By Erie Community College
Last summer, faculty inside Erie Community College's culinary arts department were able to incorporate farm-to-table teaching into their program's curriculum via a new Canalside-set Learning Garden, cornered off Buffalo's Main Street and shaded by the city's Skyway.
On Monday, ECC faculty and leadership gathered at their now-blooming downtown garden to celebrate a second successful summer harvest, as well as to give thanks to those who aided the effort's growing success.
"When students are put first, good things happen," ECC President Jack Quinn said. He was joined by college students and faculty, as well as leadership from the Statler Foundation and Empire State Development. "This Learning Garden and its development is an example of our college's laser focus on this mission, as well as the indispensability of our community partnerships."
ECC's Learning Garden - constructed by the college's building and grounds crew, facilitated through the college's Service learning initiative and supported by such entities as the Statler Foundation, Canalside, ESD and the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. - has been used as a lab for a series of gardening classes as part of the college's culinary arts program since last summer. Classes have been conducted with students interested in learning about the integral relationship between people, land and food, as well as the biological, chemical and physical need for green spaces. It's also one of the only collegiate programs in the state teaching the specifics of gardening.
Assistant culinary arts professor Kristin Goss said this type of education doesn't happen without significant support.
"We simply wouldn't be able to do what we do without the assistance of the Statler Foundation," said Goss, a driving force behind the Learning Garden's establishment. "Its leadership has been a vital supporter of this Learning Garden and for the students who've made it a success."
Over the past year, the Buffalo-based Statler Foundation - whose grants and scholarships go to aid efforts of many local hospitality and culinary programs - has facilitated ECC's gardening efforts with more than $6,500, which has provided funding for everything from soil to seeds. This assistance has allowed students to utilize several different types of plant propagation methods for soil-based growing systems, including open field, square-foot vertical and greenhouse gardening. And, despite an unusually dry summer, the garden has produced results for the second year in a row - and has grown to accent its surrounding scenery.
"The ECC Learning Garden is a creative green space that adds to the overall vibrancy of Canalside," said Sam Hoyt, ESD WNY president. "Gov. Cuomo congratulates the students and staff on creating a unique garden that is very much appreciated by all of our waterfront visitors."
Visitors at the morning event were able to sample fruits and vegetables from the garden, as well as taste iced tea with freshly grown lemon verbena.
Since 1946, Erie Community College has met the needs of a diverse student body while contributing to the economic vitality of Western New York. As a member of the state's SUNY system, the three-campus college provides flexible, affordable and accessible educational programs in an accommodating academic environment. Equipped with the knowledge of these programs, ECC's faculty, staff and students strive to enrich their host communities through skill, service and partnership.