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Brandon Majewski & Emily Gadanyi: Cultivators of Curbside Croft, purveyors of urban-grown produce
by Patricia Watson
No longer are vacant lots simply a symbol of urban blight in Buffalo. Creative and entrepreneurial souls are reclaiming them as gardens, farms, and anthems to a green awakening.
Take a look at Curbside Croft (www.curbsidecroft.com). In the summer of 2009, wife and husband team Emily Gadanyi and Brandon Majewski, working with their friend Matthew Barnhardt, introduced this urban farm at the corner of Vermont Street and West Avenue. Gardening in a plot in one of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods, the partners sought to grow food that would appeal to the immigrant, refugee, and minority/majority residents of the community for whom access to familiar fresh fruits and vegetables is limited by both a lack of local suppliers and transportation to supermarkets located outside the immediate environs. In a larger sense, the three are seeking to demonstrate that urban farming can be profitable, so on another plot they are growing woody florals for the greater income in sales they can generate, while helping to keep the produce prices down.
Planting in mandelas, which are round, orderly mounds allowing for the most efficient use of space and soil, Curbside Croft grows produce familiar to the Burmese and African families newly relocated to Buffalo as well as traditional garden favorites. With modestly priced produce, the store was open a few days a week. Gadanyi reports that there was a great response from the neighborhood and a fruitful two-way exchange. This year her plans remain ambitious but will be driven by what she learned from the community last year. Most important lesson: Communication to customers is a challenge to be tackled. The very diversity of the neighborhood has led Curbside Croft to realize that reaching out to people requires special thought and effort. Advertising for the farm will be in signs in 12 languages hung on the business’s fences, welcoming in all who come by.
As Gadanyi expected, customers’ requests of last year will drive the crops planted this year. Responding to African Americans in the neighborhood, more “Southern” crops (turnips, greens, and green tomatoes) will be available. While continuing to elicit suggestions from Africans in the neighborhood, the garden will offer more of the cabbage and squash that seemed to be favorites last year. The selection of specialty greens—edible flowers, pretty salad ingredients, and Asian varieties—will increase. Summer is coming, and the bright fresh tastes of Curbside Croft’s vegetables will be one of its most welcome signs.
Gardens need water, and the cool, rainy summer helped Curbside Croft last year. Generating a sufficient water supply remains a challenge, although planting a broad variety of produce helps alleviate some of the risks.
There is a really great synergy in urban gardening firing up the whole community. Right now, Curbside Crofts is growing seeds at Vincent Kuntz’s greenhouse on Grant Street (http://sites.google.com/site/gardensongrant/), and working with Dan Ash of Buffalo Growing, a coalition dedicated to transforming vacant lots into community assets (Buffalogrowing.org). The people power is as potent as Curbside Croft’s exceptionally delicious vegetables. Stop by the corner of Vermont and West to take a look—they hope to be open for business in late May. Pop a leaf of the succulent spinach into your mouth, and crunch a nasturtium. Remember, bring your own bag.
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Issue Navigation> Issue Index > v9n15 (The Green Issue: Week of April 15, 2010) > Brandon Majewski & Emily Gadanyi: Cultivators of Curbside Croft, purveyors of urban-grown produce
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