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Urban farm takes root in neighborhood ; Volunteers help expand Glenwood Avenue garden

First the new beds went in for the flowers. Then work started on the greenhouse and the ornamental garden where the gravel lot used to be.

Across the street, a John Deere bulldozer cleared out an empty lot next to the chipped-paint house and the chain-link fence.

All in a day's work on the urban farm on Glenwood Avenue in Buffalo.

"It's so important for the City of Buffalo. There are so many vacant lots with over-grown grass that could be used," said Jessica Collier, a senior AmeriCorps member.

About 100 AmeriCorps members organized by Collier showed up to help Queen City Farm expand its operation Thursday. Work started at about 8:15 a.m. and carried into the afternoon's rain.

"The only way to plan a project is to get down and dirty," Collier said.

The day started with putting in eight new beds, doubling the size of the farm. Work on the greenhouse started soon after. The greenhouse came in three packages, ordered from Home Depot's Web site. But there were more pieces than expected.

"It's worse than putting together a grill, and I've heard many men complain about putting together a grill. That's the best comparison," Collier said.

The farm's owner, Rod McCallum, bought a house on Glenwood Avenue in a tax auction in 2008. He moved into the house, and soon three garden beds appeared on his lawn -- the start of Queen City Farm.

He bought a vacant lot next door a year later and planted more beds. He planted peppers, beans and tomatoes donated from a local church.

McCallum sees two purposes for his farm. The first is to raise crops and give the food away or sell it.

"But the main thing that we appreciate the garden for is to be out in the yard, bringing neighbors together, seeing our neighbors, building relationships with neighbors that do their own gardening and having that exchange," McCallum said.

The pink-and-blue house at Glenwood Avenue and Chester Street has been in Catherine Turley's family for 70 years.

Each year Turley goes out behind her house and plants collard and mustard greens, peppers and tomatoes.

Nowadays, she goes across the street to Queen City Farm to help out and to swap plants.

"It's beautiful. I'm enjoying it, too," said Turley, standing across the street from the farm in a yellow slicker, waiting for the rain to stop. "It's giving the neighborhood something to look at."

After Thursday's projects are finished, McCallum has a few things in mind to do on the farm. Maybe start a community co-op, with each neighbor kicking in a few dollars for a share in his farm.

Or a farm stand to help pay for the year's seed money, or a couple more gardening beds.

"We've kind of just hobbled things together. We don't have a lot yet. We don't have a lot of money. We just do what we can," McCallum said.

e-mail: abrown@buffnews.com

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