I hope that many of you have taken the opportunity to participate in this year's National Garden Festival either by sharing your gardens or by viewing the gardens of others. Recently I and about forty other people participated in a special tour called "Beyond Flowers." I want to share some of that experience with you.
Our first stop was at the Massachusetts Avenue project located at 389 Massachusetts Avenue in the city of Buffalo. This is located in a neighborhood with high youth unemployment, empty land, and a need for access to fresh nutritious food. it was begun in 1992 by neighborhood groups. This Growing Green Urban Farm covers an area of about an acre ... it was originally thirteen city lots. It features flower beds, perennial gardens, vegetable gardens,a greenhouse,egg-laying chickens,a rain water catch system, and an aquaponics system for raising tilapia and plants, where the fish provide nutrients for the plants and the plants cleanse the water for the fish. Over 8000 pounds of food was produced on this property last year!
I also got to talk with several of the young people who work there. They are representative of the many ethnic backgrounds of the surrounding neighborhood, proud of their work, and eager to share how important this project is in their lives. As Faul said "It's a fun program!" I was thrilled to learn that 95% of the young people who participate at the Massachusetts project graduate from high school. Of course I purchased some salsa, chili starter, and salad dressing, which are produced from vegetables grown on this plot of land.
We also got to visit the 14th Street Community Garden located in the West Side. It a nonprofit part of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo's Green Development Zone. Originally there were five houses on this site. The donated land has been divided up into plots growing corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant,and various types of beans, maintained by and feeding twenty-eight families. The vegetables grown reflect the hard work (Participants haul water to the site!) of people from Burma, Somalia, Puerto Rico, and Sicily. These plots were beautiful!
The last garden visited was the Rooftop Garden at the Broadway Market,established in the Summer of 2010, a community garden of individual gardeners' plots which are all raised beds. The rooftop also offers visitors a place with a 360 degree view. One can see downtown Buffalo and Polonia's "Seven Sisters", the seven churches that are around the Market. Each year the gardeners host a Multi-Faith Garden Blessing, the Buffalo Infringement Festival and garden workshops open to the public. The gardens included herbs such as sage and winter savory in addition to the vegetables. I was particularly taken by wooden structures built for growing potatoes. Slats are added as the plants get taller. Then more soil is added. This method greatly increases the number of potatoes that are produced. (I took a picture to share with you.)