La Salle Retreat Center
St. Louis Composting is proud to support La Salle Retreat Center’s Community Garden and Kid’s Garden Club. Since 1886, La Salle has been a home to Christian Brothers and countless events supporting their ministry. What once was a school for young men is today a retreat center providing a place of hospitality and growth for all groups and people.
In May 2020 and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, La Salle was in the difficult position of overcoming challenges caused by cancelled retreats and other events. Driven to find a safe and family-friendly program for the surrounding community, a suggestion came forward for the creation of a community garden within the center’s 180 acres. With no previous on-site gardening experience and uncertainty regarding the pandemic, La Salle decided to pursue the idea, seeking assistance from volunteers and financial support through available grants, patrons and supporters. The team at La Salle reached out for assistance from St. Louis Composting and presented their plan of action. Together a plan started to take shape, “STL Composting gave us the support and confidence to move forward,” said La Salle’s president Michelle Cook
Establishing the garden presented many rewards, but came with a number of challenges. With careful, safe planning and a lot of hard work from volunteers, the garden achieved its first-year goals as plans were put in place to help the garden grow and continue to thrive as a safe community hub outdoors. Having great success, La Salle decided to expand the garden program to the younger generation.
When La Salle became the recipient of a grant from the Lasallian Mission Opportunities Fund, a Kid's Garden Club was founded. Participation would include a once-a-month, free take-home program that provided a vegetable plant, growing tip sheet, compost, weekly gardening missions, and activities. In the first week alone, over 200 kids signed up. The Kid’s Garden Club continues to collaborate with St. Louis Composting to provide an opportunity for all kids to learn and use gardening practices, teaching future generations about gardening sustainably.
Today, the garden has a wide array of features on site: a new worm farm, beehives, a reflection garden, and chicken coops. In fact, the center has two separate coops that consist of dozens of chicks and hens, which are open to all members to explore.
The Family Garden provides a fenced area to protect crops, a compost pile for use in the garden area, wood chips for pathways, gardening supplies, water, and instructional information. The garden is organic, which means plants and foods are grown without synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, and individual family plots line the garden, varying in row length and fees. Patrons in the Family Garden provide their own seeds and plants and are able to keep the produce or donate them to the Retreat Center. Supporting the Family Garden and Kid’s Garden Club means supporting locally grown produce, eggs, and honey for meals at the retreat center. The ultimate goal, says Cook is to, "one day provide food to pantries across the greater St. Louis community.”
Community gardening has the potential to offer a range of benefits such as reconnecting with nature, nutrition and education. By focusing on organic gardening and sustainability, La Salle Retreat Center’s vision is that guests will be able to enhance their own individual lives as well as the community environment.