Who We Are: Grassroots Gardens is a determined group of activists who educate and lead committed neighborhood gardeners. We collaboratively cultivate and manage more than 300,000 square feet of green space in the Cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Our work is rooted in the belief that a garden has the power to transform an urban neighborhood. Gardens deliver beauty and escape and produce healthy food. A garden creates a shared sense of purpose that empowers a community, and acts as a vehicle for environmental awareness and public health in unexpected places that previously had little to no value.
Mission Statement: Grassroots Gardens WNY enables community-led efforts to revitalize the city and enhance quality of life through the creation and maintenance of community gardens that beautify blocks, grow healthy food and strengthen neighborhood spirit.
Our Story: Grassroots Gardens was founded in 1995 by Milton Zeckhauser, better known as Zeke, and run as a small, volunteer led organization until 2010, with a network of roughly 30 gardens. Throughout that time, GGWNY acted primarily as a facilitator of access to city-owned vacant land and indemnification, with very basic materials provided to gardens. Since 2010, with the addition of staff and the work of a driven board, GGWNY has not only expanded its network to over 100 gardens throughout the City of Buffalo and the City of Niagara Falls, it has expanded its scope of services to include relevant programming focused on capacity building, community organizing and environmental justice as well as food access and nutrition. While many of our gardens produce food, they are not required to do so. The gardens range from more passive "clean and green" spaces to highly active centers for cross-cultural connection, food production, beautification and native plant restoration. Roughly 2,000 gardeners from nearly 30 cultural backgrounds participate in our network, and grow over 30,000 lbs of fresh, free produce per year.
The Grassroots Gardens model, due in part to the abundance of vacant land in our region, is very different from other cities throughout the country where land is scarce. We employ a 100% community driven model, where residents identify lots to be transformed into gardens, and we facilitate access but allow them to manage the space, within a set of rules and guidelines.
In April 2006, Grassroots Gardens WNY lost its founder, ardent supporter and ally, with the passing of Mr. Zeckhauser. The city’s gardeners, the organization’s board of directors, and the staff aim to carry on and grow his legacy by strengthening existing gardens, promoting the expansion of community gardens in more neighborhoods, and highlighting the significant role that community gardens play in the revitalization of Buffalo.
Grassroots Gardens WNY is an independent 501c3 organization.