Maile J. Auterson wants to make Springfield a national model for best practices in urban and rural agriculture.
The founder and executive director of Springfield Community Gardens is a fourth-generation Ozarks farmer who has grown SCG into a 16-person staff dedicated to the long-term vision of creating a community where everyone has access to healthy local food.
“These efforts have promoted pride in our Ozarks heritage in diverse, small, family farms and gardening, which all contribute to a more resilient food system,” Auterson says.
Since SCG’s founding in 2010, she has overseen its growth from a single community garden to a network of 18 throughout the area, two urban market farms and a hospital farm named Amanda Belle’s Farm, which is a partnership with CoxHealth.
“These gardens and farms have trained hundreds of new and established and rural, as well as urban, farmers through virtual and hands-on coaching and workshops and provided fresh produce for thousands of food-insecure individuals in the Springfield region,” Auterson says.
Through government grants and fundraising, she has assisted in raising and managing $4.5 million for local agriculture and training in sustainable farming.
“From these funds and through the multiple partnerships I formed and nurtured, we built a hospital farm – one of only five hospital farms in the nation – promoting preventive health through education geared toward healthier living,” Auterson says.
The programming she has developed over the past 12 years has delivered more than 1 million pounds of produce for food-insecure neighborhoods, and she was appointed by Gov. Mike Parson to the Missouri Food Security Task Force.
Over the past decade, Amy Blansit has seen Auterson’s dedication to her mission firsthand.
“Her drive to create a healthy community through relationship building and community engagement is captivating,” says Blansit, founder of the Drew Lewis Foundation. “Her passion is to meet her neighbors where they are and to teach them to build connections by digging in the dirt and growing local healthy food together. She has also created collaborations with Missouri State University, CoxHealth, Community Partnership of the Ozarks, many neighborhood associations and other leading nonprofits.”
When the Drew Lewis Foundation began its renovation of the Fairbanks Community Hub in north Springfield, partnering with SCG was one of its first collaborations, Blansit says. SCG maintains more than 10,000 square feet of land, which helps provide food to 40 families.
“She is not afraid to get messy and dig in to create change,” Blansit says. “The team she has created at the helm of SCG is amazing. The heart and soul of each of the staff are a reflection of Maile’s passion.”
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