The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens donated more than 700 pounds of fresh, organic produce to Gerard Place's Community Kitchen this year. After three years of partnership, the 100% community-funded, organic eco garden at the Botanical Gardens produced the biggest and most diverse harvest to date. This produce helped feed a community of people where the need was three times greater because of the pandemic.
Gerard Place provides housing for homeless, single parents and their families, and empowers those parents through education, employment, vocational training, life skills classes and counseling. Gerard Place has a need for fresh vegetables and herbs for the underserved population it assists on the East Side of Buffalo.
A press release noted, “Gerard Place is located in the Bailey-Delevan neighborhood, which is considered a food desert due to the absence of grocery stores within a 5-mile radius. This results in a lack of healthy fruits and vegetables in this community which has very serious consequences with health and wellness in this community.”
President/CEO David Zapfel said, “Located in one of Buffalo's poorest communities for the past 20 years, Gerard Place has been a beacon of hope for people in great need of programs and services. The Bailey-Delavan community has been considered a food desert for many years, lacking a grocery store in walking distance to many people in need of fresh and healthy vegetables. Partnering with the Botanical Gardens has made a significant difference in our community. We are very grateful to the Botanical Gardens staff and volunteers who work so hard to provide hundreds of pounds of vegetables every summer to the people in our food line. The recipients of the vegetables are very appreciative and so touched that people think of them and their health. The vegetables are also used for our healthy cooking classes that we do with our senior group and the families who reside here at Gerard Place.”
The eco garden was established in 2019 with funding and support from the Josephine Goodyear Foundation, PlantWNY, the Western New York Foundation and private donors. It has since flourished immensely and become a significant passion project for the horticultural staff at the Botanical Gardens. To date, in total, 1,725.9 pounds of fresh produce has been donated and consumed through Gerard Place's community kitchen and outreach. Each year, the Botanical Gardens horticulturists choose a variety of traditional and nontraditional crops to harvest to give the community a chance to experience vegetables and herbs that they may otherwise never have tried.
Michael Fowler, lead horticulturist of the eco garden for the past three years, said, “This year we are proud to have successfully grown and harvested Chinese pink celery as a unique crop for Gerard Place. With a smaller stalk, but stronger flavor, this celery is best prepared cooked then eaten raw like typical celery. The pale pink stem is perfect in stir-fry or even just sautéed.”
When distributing the fresh produce, Gerard Place includes simple recipes for recipients to try at home to incorporate some of the unique vegetables and herbs.
Buffalo Botanical Gardens President/CEO David Swarts said, "The partnership between the Botanical Gardens and Gerard Place through the eco garden has been rewarding and fulfilling by providing tangible, immediate help to a community in need, where the fruits of our labor helps those in need."
For more information about Gerard Place, visit gerardplace.org.
The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens is a 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization with a mission to inspire curiosity and connect people to the natural world through its historic living museum.