About Gateway Organic Farm

Gateway Organic Farm owners Pamela and Hank Sindlinger grew up on family farms in Ohio. They lived a corporate life for 20 years in Atlanta, packing away savings to retire at 55 and travel the world. Then they found themselves raising his daughter's children, Steven and Stephanie. A desire to settle down and to retire in the Sunshine State ultimately led them to move south to Clearwater in 2003. They found a house that was adjacent to 3.5 acres that had been a former nursery and landscape business, 100 feet wide and nearly a quarter of a mile long. Its woody ornamentals and trees had long since been left to fend for themselves. Tenants who had packed the space with 5- and 10-gallon pots of trees and shrubs went out of business, leaving everything—cluttered greenhouses, broken equipment, a rusted RV—behind. Gateway Organic Farm was born.

The family took the farm in the most densely populated county in the state, flanked on one side by a mobile home park, on the other by condos, and turned it into something miraculous, like Frances Hodgson Burnett's Secret Garden. Pamela’s involvement in local and statewide gardening groups introduced them to the concept of community supported agriculture (CSA), which allows the public to buy “shares” of the farm and then benefit from the harvest. After the nearly 70 CSA families benefit from the harvest, any abundance is sold to local chefs at restaurants such as the nearby Café Ponte, Parkshore Grill in St. Petersburg and Island Way Grill in Clearwater. They also host charity events, such as the fall festival for All Children’s Hospital, which brought more than 600 people to the farm.

In 2010, the farm became USDA certified organic by Quality Certification Services. Education is a priority for Gateway Organic Farm. Pamela and Hank not only home school their grandchildren, they always take time to show around a passer-by, or to organize more formal tours for groups. The farm regularly hosts interns from Eckerd College and the University of South Florida. They are also engaged in a community partnership with the High Point Neighborhood Family Center and Pinellas Technical Education Center’s (pTEC) Culinary Program to create the first USDA certified organic community garden in Florida, made possible by a $10,000 grant. The project, titled “Seeds2Soup,” allows low-income families served by the Center to grow their own food at the farm. Children visit on a regular basis for farming and education, and their families receive hands-on classes in meal preparation through pTEC, using the food they grow. The idea is to instill self-sustainability so the families can continue to use the skills they have learned. Families who participate in Seeds2Soup receive long-term benefits, with many still growing food in their homes. With obesity rates among children in the area nearing 40 percent, projects like this that connect children with real food are supported by the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative for creating healthy eating habits and a greater appreciation for science and nature. The project earned Pamela and Hank the Florida Innovative Farmer Award from the University of Florida IFAS Small Farm and Alternative Enterprise Conference in Kissimmee in July 2012. The coveted award is based on achievement, innovation and leadership in supporting viable communities and effective outreach about sustainable agriculture.

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