Inner city farming, Buffalo-style



No, this is not some rural outskirt in the Midwest. This picture was taken in the heart of urban Buffalo, about 6 blocks or so from my house, on a street of densely-packed Victorian structures.

My friend and writing colleague Joe George has kindly allowed me to use a photo he took of his son Isaac standing amid his front yard corn crop, just before remnants of the coincidentally-named Ike blew it all down. Joe is a chef and writer whose blog City Simplicity talks about sustainable urban living as well as a lot of other stuff (why Gordon Ramsay is a dangerous jerk, how to make kim chi, Buffalo architecture, among other topics). He writes for magazines as well, including mine, and describes his experiences with vegetable gardening in typical self-deprecating fashion here. I will be checking in on his blog regularly, though I wish he’d post more.

Amazingly, no one on his block has complained about this 9-foot high growth in front of the small house, though I suppose there’s no way you could cite him for “high weeds,” which is the common verbiage. It’s obviously a useful crop. Joe did mention that he knows a few people in Buffalo who have gotten in trouble for front yard vegetable growing; he is a fan of the food not lawns movement. You don’t see a lot of front yards like this in Buffalo—front yard vegetables are of course never discussed by any of our garden columnists—but at least it seems to be catching on in a small way.


We have a pretty cool website for our neighborhood, and I looked up Joe’s house on it. I was delighted to see there were pictures of the house in 1885 and 2007 (thought you’d like to see it without corn). The style is called Worker’s Cottage.

The 2007 image was taken by Michael Mulley. I don’t know who took the 1885 image; hope he doesn’t sue me.


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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Susan, it’s post-eliz, but that photo was taken before the trees leafed out–none of my bulbs, annuals, window boxes, etc. would be out, just the evergreen groundcover and weird grassy foliage I get in early early spring, Zone 5, ya know.

  2. Good for Joe George! If you can replace a scraggly lawn with something to eat, why wouldn’t you?

    Besides, that corn is incredibly cool-looking.

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