It’s been in the works for some time, but Grassroots Gardens of WNY has now earned national recognition as an accredited land trust, joining over 450 land trusts throughout the nation. This is incredible news, in that all of the perseverance and hard work has paid off for the dedicated staff and volunteers. The national recognition is due to the organization’s strong bent on conservation, ethical conduct, responsible governance, among other noteworthy trates.
After learning about this exciting news, I decided to take a look back at the formations of the organization. According to the group’s website:
Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo (GGB) by was started in the early 1990’s by J. Milton “Zeke” Zeckhauser and other community activists who recognized the value in the City of Buffalo’s vacant land. Sally Marks, GGB’s first board president, recalled how she and other organization members traveled to New York City, Philadelphia and Seattle to learn what their community’s gardeners were doing.
After incorporating in 1995, GGB was run as a small, volunteer-led organization with a network of roughly 30 gardens for the next fifteen years. Throughout that time, GGB acted primarily as a facilitator of access to city-owned vacant land and indemnification, with very basic materials provided to gardens. In April 2006, with the passing of Mr. Zeckhauser, GGB lost its founder, most ardent supporter, and ally. The city’s gardeners, the organization’s board of directors, and the staff aimed to carry on and grow his legacy by promoting the expansion of community gardens in more neighborhoods and highlighting the significant role that community gardens play in the revitalization of Buffalo. With the addition of professional staff in 2010 and the work of a driven board, GGB not only expanded its network but it expanded its scope of services to include programming focused on capacity building, community organizing and environmental justice as well as food access and nutrition.
Greenprint Niagara turned to Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo for support and in 2016, the two organizations decided to merge and were renamed Grassroots Gardens of Western New York (GGWNY). Our focus at GGWNY is to continue growing Buffalo-Niagara’s community garden network and preserving some of our oldest and most supported gardens in perpetuity.
I feel that it is important to recognize the people that got the ball rolling, as well as a timeline of events that led to where we are today with the esteemed accreditation.
Since those formative years, GGWNY has made numerous incremental significant advancements, including becoming a land trust in 2017.
The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that Grassroots Gardens’ land will be protected forever.
One of the goals of GGWNY is to protect the community gardens in perpetuity. These gardens have become strong anchors within communities throughout the region. While most of the garden lands are leased from government partners, the objective is to vie for the long-term future of numerous gardens. To that end, GGWNY currently holds two gardens in trust and is negotiating the permanent conservation of 15 other gardens. Being accredited will help to further this mission.
“Accreditation demonstrates Grassroots Gardens’ commitment to permanently protecting and conserving our oldest and most invested community gardens in the Buffalo-Niagara region. We may be a small land trust, but we are mighty,” said Jeanette Koncikowski, Executive Director of Grassroots Gardens WNY, who noted that there are over 100 community gardens in the organization’s network within the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
“We are a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program. Our strength means that the community gardens built by neighbors– such as the Cottage District Community Garden on the West Side and the Tyler Street Community Garden in University Heights – will be protected forever as sources of free, fresh food for the neighborhood, as urban habitat, and as community green space,” added Ellen Barnum, Board Chair.
GGWNY provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation prior to achieving this distinction.
“It is exciting to recognize Grassroots Gardens WNY with this national mark of distinction,” said Melissa Kalvestrand, Executive Director of the Commission. “Donors and partners can trust the more than 450 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”
Grassroots Gardens WNY is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent National Land Trust Census. A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits can be found at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.
For more, visit www.grassrootsgardens.org or contact Jeanette Koncikowski, Executive Director, at 716-544-4659.