CCE Erie’s Bachman sows Seed to Supper program

Sharon Bachman neeling next to rows of planted greens

By Casey Morgan

Sharon Bachman, a Cornell University graduate in agricultural engineering, grew up on a farm in Chautauqua County and she has been with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Erie County for more 10 years. In the spring of 2017 she held a webinar series and held a Seed to Supper (S2S) facilitation session in one of the larger partner churches that hosted a mix of nutrition staff, new community partners, newly trained and more seasoned master gardeners and some interested community members and Buffalo public school representatives.

Networking within that group spurred more connections with food banks, churches with gardens and other Grassroot Gardens (a Buffalo-based organization). Since that session, Sharon has been working on training others and building gardens across the city. She wants to see people take the training and apply it into their own communities.

Roles are still evolving, including her own. Currently, Sharon helps facilitators make stronger connections with partners. Sharon hopes to see them working the gardens, using the curriculum, training more people and making an impact. Meanwhile, Sharon is measuring that impact and evaluating the experience.

One of Sharon’s biggest learning curves has been with developing a year-long vision of what the program is going to look like. Evaluating and aligning her goals with her partners’ goals enables her to create a roadmap of all the planning steps.

One of Sharon’s biggest challenges is finding ways of communicating among different partners. She believes her biggest asset has been partnering with some of their nutrition staff. They have been going out into urban communities and making connections and have introduced them to some key partners who were gardeners. Additionally, master gardener volunteers go into the community and try to get to know people and do outreach.

Sharon’s greatest joy with the program is seeing how people respond to gardening, how they want to bring it to their neighbors and their neighborhood and how they are motivated to bring healthier food to people in their community. One woman from the city didn’t have any gardening experience but knew there was a need to have healthier foods in their pantry. She found a person to garden with her to build their beds and they’ve been doing it for about five years and they are enjoying the experience.

People learn things as they garden, and the garden is teaching us all as we go along.

Casey Morgan is an MPS fellow in the School of Integrative Plant Science Horticulture Section 

This story is part of a series of S2S educator profiles that were developed as an assignment in PLHRT 4270: Seed to Supper, a two-semester course sequence that offers an opportunity for students to learn facilitation skills and to engage intensively with Cornell Cooperative Extension educators. Building communities and relationships is the core of the NYS Seed to Supper (S2S) program. The beginning gardening experience gives novice gardeners the tools they need to connect with others in community, grow in confidence, and successfully grow a portion of their own food on a limited budget.

Additional Seed to Supper educator profiles: 

Photo by Katie Phofl, Massachusetts Avenue Project Buffalo