Volunteers help our community garden grow!

If you’ve ever tried to start your own garden, you’d know the long list of questions that come with each season. Laboring over what to grow, how to protect the crops and what to do with the produce after it ripens can be a challenging (and fun) part of the process.

Our Community Garden features 28 garden beds, each carefully planned to grow fresh vegetables in the lot next to our Holt Street home in Buffalo. This season, we planted dozens of different species, ranging from bell peppers to zucchini. A garden of this size requires a lot of help to maintain, and our volunteers were up to the task! More than 265 volunteers cared for our growing vegetables, devoting more than 660 hours toward carefully watering, weeding and monitoring the garden beds throughout each week. Throughout the year, there have been more than 355 volunteer visits to this urban green space, including 12 group volunteer sessions with local organizations.

“Our garden is able to thrive thanks to the hard work and dedication of our many garden volunteers,” Marla Ryan, FeedMore WNY community nutrition educator, said. “Without dedicated individuals and company volunteer groups, we would not be able to plant, harvest and distribute as much garden-fresh food to our neighbors as we did this year. We’re truly grateful to all those who helped us grow nutritious produce and we can’t wait to welcome everyone back next season!”

To get the most out of this green space, FeedMore WNY partners with volunteer master gardeners from Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) to monitor plant growth and ensure that our veggies are healthy through harvest. Every Tuesday and Saturday, CCE’s master gardeners visit the community garden to care for their two trial vegetable garden beds, offer guidance and make recommendations. The garden provides an educational sandbox for local students and those interested in agriculture. We welcome community members, summer camp programs, local organizations and groups from FeedMore WNY agencies to learn about the benefits of homegrown produce and what to do with veggies after harvest. Workshops also are offered for those who want to learn about home gardening. In addition, the community garden is open to visitors during events organized by Grassroots Gardens and the Buffalo Garden Walk.

“A great example of how we teach others is when children from the local summer camp visit the garden,” Karen Kelley, CCE master gardener, said. “We let them pick their own snack to eat, show them how different herbs taste, give them materials to plant at home and let them hunt for bugs. A lot of the students now have gardens at home.”

Beyond community education, the garden plays an important role in CCE’s agricultural research. Two garden beds host seeds sourced by CCE to test different vegetable types against our unique northeastern climate. The team of master gardeners take time throughout the week to monitor each plant and vegetable grown to see how well they grow and taste.

“We all enjoy being there and growing the vegetables, but our real purpose is to teach the community and get the word of gardening out to others,” Kelley said. “We enjoy it, and we enjoy the comradery of our team.”

All of this hard work by volunteers and our master gardeners resulted in more than 835 pounds of fresh, nutritious food. This harvest is being distributed to our community through our Farm Market and through a free community-supported agriculture program. Community members in the surrounding neighborhood can pick up a pre-packed bag of fresh garden vegetables each Saturday throughout the summer. FeedMore WNY also grows produce year-round in our indoor container farm. To learn more about our community garden and ways to volunteer, contact Marla Ryan at mryan@feedmorewny.org or by phone at (716) 822-2005 ext. 3091.

about FeedMore WNY

FeedMore WNY offers dignity, hope and a brighter future by providing nutritious food, friendship and skills training to its Western New York neighbors in need. Through its food bank distribution center and partner hunger-relief agencies, as well as its home-delivered meal program and other targeted feeding programs, FeedMore WNY alleviates hunger and assists community members of all ages throughout Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties.

about the garden

The Community Garden, our garden in memory of J. Milton “Zeke” Zeckhauser, is located at FeedMore WNY’s Holt St. property. The garden is a space for community members to learn to grow their own produce through garden and nutrition workshops, education and hands-on experience. The space provides fresh, locally grown produce to our member agencies and their clients.