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St. Louis Welcomes First Rooftop Farm

St. Louis Welcomes First Rooftop Farm

June 3, 2015 |

Courtesy Food Roof Farms

Courtesy Food Roof Farms

by Hariette Halepis

When construction is completed later this summer on top of a two-story building in downtown St. Louis, Food Roof Farm will be the first of its kind in the city.

The project is being spearheaded by Mary Ostafi,  a former architect with big dreams for this mid-sized city.

Ostafi is behind the city’s already bustling Urban Harvest, a sprawling downtown community garden space, and has spent the past year planning and creating the new rooftop farm space. Her work to connect city residents with their food has been inspired by other rooftop gardens throughout the world, and from a more personal source: her grandfather’s backyard Chicago garden that she often frequented as a child.

Unlike other rooftop farms, Ostafi’s goal is one that is multi-layered. Her vision for the food grown two-stories up at Food Roof Farm is to feed not only local residents that sign up for a weekly basket, but also to supply produce source for various local restaurants.

So far, Ostafi says that the support from the community has been “overwhelming” with both patrons, restaurant owners, and volunteers signing up for fresh city produce in droves. But there are some limitations that come with opening up the first rooftop farm in St. Louis. The hardest hurdles to jump so far have been those that involve lots of paperwork.

Building codes and permits have been difficult to obtain, though Ostafi’s background in architecture helps a great deal. Already the team has navigated most of that red tape, and various construction supply donations from community supporters has also helped push the project forward.

The goal this year is to use the 10,000 square foot space as efficiently as possible. In the future, Ostafi imagines a network of rooftop farms across the city with the same mission and goal. She also hopes to become a consultant for people with similar dreams in mind. Her advice to others planning an urban farm is simple enough: “Make sure that you’re surrounded by the right people.”

She attributes the fast-paced success of Food Roof Farm to her board of directors that all bring different experience to the table from farming knowledge to fundraising.

The Food Roof Farm is currently funded by local foundations, fundraisers, and supporters. Her team also managed to gain $33,000 in funding from the Rally St. Louis website (a local crowdfunding site for the St. Louis area).

What the farm needs right now is more funding to keep the project growing, and volunteers to help grow, harvest, and plan out current and future portion of this farming space, Ostafi says. If all goes according to plan this year, next year’s Food Roof Farm will be a thriving non-profit that teaches both community members and children alike. Ostafi also hopes to bring classrooms of children to the farm to see where and how food is grown, and that it can be grown in some unusual places, such as on top of a two-story building in the middle of a city.

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