Donate to Promised Land in honor of Daniel Oles

Daniel Oles, a Western New York farmer dedicated to education, church, and community, died on February 17 after a brief illness.


Located on the Corfu and Alden border in Western New York State, Daniel’s 240-acre Promised Land CSA , aka Oles Family Farm, will continue to operate with wife, Jane Oles, and son, Ben Oles, at its helm. Friends of the family seek to raise donations that will allow the family to ease the transition into the 2020 growing season. Replacing the gentle and knowledgeable labor of Daniel’s 80-hour work weeks won’t be easy.

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Here are some easy ways to support the Oles family in Daniel’s honor:

1. Buy a CSA share from Promised Land ! A year of amazing organic produce is a blessing for the farm as well as you and your family.

2. Donate to this GoFundMe drive, even $5 will help.

3. On March 19, 2020, dine at one of many participating WNY restaurants. Each restaurant will donate a percentage of its day’s sales to Promised Land. Good Grace: WNY Chefs Celebrate Daniel Oles  will give the region a chance to celebrate Daniel’s servant leadership and indefatigable dedication to our community.
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Most people know Daniel and his family’s farm for premium produce, but Daniel made remarkable contributions beyond his amazing vegetables to the WNY community at large, from restaurants to schools, from not-for-profits to faith-based work.

Born in Buffalo, Daniel graduated from St. Mary's High School where he met the love of his life and wife, Jane. In 1979, Oles graduated from Cornell University with a degree in farm business management determined to work his father’s fields.

Initially Daniel implemented what he knew: commodity farming focusing on just one or two cash crops. But by the mid-1980s the Oles family came to realize that the commodity farming model was not sustainable. They began to diversify crops and growing practices, emphasizing sales at their roadside farm stand. By 2000 they were growing organically and shifted their paradigm once again, adopting a community-supported agriculture model and launching Promised Land CSA in 2007.

In the summer of 2008, a local company with a focus on promoting local food brought a busload of restaurant owners and chefs to the farm. After a walking tour, each chef and owner was given a gift bag of in-season produce. The result? Three restaurants immediately signed on for weekly deliveries. Oles’ quickly learned the language of chefs and built strong business relationships with the best in the Western New York region, including Edward Forster of Waxlight, Steven Gedra of The Black Sheep, James Roberts of Toutant and Dobutsu, and many others.

Daniel utilized all that he learned and the relationships he built to help others. He participated in the Cornell Journeyperson Program and also in its inaugural Young Farmer Program. He allowed young farmers and new farmers to visit and spend time on his land, observing how his year-round operation worked. He and Jane attended and spoke at conferences through organizations like NOFA  and the Cornell Cooperative Extension . The couple tabled and spoke at dozens of events educating people about the CSA model for the benefit of other CSA farms in the area as well as their own business. 

Daniel also made significant contributions to two important local boards, the Food Policy Council  and Massachusetts Avenue Project (MAP). Daniel first served on the task force that was charged by lawmakers to prepare the structure of a food policy council for our region. Then, once the committee finished the task of creating the council, he was nominated to serve as the first President of the Buffalo and Erie Food Policy Council. The council is the first of its kind in NY state in that it was created through an act of law. At MAP, he donated thousands of pounds of produce over the course of a decade because he believed everyone deserves access to good healthy food. He hosted city teens at his farm for a month each summer, teaching the kids about working in harmony with nature.

In 2012  and 2015 , Promised Land won Buffalo Spree magazine’s Best Farm awards. Promised Land was frequently recognized by Edible Buffalo magazine and was awarded 2009’s Local Hero Award.

In Western New York’s food community, from cultivation to culinary creation, Daniel was a central and unimpeachable figure.

Education was also important to Oles. He served on the school board of the Alden Central School District  and worked with The Park School in Snyder, NY long after his children had graduated. As a God fearing man, Daniel spent countless hours doing faith-based work. His passion for teaching and encouraging led him to serve in various roles from teacher to interim pastor to short term missionary. He also had a heart for local outreach. 

We’ve dedicated a lot of space to sharing Daniel’s accomplishments and work, but if you didn’t know Daniel, it’s so important to understand that he was more than all that he did. Whether people met him once or were counted among his closest friends, it was Daniel’s gentle strength, wisdom and leadership, tender demeanor, kind words, generous heart, and sense of humor that made him such an exceptional human being.

In 2020 the farm has almost twenty restaurant customers and over 200 CSA members. A shift to year-round growing has made Promised Land one of the few farms in WNY that supplies fresh vegetables regardless of weather. We know that the family will have to work hard to make it through the 2020 growing season without Daniel at their side. The purpose of this GoFundMe drive is to ask the community to support Daniel and his family at this time of need.

Below are several ways in which you can support the Oles family in Daniel’s honor:

1. Buy a CSA share from Promised Land ! A year of amazing organic produce is a blessing for the farm as well as you and your family.

2. Donate to this GoFundMe drive, even $5 will help.

3. On March 19, 2020, dine at one of many participating WNY restaurants. Each restaurant will donate a percentage of its day’s sales to Promised Land. Good Grace: WNY Chefs Celebrate Daniel Oles will give the region a chance to celebrate Daniel’s servant leadership and indefatigable dedication to our community.

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Links to videos illustrating Daniel and the family farm:
2011: Food for Change 
2012: Aroma farm dinner 
2014: Bistro Europa at the farm 
2014: Chef Joe Fenush prepares Oles' carrots 
2019: MAP (and Daniel) on WKBW 
2019: Three generations working the soil 

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Many thanks to the writers, photographer, and publications that allowed us to use their work to create this page.

Andrew Galarneau, The Buffalo News 
Courtney Bajdas, Buffalo Spree 
KC Kratt , Buffalo Spree
Samina Raja, FPC 
Diane Picard, Massachusetts Avenue Project

Donations

  • Jessica Simon 
    • $50 
    • 3 mos
  • Jordan Garrow 
    • $50 
    • 3 mos
  • Sara Schmitt 
    • $100 
    • 3 mos
  • Anonymous 
    • $20 
    • 3 mos
  • Lori Morrison  
    • $20 
    • 3 mos
See all

Fundraising team: Promised Land (3)

Christa Seychew 
Organizer
Raised $2,585 from 16 donations
Buffalo, NY
Jane Oles 
Beneficiary
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