When most people think of urban farming on the West Side, they tend to think of work done by Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP). But there is another group that is also making significant grassroots farming strides on the West Side of the city. Five Loaves Farm is located at the corner of West Delavan and West Avenue. While the farm has been around for three years, the initiative is now starting to hit full strides, as you can see by the expansive nature of the growing operation.
Yesterday I happened upon Matt Kauffman who was busy tending to a garden bed when I rolled up. Matt told me that the Five Loaves Farm project is part of an effort to bring healthy affordable food to the West Side community. The project is headed up by members of Buffalo Vineyard Church, located at 175 Potomac Avenue. It is there that the produce gets largely disseminated through CSA shares. I also found it interesting that the food is also allocated to Vera Pizzeria and Tapestry Charter School. Members of the community can purchase veggies at the farm stand (same corner) on Saturdays.
In order to ensure the future of the farm, Matt and his wife purchased the house next door to the farm, which is where they source their water and electric needs – the hoop houses are drip irrigated. Farmers also have access to an adjoining property where a small garden shed is located. Adding to the momentum, the group recently purchased another vacant lot at the corner of West Delavan and Dewitt, where neighborhood youth built a small cold frame (planting a flag of sorts).
Talking to Matt, I was reminded of the scene in Easy Rider, when Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper survey the commune farm that they had come across. Later in the scene we are invited to be a part of the dinner table, as the camera pans across the faces of those who had previously been cultivating the farm. To me, this urban farm movement in Buffalo is both poetic and necessary. We’re seeing a generation of people getting back to what’s important. They are doing what they feel is only natural, and the movement is growing by leaps and bounds.
Matt bought a house in the neighborhood (aside from the one next to the farm), thus planting roots. He spends his free time tending to the gardens and preparing for the harvest. He and others from his church are teaching young people in the neighborhood how to grow healthy and nourishing food. They’re digging in and getting it done. “We’re trying out ginger in the hoop house,” Matt told me. “It was a rough winter, but some of the plants survived. In previous years we’ve managed to grow right through the winter season. We’re working with young people through the Mayor’s Summer Youth Internship Program, and we’ve had teachers bring their students here to learn about our work (the Native American Magnet school is located across the street). Other students from Tapestry Charter School appear from time to time, to take part in tending the fields, and we’ve also developed relationships with Jericho Road (servicing the refugee and low-income community). We’re going to have our first paid intern this summer.”
From planting trees that bear fruit to planting stakes in the ground for future generations, it’s initiatives like this that are making Buffalo strong. These are the projects that we need to be supporting. These are the people that are creating their own destinies. Fortunately, the hard work that is put into Five Loaves Farm has a rippling effect that can be felt throughout the entire city. Instead of a vacant corner lot, we have a thriving ecosystem that feeds a community and nourishes plenty of souls along the way.
On Saturdays, April through October, stop by Five Loaves Farm and support the farm stand. Or if you would rather roll up our sleeves and help out with this cause, you are welcome to dig in the dirt from 9:30am to noon.