Published July 1, 2016
Watering cans lined up against rain barrels gleam in the summer sunshine. Asparagus and peas cling to stakes, braced against the breeze. Concrete blocks form a makeshift entryway, inviting passersby to admire thriving rows of tomatoes, wax beans and rainbow Swiss chard.
Flourishing vegetables can only mean one thing: It’s peak growing season for UB’s most savory green space — the Campus Garden. The plot blossoms under the passionate care of the UB Campus Garden Club.
Adjacent to Greiner Hall on the North Campus, the garden began in 2013 as part of the sustainability movement sweeping campus. Environmentally focused organizations cultivated the space during its nascent years.
“They were given the plot of land; they tilled it, they worked on it for a couple years and then it just fell into disrepair,” recalls Eric Shaver, a junior anthropology student. “I think only four people were working on it at one point, and that wasn’t enough to keep it going.”
The UB Campus Garden Club formed this past spring semester to tend the garden. Shaver, a new transfer student at the time, joined the club to ease his transition to a larger university.
“I used to garden a lot with my grandfather when I was young,” he says. “I thought it would be a good way to be involved with the campus, with it being my first semester here.”
Now vice president of the UB Campus Garden Club, Shaver is passionate about enlivening the garden. He and other club members hope new projects, like installing raised beds featuring informational plaques, will engage more students.
Shaver even envisions two poles featuring vines of arctic kiwi at the front corners of the garden. Native to tundra-like climates, the kiwi would provide the perfect reason for students to stop by.
“The kiwis form almost like grapes; they form on the vine in little clusters and you don’t have to peel them — you just eat them like grapes,” Shaver explains. “Not only would it look good in the front of the garden, but students could walk by and just pick a kiwi.”
The club recently held a plant sale to further engage the UB community and support the garden’s growth. Members expected to run a four-hour sale, but they sold out of plants — grown from seedlings in UB’s Dorsheimer Laboratory and Greenhouse — within 30 minutes.
When Shaver approached the table set up on the ground floor of Capen Hall with the first cart of plants, a line had already formed.
“I was blown away,” Shaver says. “I’m unloading that and they’re buying them off the cart as I’m putting them out.”
Club members feel efforts this summer will yield enough produce for a fall sale. They continue to cultivate the garden and greenhouse space, keeping a log and communicating through Facebook.
However, Shaver would like a more organized schedule of gardeners for the summer months, and he is looking to faculty and staff to aid the cause.
“Although we have 25 people, a good amount of them, including our president, are away for the summer, so we want to get as many people as we can involved, and hopefully they’ll stick around in the fall,” he says. “I’d like to have a lot of people so we can be working together on it.”
Increased participation permits the club to volunteer in Buffalo and possibly expand their space, too.
Shaver would like to get involved with Grassroots Gardens WNY, taking part in their workshops or lending a hand in any of the 99 community gardens the organization manages.
“I want to get involved with as much urban gardening in Buffalo as we can,” Shaver says. “I think it’s amazing that a city like Buffalo is so invested in that.”
Shaver foresees the UB garden — now 20 feet by 20 feet — relocating to a larger plot of land on campus. His goal before he graduates is to introduce fresh produce grown in the Campus Garden to Campus Dining and Shops locations.
Shaver sees expansion — both in the garden and the club — as the best way to make a greater impact on UB and the Buffalo community.
Until then, the garden continues to make an impact on his life. Shaver says UB Campus Garden Club members are among the nicest people he’s ever met, and the small, beautifully developed plot is now a daily labor of love for him.
“I wanted to be a part of developing that,” Shaver says. “I saw it as the perfect opportunity to revitalize something and really become part of the UB community and leave a mark on campus.”
That is a superb idea with the plants. It would be nice if you had a year-round space to grow flowers so that they could be planted around the campus. Some nice landscaping with flowers and/or shrubs would really add color and beauty to all the campuses. Ask for a grant and start growing!