(This 1142nd Buffalo Sunday News column was first published on February 10, 2013.)


When my friend Marian Prezyna called to tell me about a Green Information Day she and other members of the Marilla Conservation Advisory Board were sponsoring in the Town of Marilla, I couldn't bring myself to admit to her that I didn't know were Marilla was. I had even visited Marian's attractive home and her lovely herb gardens several summers ago but I didn't associate her property with the town in which it is located.


So I looked it up. First on my AAA road map of Western New York. I found there that Marilla lies on the eastern border of Erie County, east of Elma, south of Alden and north of Wales. It borders on the east the Town of Bennington in Wyoming County. The Village of Marilla is located at the intersection of Two Rod and Bullis Roads. As I write those details, I can't help wondering whether that information would help my neighbors to place the town or further confuse them. None of those towns and roads is widely enough recognized.


Getting to Marilla is simpler than I have made out, however. Simply drive out Clinton or Broadway to Two Rod Road and turn south. You'll be in the township within a mile or two.


Intrigued now, I googled Marilla on the web and found at an overwhelming amount of information, page after page of data. Here are a few of them (dated 2009): population 5579. That certainly marks it as rural: its population per square mile is 202; compare that with Cheektowaga's 2954 or Kenmore's 10,765.


About half of Marilla residents list their ancestors as German, a quarter Polish. Nine of ten adults are high school graduates and one of six hold bachelor's degrees. One in ten are employed in education, a similar number in construction. Less than one percent are involved in agriculture: probably a misleading figure when you consider the amount of land they manage.


Altogether, what I found suggests that Marilla is an attractive rural community, a view that Prezyna strongly supported in our conversation, yet it's less than twenty miles from downtown Buffalo.


Which finally brings me to the free program her committee is sponsoring on Saturday, February 16 at the Marilla Community Center, 1810 Two Rod Road. The announced goal of the program is to help those attending learn alternative methods of gardening, awareness of ecological and environmental practices and how these practices affect our everyday lifestyles. Prezyna tells me that she and the other members of the advisory board "are bringing this event to residents of Marilla and the surrounding area to encourage self reliance, sustainability, reduced dependence on toxic chemicals, and the benefits and rewards of becoming a 'backyard naturalist'."


Following Prezyna's introductory remarks at 10:45 a.m., the next five hours will be given over to hour-long seminars, each with an outstanding leader. The brochure describing them suggests: "Attend a few or enjoy them all."


At 11:00 a.m. the topic is "The Keys of Gardening Organically" led by Lynn Chimera. Ms. Chimera is a Master Gardener, author, gardening consultant and counselor based at her East Aurora store, Lessons from Nature. She will include in her presentation her ideas about how to compost.


At noon Sally Cunningham, author, News columnist, Director of the National Garden Festival and today the central figure in regional gardening circles will lead "Becoming Eco-Friendly in your Yard and Garden." Among other things she will share some of her ideas about how to attract and deal with wildlife.


At 1:00 p.m. Paul Fuhrmann will lead the seminar on "Managing Invasive Species of Flora in Rural Landscapes." Fuhrmann is regional leader of New York State's Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), an important activity organized by our state Department of Environmental Conservation.


At 2:00 p.m. the seminar subject will be "Establishing Bluebird Habitat in your Backyard," led by Mark Carra, the nationally known animal expert who serves today as naturalist for the Buffalo Audubon Society.


At 3:00 p.m. Debbie Beats, Cornell Cooperative Extension volunteer, 4H leader and member of the Marilla Conservation Advisory Board will present "Home Canning for Today".


Also participating in the program will be staff of Messinger Woods bringing one of their feathered ambassadors.-- Gerry Rising