December 9, 2016

Webster students turnip the beet at new community garden

Photography by Amie Boggeman

Three Webster University students are taking their classroom studies to the next level by starting their own organic community garden.

The garden, located about five blocks from the Missouri Botanical Gardens, resulted from the combined interests of senior sustainability minor Claire Hagarty and junior sustainability majors Suzie Schmitt and Forrest Burrelsman. Schmitt’s father originally owned the land, but had to move to Kansas City, Missouri for his job, leaving the space open for use.

“The three of us were talking about starting a garden, and I knew I had the perfect spot for it,” Schmitt said. “I talked to my dad about it, and he was all for it. So it just took off from there.”

All the items used to build the garden (except the soil) are reclaimed, and the group is focused on making the spot as sustainable and organic as possible. However, even though the idea started with these three students, Hagarty said they are looking for it to expand and be a true community-based area.

“We want to get more people involved. It’s open to anyone who wants to be a part of it,” she said. “It will be a fun project to do with friends and with the community. It can just be a fun place to hang out.”

The official name of the garden is still in the works. But Burrelsman said he sees the place growing into something bigger than just a garden.

“I want it to be completely community-based. I want it to be a garden, but also a place where people can come hang out and meet new people,” he said. “I want to have crafts and even put on shows where people can play music. I want it to be a safe place for everyone to be.”

Schmitt also stressed the idea that the garden is for anyone who wants to get involved. She said they are working on getting a fire pit, benches and a fence to turn the garden into a great spot for people to hang out.

“I think this could be a really positive thing for the area that it’s in,” Schmitt said.

The idea of the garden is that anyone can go out and harvest whatever they want, Hagarty said. As of now, she is starting to grow the seeds at home in her windowsill before transferring them to the garden.

“We are growing three different kinds of tomatoes cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, beets, onions, carrots, snap peas, jalapeños, green peppers and just a lot of things,” Hagarty said. “So far we have three beds for the garden, and we plan on having more but it’s hard to have enough money.”

For Burrelsman, the inspiration for a garden started when he pursued a sustainability minor, something that eventually turned into a second major for him.

“I’ve always wanted to do stuff with gardening and food. I’m a hands-on person for learning, and this is a perfect way for me to put what I’m learning in the classroom into practice,” Burrelsman said.

Hagarty, Schmitt and Burrelsman are accepting donations for the garden and are looking into starting a page on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. Schmitt said there isn’t a set goal that they need to fundraise because they are still assessing exactly what they want to put in the space.

Hagarty said she hopes to recruit people to join them who can continue the garden once they graduate.

“We are really excited about this project, and we are really open to anyone else who wants to be a part of it,” Hagarty said.

For more information, visit the garden’s Facebook page: Community Urban Garden.

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