Gateway Garlic Urban Farm Smells Success

By Crystal Stevens

Mark Brown, a St. Louis transplant, has been farming in Missouri for 13 years and has been active in Urban Farming in St. Louis since 2005. Mark comes from a long line of farmers in the Northern Illinois and Wisconsin regions. Some of his earliest childhood memories are of harvesting and eating raw sunflower seeds with his siblings and helping his parents harvest peas at the 2 lot urban farm he grew up on in Chicago. His parents were victory gardeners. His paternal grandfather was a ploughman at the turn of the century. Growing food is a part of his heritage. In 2007, he founded the Gateway Garlic Urban Farm in the Carondelet Neighborhood, which now has 10 members and 15 allied growers. Mark also spearheads The St. Louis Garlic Fest, which began as a private event with friends enjoying garlic dishes together over a decade ago. The St. Louis Garlic Fest is now in its 6th season and has drawn a crowd of over 3,500 individuals in recent years.

Mark Brown is a member of The Missouri Organic Association. Mark is passionate about building a network of allied farmers, sharing resources between organic growers, educating others including the youth about organic farming and sharing the harvest with local food banks. He has helped start many urban farms in the St. Louis area including Tarry There Gardens, a small urban permaculture farm. Mark recently built a 12 x 40 ft poly tunnel using 100% recycled and reclaimed materials where he demonstrates bioponic, aquaponic and hydroponic growing methods. The poly-tunnel and the farm are used as an outdoor education center for the Oak Scouts. Gateway Garlic Farm has open free plots for beginning urban farmers who wish to learn how to grow their own food or sell food at markets. The Gateway Garlic Urban Farm centers on community involvement, outreach and education. They work closely with local food banks such as Mutual Aid and Haven Street. They donate produce on a regular basis to these and other area food banks. Mark owns and grows food on several lots throughout South St. Louis from Dutchtown to Carondelet. He sells produce to local chefs. Mark recently recovered a lost heirloom at an abandoned farmstead which had been settled by German Immigrants. This property had not been farmed in over 70 years. This recovered heirloom has been named the Carondelet. Mark is the founder of St. Louis Garlic Fest, which happens every June 21st in Carondelet Park.

Mark has his own line of herb and garlic infused vinegars which he will unveil this fall.

Garlic Marks Tuscan Vinaigrette
Infuse garlic, thyme, oregano, and basil in vinegar. Combine 2 parts infused vinegar with 2 parts extra virgin olive oil and 1 part water in a recycled salad dressing bottle or water bottle. Shake well until creamy.

Garlic Marks favorite way to prepare garlic:
Garlic sautéed with thinly sliced onions and poured over any meat or vegetable dish.
Planting garlic this fall: Garlic bulbs (heads of garlic) can be broken apart and then unpeeled individual garlic cloves can be planted in prepared loose soil this fall (typically late October) to be harvested next July. Simply place the unpeeled garlic (flat side down) in a small furrow 6-8 inches apart. Slightly cover with soil so that you can still see the tip of each clove. Mulch the entire patch of planted garlic heavily with straw (a layer that is 6-10 inches thick). The straw helps to suppress the weeds but the garlic stalk is able to emerge through the straw in the spring. For a larger garlic bulb, cut the garlic scapes as soon as they emerge. Harvest bulbs in early July. To harvest, tug the stalk gently out of the ground with both hands from the base of the plant. Peel the outer dirt layer and hang in a cool dry area until they have cured for about 2-3 weeks. The curing process allows the volatile oils to go into the bulbs.

Find out more at gatewaygarlic.com Follow Marks blog at gatewaygarlic.blogspot.com Follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/gatewaygarlic.