BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A vacant lot on Fillmore Avenue, previously an eyesore, is on its way to becoming an urban garden.

Planting the flowers and produce is a group of people with developmental disabilities from the Cantalician Center for learning.

"We're working on planting some vegetables and watering them and just teaching some life skills in the community,” said Dan Picone, the community integration manager.

Picone said last year, he learned about Grassroots Gardens WNY, which helped him acquire this plot of land.
His group started cleaning up the space and planting early this spring.

The staff at Cantalician hope to show that people with disabilities can be useful members of society.

“As you can see, they've been able to do all of these things and contribute to the community and be part of this greater Buffalo area, which has been awesome for them,” said Rachel Martin, director of community and day services.

The fruits and vegetables growing there will be free to the residents of the upper Fillmore area.

"We actually had a mother come up and ask if she can plant some carrots here for us,” said Picone. “And I was like, oh yeah of course, this is for you guys.”

Local block clubs have agreed to help maintain the garden.

"We want the neighbors to come out, which they have been, and see what we’re doing and to get to know the people that we are bringing here and seeing that they are contributing to their community as well,” said Martin. “Being able to get some crops and some fresh fruits and vegetables and things like that so that they can all share in it, and everyone's getting some healthy food.”

New York State recently handed down new directives to disability organizations for them to make their services more community based. "And less of people sitting in buildings all day,” explained Martin.

So every day now, as long as the weather cooperates, this group gets bussed to their garden.

Cantalician has named this plot the “Peace garden.” They hope it helps build a bridge with those who live here.

"What makes me happiest is seeing our groups asking what they can do,” said Picone. “That's just something that makes me happy to come to work in the morning.”

Since a garden grows seasonally, Cantalician hopes this project is something they to continue to work on throughout the future, alongside a neighborhood with little access to fresh produce otherwise.