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Local Greenhouses Give Gardens a Head Start

by: Anna Miller

The gardeners filed carefully through the greenhouse on Grant Street Saturday, examining the many available varieties of vegetables and flowers, and hand selecting the seedlings they will transplant into their community gardens, spread widely across the city. 

The seedlings and other plant life were provided, free of charge, to those who have transformed an otherwise vacant lot in their neighborhood, largely on Buffalo’s far East and West sides, into a community garden, with the help and support of Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo.

While Grassroots Gardens has traditionally provided gardeners with ornamental flowers and shrubbery, donated by nurseries, this was the pilot year for a seedling program that provided 12 varieties of flowers and more than 20 varieties of vegetables, ready to transplant and soon produce their bounty. Saturday was the program’s second distribution, including more than 5000 plants for the warm summer months, while the first in April and the smaller distribution this fall include heartier cold-weather plants, such as cabbage and lettuces.

The seedlings were a labor of love, germinated in more than 50 trays spread out over the floors of Daniel Ash’s home. In need of a place to stage the fledgling plants, Ash approached several greenhouses in the city. He found space in the greenhouse at 205 Grant Street, owned by Vincent Kuntz, in McKinley High School with their Horticultural Program, and in the ideal, and previously unused, greenhouse on the Darwin Martin House campus, thanks to the generosity of the Darwin Martin House Restoration Corporation.

daniel.jpg(Daniel Ash pictured)

Ash decided to pilot the program after learning of the success of Detroit’s Garden Resource Program Collaborative, which last year distributed to its community gardens more than 209,000 Detroit Grown plants. The Grown in Detroit program, which houses the collaborative, has grown in just six years from 80 family and community gardens to more than 800, each year producing thousands of pounds of food for the people of our sister Rust Belt city.

“It’s a great concept because it significantly reduces some of the barriers that can be prohibitive for people starting gardens,” Ash explained. “Many people struggle with starting plants from seeds; especially for vegetables, timing is everything. Providing seedlings at a really low cost is a good way to get people growing vegetables.”

A transplant himself, Ash, who works as an Information Security consultant, moved to Buffalo from New York City three years ago in search of a slower pace, more space and a home to call his own. He quickly found his niche, using his talents and energy to, quite literally, help Buffalo grow.

“Dan was not paid, he is not even on the Board of Grassroots Gardens,” explained Susannah Barton, GRG’s executive director. “The fact that our community gardens benefited from this – Dan’s time, money and labor – is unreal. We couldn’t have done this on our own.”

Ash explains that this year’s pilot program was an exercise to see what it entails, put a plan together and prove that something like this can work here in Buffalo. To continue such a project in years to come, and to expand its scope, which Ash explains can be easily done threefold, will require funding.

“We can’t rely on the goodness of an individual every year,” Barton added. “Dan piloted this program, and now we’re looking to take it on the road.”

The success of Grassroots Gardens can be attributed primarily to the goodness of its members and volunteers, who have been able to secure resources for the ever-expanding list of gardens. This year alone, Grassroots Gardens welcomes 16 new community gardens into its ranks, now numbering more than 50. “Despite having a small budget, Grassroots Gardens has always had a large impact,” Ash said.

The growth of Buffalo’s gardening scene over the last several years, and the recent collaboration, through Buffalo Growing, of its many different facets – from community gardens to educational programs and working urban farms – suggests a brighter, greener future for our neighborhoods.

The impact can be found walking through some of Buffalo’s toughest neighborhoods, where, on lots once littered with glass and debris, hope springs anew in the form of tomatoes, peppers and pansies.

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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