Botanical Gardens project produces vegetables for ‘food desert’

picking vegetables in Eco Garden
Michael Flower, horticulturist at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, back, and David Zapfel, president/CEO of Gerard Place, check out the tomatoes in the Eco Garden at the Botanical Gardens. The food grown there is helping people at Gerard Place who don’t have access to healthful, fresh food. Photo courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

An outdoor Eco Garden installed this spring at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens has produced a large harvest of fresh vegetables and herbs that are donated to a local organization, Gerard Place.

The Eco Garden is environmentally friendly and produces nutritional food, free of pesticides. It uses composting and vermiculture (composting using worms) as well as rain barrels.

So far this season, 180 pounds of fresh vegetables and herbs have been donated from the Eco Garden to Gerard Place.

Gerard Place is located in the Bailey-Delevan neighborhood on Buffalo’s East Side, which is considered a food desert because there aren’t any grocery stores within a five-mile radius. This results in a lack of healthy fruits and vegetables in residents’ diets, which has very serious consequences with health and wellness in this community.

180 pounds of fresh vegetables and herbs have been donated from the Eco Garden to Gerard Place. Photo courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

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 huge need for fresh vegetables and herbs, said David Zapfel, president/CEO of Gerard Place. The partnership with the Botanical Gardens will help ensure that families will be able to take home healthy options for their meals.

“The food will be used in our dining hall which helps to feed people dinner, in our monthly food express line with our partnership with the Food Bank, and we will offer the food to our Children’s Academy parents who live in this community where food insecurity is their primary concern,” he said.

Gerard Place will also offer health and nutrition classes, showing people how to cook, clean and store the fruits and vegetables.

Zapfel and Swarts in Eco Garden
The harvest from the Eco Garden is admired by David Zapfel of Gerard Place, left, and David Swarts, president/CEO of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens. Photo courtesy Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens

The team at the Botanical Gardens has been working on the Eco Garden for more than two years, said David Swarts, president/CEO of the Buffalo Botanical Gardens.

“It is exciting to see this important project and garden come together,” he said. “Not only are we expanding important green initiatives at the Botanical Gardens, we also created a wonderful collaboration with Gerard Place and are helping to fill a need in our community.”

The Eco Garden fulfills part of the Botanical Gardens’ current strategic plan that outlines diversifying their program of green initiatives. It receives funding support from the Josephine Goodyear Foundation, Plant WNY and private donors.

1 Comment on “Botanical Gardens project produces vegetables for ‘food desert’

  1. Dear gardening friends,
    I believe I have two connections to Gerard Place and/or David Zapfel. In 1944 I graduated from St. Gerards’ elementary school located at Bailey and Delevan and my family (Gersitz) led at 128 Gerald Place, a block away.

    I have a second cousin Bruce Zapfel who lives or lived on the west side of Rochester, NY.

    Also I founded the Penfield (NY) Ecumenical Food Shelf and a this very morning I bought about 500 pounds of vegetables at Rochester’s nPuublic Market. I haves been very active in NOFA-NY and in Monroe County’s Master Garden program. Any connections?

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