The Urban Project

Saint Louis University's Urban Farm for Community Outreach and Research



To seek funding and necessary University and community support to pilot a small, cutting-edge urban farm on unused land in a "food desert" in St. Louis, benefiting underserved school children and neighbors of the farm as well as the University and the City.


On donated property, the University would use grant money and the efforts of students, faculty, staff, and community volunteers to develop a year-round growing facility in an impoverished area within ready driving distance of campus. Ideally, the property would be located near a public elementary school and would, when completed, include hoop houses, beds, fish runs, and other necessary structures. A second phase of development would include offices, a clinic, and housing for a needy family with the skills to tend and secure the farm.

The primary functions of the facility would be to provide a
  • Platform for cutting-edge sustainability research into future urban agricultural practices that will be needed in the megacities that will develop in the U.S. and around the world during the lifetime of our current students. Approaches to be investigated include aeroponics, aquaculture, and soil-based cultivation, with attention to energy use and pollutants in the air, soil, and groundwater.
  • Test site for innovation in small-scale production suitable for backyards, brown fields, and rooftops and also in processing and distribution through schools, churches, farmers’ markets, convenience stores, and other niche enterprises.
  • Source of fresh, organic produce for underserved residents of St. Louis and their children.
  • Potential site for a health clinic and for educational research, including a proposed SLU Healthcare Beacon and a College of Education and Public Service study of the effects of poor nutrition and healthcare on educational performance in underachieving public schools.
  • Community-service site for SLU undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and staff who wish to work among underserved residents of St. Louis, particularly K-12 students living near the farm and those who may be bussed in from other areas of the city for field trips.
  • Model for other projects to propagate high-yield, sustainable urban farms using environmentally friendly materials and minimal energy, water, carbon-based fuels, fertilizers, chemical agents, and space. The model could be readily disseminated to other institutions, including 28 other Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. and many others around the world. 

Potential community partners:

American Heart Association
Catholic Charities
City of St. Louis
Gateway Greening
Missouri Botanical Garden
Missouri Foundation for Health
Missouri Office of Minority Health
Monsanto Corporation
Mount Zion Baptist Church
Saint Louis Clergy Coalition

Potential SLU collaborators:     

Biology Department
Center for Service and Community Engagement
Center for Sustainability
Chemistry Department
Community Health Department
Cook School of Business
Doerr Center for Social Justice
Educational Studies Department
Environmental Studies Program
Law School Community and Development Clinic
Mechanical Engineering Department
Medical School
Micah Program
Nutrition and Dietetics Department
Public Policy Studies Department
School of Nursing Sociology and Criminal Justice Department