Groundwork Buffalo at Yellowstone Falls, summer 2016
Groundwork Buffalo at Yellowstone Falls, summer 2016

Celebrating Real Green Work

by / Nov. 6, 2016 8am EST


GreenWatch: Two Local Environmental Organizations worth Celebrating!

On the (rare) occasion, GreenWatch has been criticized as being too cynical.  While we must admit that there are occasions when despair seems to be the main road (see: “Genocide is Us”),  for the most part, cynicism is not our foundation. Even on November 6, 2016! There may be an abundance of skepticism in our DNA, -after all GreenWatch was originally founded with a partnership of myself and Paul MacClennan, the now retired but long-time environmental reporter for the the Buffalo News. Paul’s credo was “never forgive, never forget.”  He helped to instill this in me, but I still insist -forgiveness is (almost) always a cleanser.  

The deep truth is that we have always believed in the human capacity to fix things.  Of course there is an awful lot wrong with the human condition. I am happy to be considered pessimistic. That is different than being cynical. I wake up every day thinking that this is the best time to be alive, to be human. Of course these are extremely difficult times. This could be a very difficult week for planet earth. This does not mean that we are a fan of “hope.” For decades I have been in rooms full of people with nothing left but hope. We need more. Much more.

John Trudell, an indigenous leader that past just a year ago had this powerful  perspective on hope:


 “I don’t deal with hope hope.  In mythology, hope was the last thing to come out of Pandora’s box of evil. They told me this in school when I was a kid, right?  The gods gave Pandora the box of evil and told her not to open it, but she did and the seven evils came out. And after they came out, hope came out.  I’ve never trusted hope since then (laughs). It came out of a box of fuckin’ evil. So I dont think in terms of hope.”  

Today we at GreenWatch are pleased to bring a couple of stories about local organizations that are doing exemplary work and making a big difference locally and nationally.

Groundwork Buffalo is doing great work with local youth to instill conservation and stewardship skills. 

The Western New York Land Conservancy is making great strides in protecting local and regional lands including wild areas and farmlands. 

Without these essential conservation efforts we will lose to inappropriate development, and lose our ability to even think about stewardship. We applaud and celebrate these two organizations.  thanks to Antonina Simeti and Rachel Chrostowski for these pieces.

Groundwork Buffalo works with local youth to develop conservation skills

by Antonina Simeti

Groundwork Buffalo gives youth once-in-a-lifetime work and service learning experience at home and on the Appalachian Trail, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon National Parks. 

Groundwork Buffalo recently completed its 2016 Green Team Summer Youth Pilot Program. Over the past four months, four Buffalo high school and college students explored the relationship between the city and nature through work and service learning projects in the Buffalo and across the country. The team traveled over 21,000 miles to three national parks combined, worked to beautify two important historic sites on Michigan Street and visited six local parks and conservation areas to learn how to be leaders in environmental conservation.

The Green Team Youth Program trains youth ages 14 to 21 years of age to be stewards of urban and natural environments through education, paid job training and the connection to nature. The program empowers youth by applying environmental concepts to work on real and visible neighborhood improvement projects. Students also take part in exciting learning opportunities through travel to regional conservation sites and national parks such as the Appalachian Trail, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. They are exposed to natural wonders for the first time, and bring back knowledge from these extraordinary places and apply them to their own Buffalo neighborhoods. The program is intended to create a pathway to careers in urban and environmental planning, landscape design, horticulture and conservation. Team Leader Joshua Walsh explains, “We work to mend the problems in our communities, starting with enriching the natural environment that surrounds them”. 

With their project home base at the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, the Green Team worked regularly on the beautification of the Jesse Clipper Memorial Garden and the Nash Victory Garden. According to Karen Stanley Fleming, Chair, Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission, “The Groundwork Buffalo Team was very helpful with our placemaking and landscape project at the Michigan Street Baptist Church. We consider our historic properties to be hallowed ground, and the caretaking of the Heritage Corridor is important to be able to attract tours and educational groups. Equally as important we were able to share with the Groundwork Buffalo Team some of the rich history behind the Underground Railroad, the Civil Rights Movement and the Jazz experience in Buffalo.” This was a unique experience for our Green Team, working to beautify some of Buffalo’s most important historical resources while learning about their important role in celebrating our city and nation’s black heritage. “Cultural context matters,” says Gail Wells, Marketing Coordinator for the Corridor and creator of the Friends of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor. “The Green Team was introduced to the circle of life, an African concept that declared ‘one should respect all living beings because all life is interconnected and relies on one another for its existence.’”

This summer Senior Crew Member Niasha Hamilton, sophomore at SUNY Buffalo State College, was part of the first class of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Conservation Leadership Corps where she spent 10-weeks hiking the trail and working alongside outdoor professionals including crew leaders, ridgerunners, and natural resource specialists to beautify and maintain the trail while learning critical natural resource conservation skills. “I never realized how important nature was until it was my job to protect the beauty of it. Other things you can lose and get back. Not nature. Once its gone, it’s gone forever that is what people don’t seem to understand,” Niasha reflects.

In Yellowstone National Park, the Green Team was part of a group of 40 students from across the Groundwork USA (GWUSA) network that worked with park rangers on trail maintenance and setup for the centennial celebration of the creation of the National Park Service. They also participated in celebratory events that took place in Yellowstone, our country’s first national park. “My experience in Yellowstone was absolutely extraordinary! I worked with amazing youth and adults, I made memories that I will never forget and I would do it all again if I had the chance,” says Green Team member Adaria Austin Robinson, a senior at Math, Science, Technology Preparatory School. In the Grand Canyon, the Green Team participated in a GWUSA Youth Summit to not only experience the vastness of the park’s beauty, but work with other young leaders to explore opportunities for urban youth to connect to nature and the environment, on public lands and at home. 

Antonina Simeti, Executive Director of Groundwork Buffalo said, “We are very proud of our crew of curious, adventurous and hard-working Green Team members, and what they have done to make real, hands-on contributions to preserving our environment – in Buffalo and far beyond.”

Local educational workshops and excursions was made possible through partnerships with a number of local environmental organizations including the Western NY Land Conservancy, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Friends of Times Beach Nature Preserve, Tifft Nature Preserve, the Jane Goodall Institute, Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Grassroots Gardens, Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, and Western NY Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Mapping and the Great Lakes Center. Groundwork Buffalo is thankful to these partners and also to all of their program sponsors including M&T Bank, Eastern Mountain Sports, Elevator Kayak, TIpico Coffee, Paradise Wine, South Hill Cider, Flying Bison Brewery, NFTA and the Home Depot, and the many individuals that also provided their support.

“We are fortunate to have Groundwork Buffalo in our back yard. They are raising awareness of our local environment and engaging youth in the process. I applaud Groundwork Buffalo for its work on the 2016 Green Team Summer Youth Pilot Program,” says Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. 

Groundwork Buffalo’s mission is to build sustainable urban environments in Greater Buffalo by engaging and empowering families and communities, including youth, in regenerating and connecting with natural infrastructure and the built environment. As the local affiliate of the Groundwork USA Network, Groundwork Buffalo has the support of the National Parks Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. They leverage the resources, methods and demonstrated successes of a national network of Groundwork Trusts working to improve their environment, economy and quality of life through local action. For more information on our work, please email asimeti@gwbuffalo.org, call 716-218-9160 or visit www.gwbuffalo.org.

Two Family Farms protected by Western New York Land Conservancy

by Rachel Chrostowski

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced $4.9 million has been awarded to help farmers protect 2,843 acres of at-risk farmland in Upstate New York, preserving the land for agricultural purposes and protecting it from development. These grants will help the Western New York Land Conservancy protect two farms—D&J Brawdy Farms and Triple Oak Farms, both located in the Town of Eden.

While Eden is a small, rural, agricultural community, Triple Oak Farms and D&J Brawdy Farms face development pressure that threatens many farms in Erie County. This is something that worried the Brawdy and the Kappus Families every day. “We can see a housing subdivision from our office window,” said Dennis Brawdy. “We are relieved that this land, which has been farmed since the 1800s, will always available to meet the agricultural needs of our community.” 

D&J Brawdy Farms has been owned and operated by Dennis and Joanne Brawdy for the last 18 years. They mostly grow vegetables on their 149 acres, but they also have 13 greenhouses that produce flowers and potted herbs. What began as a small operation in 1999 has grown into a large and successful business. The Brawdy farm is now one of the largest producers of grape tomatoes in New York State. 

Brothers John and Kenneth Kappus took over Triple Oak Farms from their father in 1981. The now third generation dairy operation consists of 150 milking cows and 150 replacement and market stock. Among many awards, the farm has been recognized by the Empire State Milk Quality Council with the Super Milk Award for quality every year since 2000, the year the award was initiated. It has been designated a Dairy of Distinction by the Northeast Dairy Farm Beautification Program, and the farm has produced multiple champion and grand champion livestock in the dairy division at the Erie County Fair. As they look to the future, they hope to invest in additional mechanization and strategies to improve their dairy herd.

“As young farmers, we had the advantage of taking over the family farm,” said Ken Kappus. “Those opportunities are becoming increasingly rare and entry into a farm business is more difficult every year. If the Kappus Family should ever cease farming this land, we know we will be in a position to help a new farm family become established.”

Town Supervisor, Missy Hartman, couldn’t be happier about this news. “Our farms have made Eden the great community that it is today—a place where our families have access to fresh food, where our heritage is celebrated, and where our community works together. Our farmers are the best caretakers of our land and thanks to this program, we know this important farmland will remain safely in the hands of our farmers for generations to come.”

“Eden has some of our region’s best farmland. The town and its residents have a long farming tradition and they do everything they can to make sure that the agriculture remains successful there,” said Nancy Smith, Land Conservancy Executive Director. “We would not be able to protect these important family farms without the Town’s dedication to farmland protection, their superb planning, and their support. We especially want to thank Eden’s Agricultural Advisory Committee and Conservation Advisory Board as well as the many individuals who are champions of farmland protection in Eden.”    

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Farmland Protection program. Under the Governor’s leadership, the State has not only reinvigorated the program, but also committed historic funding levels to farmland preservation. The program is part of New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund, which New York State’s 2016 Budget more than doubled, raising the funding level to $300 million. Funding for the Farmland Protection program itself increased by $5 million this year and built on last year’s historic investment in farmland protection.

“The success of New York’s agricultural industry directly impacts the strength of our economy and by protecting land and other precious resources, we are investing in our state’s future,” said Governor Cuomo. “As a result of the historic levels of funding in this year’s budget, we have been able to nearly double the number of acres protected, reach even more farms, and help ensure the future vitality of New York farming.”

The Western New York Land Conservancy is a regional, not-for-profit land trust that permanently protects land with significant conservation value in Western New York for future generations. The Land Conservancy envisions a future in which open spaces, working lands, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty are cherished and protected as part of the landscape and character of Western New York. The Land Conservancy is accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission and is one of 1,700 land trusts nationwide, including 90 in New York State. Land trusts have protected 40 million acres over the last 20 years. For more information on upcoming events, volunteer opportunities, or the mission of the Western New York Land Conservancy, please call (716) 687-1225 or visit www.wnylc.org.