, in the future at all?

Ostafi hopes to set an example for the world to follow. "We're trying to show that if we can grow food in downtown St. Louis -- the most urban neighborhood in our city -- then people really have an opportunity to grow food anywhere they live," Ostafi said.

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