The Sunflower+ Project: STL is in its fifth year. We
began as a winning entry in the St. Louis Land Lab Design Competition – a way to re-think vacant, urban land as an
asset rather than a liability. Fruitful collaboration is a large part of what
keeps us going long after our two year project was scheduled to conclude. Working
with Ames VPA School and the Sweet Potato Project keeps our energy level high.
is our second year planting a border with the Sweet Potato Project
on Union Avenue. Sylvester Brown Jr. is the SPP Founder.
Here is how they operate: “The Sweet Potato Project recruits young men and women from the North St. Louis community to be part of the year-long project which maintains a strong focus on agriculture, marketing, sales, and self-sustainability. The outcome is a business plan for turning the summer produce into a product that can be sold.
The Sweet Potato Project begins with a 10-week summer program where students learn about urban agriculture and sustainability and plant sweet potatoes seeds in lots in their community. Throughout the summer, in addition to learning the agriculture skills needed to care for the growing sweet potatoes, the students participate in entrepreneurial and business skills training workshops and classes. The participants also attend public lectures and events to gain the knowledge needed to actively participate in the second phase of the project. The summer program ends in October with the harvest of the sweet potatoes.
The second phase of the Sweet Potato Project begins in the fall and winter months, when the students put their business and entrepreneurial skills into action and convert the produce into a product. The sweet potatoes become sweet potato cookies that can be marketed and sold in the community. During this phase of the project the students work with chefs in the Saint Louis University Department of Nutrition and Dietetics to develop sweet potato cookie recipes and work in the kitchen to make the product. The students also get the opportunity to utilize the entrepreneurial and business skills as they market and sell cookies through direct consumer interactions and Internet advertising and sales.
Once the final sweet potato is harvested and the last cookie is sold, the process begins again. Each year our goal is to add more students, more plots of land, and many more sweet potatoes!”
EarthWays Center and the Sunflower+ Project is proud to support and lend a hand
bringing attention to this work. We have planted a row of sunflowers in front
of the raised beds and we offer cut sunflowers and seeds from our other sites
for use in Sweet Potato Project fundraisers. Check out their website
and find a way to help too!
VPA School is part of the St. Louis Public School Sytem and is located in the
Old North neighborhood. The Sunflower+ Project was contacted be faculty and
staff at Ames VPA seeking advice on how to launch a Sunflower Project on a
vacant lot across from the school’s entrance. We talked them through the
startup process and did a little site prep work and tilling and the teachers
took it from there. We can expect some nice blooms by mid-July.
And finally, we have used a broadcast seed technique on our
lot, also in Old North, and cut paths to traverse the field in the proportions
and spiral defined by the golden rectangle and found in the face of a
sunflower, architecture, and nature around the world.
Please visit the Sunflower+ Project Facebook page for numerous photos, volunteer opportunities and updates on a project committed to biodiversity, pollinators, and the beautification of vacant, urban land through sustainable, plant-based solutions.