Curbside Croft: “Imagine Small Farms Everywhere”
For quite some time now I’ve been looking forward to the opening of Curbside Croft on the city’s West Side. This past Saturday I finally got my chance to see the for-profit urban farm, located at the corner of Vermont and West, in operation. It was only a few weeks ago that I first checked up on the progress of the two plots of land – the smaller an empty lot conversion and the larger a reuse of a torn out foundation. Moving forward, the respective lots will both serve as two different growing operations – the smaller lot will be the city’s first plot of land dedicated to growing flowers for retail flower shops such as Maureen’s. And the larger plot is intended to service the neighborhood’s vegetable needs. As the business grows, it will most likely diversify to accommodate requests from nearby residents (and hopefully you). After all, it’s all about providing the ability to ‘live locally’.
The edible, urban, organic operation is the brainchild of Brandon and Emily Majewski along with their business partner Matt Barnhardt. Curbside Croft, or ‘little farm’, has got to be one of the more unique businesses in the city. Where else can one walk up to a corner lot, peruse the list of available produce on a chalkboard, point to a mature bed of greens and say (in any language), “I want that.” From there an attendant will handpick the selection, bag it (in a reused bag – or please bring your own), hand it over the fence, and give the customer the tally for the amount owed. Curbside Croft offers fair prices to the residents, many of whom are refugees, in order to curb them from their reliance on the typical corner store crap. And get this – they even accept food stamps.
As I stood there talking to Brandon and Emily, I couldn’t help but notice that Brandon was enjoying the fruits of his labor. “It makes a good snack,” he told me. It was then that Emily began to pick different leafs of lettuce, handing them to me and rattling off names the likes I had never heard. Each one was delicious… some leaves were leafy and salty, while others were hearty and crunchy, one was delicate and flavorful, the beans were deep purple and bright green on the inside. I never knew that there were so many types of greens! All of them were fresh and delicious. I immediately asked for a bag of mixed greens to take home for dinner that night, while at the same time I pointed to each patch of green asking, “What’s that? What’s that?” I wanted some of everything in my bag – even the produce that was not quite ready yet.
Customers of Curbside Croft will be getting the freshest of the fresh. They will get to enjoy cauliflower, edible flowers, broccoli, herbs, American melon, salad greens, fennel… and plenty of unfamiliar tasty delicacies that have yet to be discovered by the masses. The potatoes are grown in huge blue bins right out in the open for passersby to see. There are experimental rain barrels used to water the crops and scarecrows to chase the birds away. And most of all, there are two of the most passionate urban farmers that you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. At this stage in the game, they own the lot where the flowers are planted, and they lease the land where the farm is situated. “We’re working with the neighborhood,” Brandon explained. “There’s a transparency factor that is very important. We’re gauging the neighborhood interest – we’re asking them what they would like to see. We’re not growing for the farmers’ markets… this is different. Eventually we’re going to build a cob oven out of clay, straw and sand (for onsite baking)… and as far as additional plots, our motto is ‘Imagine Small Farms Everywhere.”
On the flowering end of things, I learned from Emily that by interweaving clover among the flowerbeds, the deep penetrating roots act as organic rototillers that break apart the soil. The clover also attracts pollinating bees and creates a rich-in-nutrient fertilizer when whacked. Eventually the lilacs, dogwoods, holly, viburnums, etc. will be cut and sold to the local floral retailers – what a concept! Who ever heard of flowers coming from an urban farm in Buffalo, NY? Then again, who ever thought the West Side would be harvesting tilapia? “We’re planting a wildflower curb bed,” Emily added. “We’re turning this formerly vacant land into two beautiful and profitable corners.”
Curbside Croft is located at the corners of Vermont and West on Buffalo’s West Side. Hours of operation are Tuesday and Thursday from 4pm-6pm and Saturday from 10am to 12pm. At this time the owners all have fulltime jobs and have set limited hours until the need for additional hours is warranted.