Quincy News

Quincy business growing vertical

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 20, 2018 11:00 am Updated: Aug. 20, 2018 5:10 pm

QUINCY -- Barb Wehmer has a suggestion when space is short but gardening interest isn't.

Try a vertical garden.

"It makes sense to garden upright," Wehmer said.

The Quincy native worked with vertical farming and an urban green roof in downtown St. Louis designed to grow produce to help feed the poor. After changes in the St. Louis-based company and the death of her husband, Wehmer decided to come back home after 35 years away -- and bring the same ideas to the Quincy area.

"Like anything in life, it's wonderful if you can find a job and something you love and have passion behind," she said. "This kind of thing can change the world. If one kid would learn how to garden and teach his brothers and sisters, it would just take off. But first somebody has got to teach it."

Wehmer works with people in the sustainable, organic and live growing industry and her business, Sustainable Sales, offers products at sustainablesales.net to support that including living walls, essentially a vertical framework that can be planted to flowers, herbs or vegetables in settings including homes, businesses and schools.

"What I really love is teaching children how to garden and farm at school. They can take that knowledge home to their families," she said. "Kids have to learn now everything comes from the grocery store."

Wehmer hopes to tap into an "upsurge" in interest in community gardening efforts in Quincy and beyond and in teaching skills people can use to sustain themselves and their families. Growing your own produce also lessens food safety concerns and the cost of buying food.

"Kids love this sort of thing," which fits into the growing farm to school movement, Wehmer said, and because the living walls are handicapped-accessible, "any child with special needs can wheel up to this unit."

Easy accessibility also benefits senior gardeners. With nursing home residents, Wehmer points to a study that found gardening was one of the things they missed the most. "This unit can be put on casters and can be used inside or outside," she said.

Planted into compost, the living wall "is completely hand waterable," she said. "It has an integral drip irrigation line that you can plug in or water by hand just like you water the garden."

The Quincy area -- with its proximity to farmland, support of farmers market and strong base of knowledgeable gardeners -- is a prime location for Wehmer's passion which can find financial support from a variety of sources.

Grants are "available to Head Start, daycare, preschool and grade school up to high school" to cover costs involved, she said. "I just need to get a school to say to me 'show us how to do it.' I've got it ready to go. I've done all the research."