Clean Power Success Stories: CW Native Plant Farm – From Farm to Your Front Yard

Getting Started

Combining her passion for teaching and the environment, Kathy started providing educational presentations on native gardening and plants over summer breaks. She hosted tours at Beaver Meadows to introduce the public to different parts of nature and how caring for nature can translate into caring for yourself. She was even able to get Canisius College to start a pollinator garden and commit to using native plants in their new parking garage. When she realized she couldn’t find any of the native plants that she was recommending locally, she decided to grow and provide them herself. 

Restoring the Land

The property of the CW Native Plant farm looked very different prior to Kathy and her husband Ron taking it over. The previous owners ran a horse farm, with little to no signs of birds or other wildlife. Kathy and Ron started rehabilitating the land by removing invasive species and planting trees along the back perimeter of the land to act as a natural barrier against flooding and erosion from the river. They then dug a pond in the backyard to prevent the rest of the lot from flooding. To begin building up the vegetation, they focused on keystone species, which provide the greatest amount of support for an ecosystem. This primarily included oak trees, which can provide food and habitat for over 600 species. Oak trees coupled with native shrubs and bushes provided a vital source of habitat and food for native wildlife, and soon the land was flourishing with new species. The removal of invasive predators allowed native predators to return and thrive in turn eliminating the need to use pesticides.

Building Up – With Renewables

The house (not just the property) are designed to provide balance with the environment, which is apparent with birds and foxes frequenting the property. The design of the barn house was partially made with recycled materials. Two by six studs were used for tighter insulation and they even planned the install of extra windows to provide additional natural light. 

When building a basement proved cost prohibitive, Kathy and Ron turned to installing a geothermal system in their garage, with added distributed solar on the roof. The two units work together to generate electricity and heat to cleanly power their home.

An All-Natural Nursery

The farm’s nursery is designed to be a part of nature and the gardening practices are kept as sustainable as possible. With higher mowing and no tilling, the soil is able to maintain the nutrients it obtains from the plants above. When the leaves fall in winter, they are left to decompose naturally into the soil. This helps protect the area from gypsy moths – an invasive species that has a negative effect on local vegetation and wildlife. They also use the lasagna method – a layering of soil, mulch and newspapers- to protect and nourish the soil instead of fertilizer. By thinking outside of the box, Kathy and Ron were able to build the nursery out of cattle panels and shea coth, thus saving money and making the area more eco-friendly.

From Farm to your Front Yard

The nursery contains a variety of native shrubs, bushes and trees perfect for gardeners looking to make a difference. Guests are welcome to tour the farm and see all of the plants available in different stages of bloom across the property. The land naturally contains every ecological condition present in Western New York, from dry soils to wetlands, and guests can use plant lists to see what can grow on their land. The nursery’s opening day for the season was on Wednesday, May 4th and the plants for sale will be available in root pouches rather than soil to prevent loss of soil.

Why are Native Gardens Important?

Native gardens provide a safe haven for pollinators and other species, creating a hearty foundation for ecosystems. Before Kathy and Ron restored their land, bird sightings were rare in the area. Their neighbors have seen the benefits of the native vegetation with an increase in wildlife and are loving it. A pair of bald eagles was spotted in their neighbors yard and members of the Buffalo Audubon Society visit occasionally to see some of the rarer species present on the land. Even if some may not want to get involved in gardening or planting themselves, many appreciate the benefits of native planting. 

Growing and Fostering in the WNY Community

As part of the native plant movement, Kathy and Ron are dedicated to restoring the natural ecosystems of Western New York. They host various gatherings and educational opportunities on site. You can attend a seed sowing class in the winter to learn how to have your seeds ready for summer using just a milk jug! Or attend a seed swap and discover some new native species and meet like-minded gardeners. Restoring nature is a group effort and this is embodied at the CW Native Plant Farm. Make sure to check out their events online or stop by during their open hours and ask about how you can implement native plants into your garden this summer. 

CW Native Plant Farm – Kathleen Contrino

Make an appointment to visit the nursery at 12288 Tonawanda Creek Rd, Akron, NY 14001 



Phone: 716-417-2626