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Wildwood Gardeners Join Big Chief Restaurant in New Community Program

Many Wildwood residents like to grow fresh produce—so does one, local restaurant owner. This year, a creative gardening solution is being implemented that hopefully will provide win-win outcomes.

Stephanie Mulholland, owner of Big Chief Roadhouse restaurant in Wildwood, has been itching to grow her own herbs, produce and fruits for cooking at the vintage Route 66 restaurant. She and her partners just designed a new area in back of the restaurant to grow plants and trees this year.

However, Big Chief staffers may not be alone in their garden; they have partnered with Wildwood city officials to offer 27 to 36 4-by-8-feet raised, gardening beds to Wildwood residents.

Having a new spot to accept the overflow of Wildwood gardeners on the city's wait list should work better for everyone involved.

"The opportunity to partner with fellow gardeners and the city fits nicely with our whole business plan to be the community place to gather," said Mulholland.

She said restaurant staffers plan to grow six types of lettuce, squash, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, green beans, asparagus and parsley. They also plan to plant apple, pear and cherry trees, and to grow grapes, raspberries and blackberries. Among the herbs to be seeded are thyme, basil, mint, rosemary and cilantro. The new garden will be surrounded by appropriate fencing.

"We will have a compost pile, and use rain barrels, and other eco-friendly approaches, such as aquaponics," she said.

"We already smoke our own meat, and make our dishes from scratch, so this is a great way to take our menu to the next level."

Mulholland said she is hopeful the new community gardening partnership also will help to better spotlight the elements of the city's Pond Historic District.

"It's wonderful to go back to our roots. Food brings people together, and it's only right that Big Chief host a community effort that's a bit tribal in its intention," she said.

Joe Vujnich, Wildwood director of planning and parks, said, "Ms. Mulholland really displayed her community spirit by offering to help the city address an extensive waiting list of gardeners for spaces, which is very much appreciated by the city, while being indicative of the Wildwood business community and its ongoing support of our residents."

History and Status of Wildwood Farms Community Garden

Since March 2011, Wildwood city representatives offered a community garden for Wildwood residents. An approximately 7,000 square-foot area, at the corner of Main Street and Taylor Road, was leased to the city by Ed Kohn and Robert Greenberg of Greenberg Development Company.

The site was prepared by installing rock and mulch pathways, constructing 45 4-by-8-feet raised planter beds, providing composted soil, erecting deer-proof fencing, and creating a water supply connection. Subsequently, these planter beds were provided to the residents on a first-come, first-serve basis. The community garden was named 'Wildwood Farms' by a suggestion and subsequent vote of the gardeners.

A waiting list for other residents wanting garden plots was initiated.

In 2012, city representatives, along with the Wildwood Farms Garden Management Group, expanded the garden area to accommodate additional residents, and doubled its size by constructing an additional 54 raised planter beds for a total of 99, provided composted soil, and expanded the deer-proof fencing area. Again, these planter beds were provided to residents on a first-come, first-serve basis and, like 2011, the plots filled quickly.

Garden plots for the upcoming 2013 growing season were assigned only to those residents who attended a mandatory meeting Tuesday evening at The Wildwood Hotel. Vujnich said an estimated 120 people attended the meeting. Plots were available on a first-come, first-served basis, with them assigned by city officials in this order:

1. Returning gardeners.

2. New gardeners based upon their place on the waiting list.

3. Returning gardeners, requesting an additional plot. The maximum number of plots allowed is two, but only once the waiting list has been accommodated.

Gardeners paid $25 per plot at Tuesday's meeting, as well as a one-time, refundable $25 deposit. The deposit is refunded at the end of the growing season, once plots are cleaned up and ready for winter.

Vujnich said nine requests are on the waiting list after Tuesday's meeting. "If the remaining gardeners on the waiting list are interested in the Big Chief location, Ms. Mulholland appears to have ample planting beds."

Lisa January 17, 2013 at 02:25 PM
Would love to have gardeners partner with schools to offer better choices too!!
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) January 17, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Interesting concept, Lisa. Just even having fresh, local lettuce for lunch salads would be a helpful step.
Pam Lieber January 17, 2013 at 04:04 PM
St Louis city(public) schools have 22 gardens that they mantain as well as partnering with local farms to use over 60,000 lbs of local produce!!! If you check out the menus from some of these schools...they are impressive and truly HEALTHY! Would love to be able to get something like this in Rockwood!! http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/st-louis-public-schools-earns-a-for-its-lunch-program/article_bfcc50d7-75fd-5f54-8851-43a77b2d2161.html
Nancy January 17, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Great idea. If you are doing Aquaponics, are these fresh fish going to be just for the restaurant or for sale to the public also? My niece who lives in House Springs was just asking me about Aquaponics the other day.

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