Kenmax Foundation is a non profit organization dedicated solely to promoting justice for the planet and its inhabitants.  

At Kenmax Foundation, we focus on engaging community involvement through education to promote biodiversity, sustainability and conservation of our precious resources.

One of the core programs of the Kenmax Foundation is the Maris Farm Project, which is located on the Tug Hill Plateau of Central New York. Started in 2010, Maris Farm donates locally grown produce to local food banks. By supplying these organizations with local, chemical free food, the health of the local environment and people are impacted. 

The Giving Garden

Garden initiative near Constableville aiding vets and needy

A local community foundation’s efforts to provide food for those in need, including veterans, is coming up roses. And zinnias. And super-sized sunflowers.

“Our goal here is to feed the local community,” said Darci Byrne, chief operating officer of the Kenmax Foundation, during a recent interview at the nonprofit’s Maris Farm.

For the past four years, a portion of the 49.3-acre property off West Road in the town of Leyden has been used for a massive flower and vegetable garden. A neighboring farmer plows the land in exchange for use of the hay growing on the rest of the farmland.

“There’s just something about locally grown food,” Mrs. Byrne said

While the foundation sells a portion of the harvest at the Zone 3 store in Inlet to help cover ongoing expenses, much of it is simply given away, she said.

“We try to donate at least half of what we grow,” Mrs. Byrne said. “But we probably donate more than that.”

The group recently sent flowers to residents at Sunset Nursing Home in Boonville and has partnered with Feed Our Vets to transport produce and flowers to that organization’s food pantry at 205 Genesee St. in Utica.

“When veterans see fresh food and fresh flowers, their eyes light up,” said Stephen M. Amaral, president of Feed Our Vets.


Mr. Amaral, a veteran himself, said his group offers food and other items exclusively to military veterans or active duty soldiers to help them make ends meet. However, most donations come in the form of dry or canned goods, so fresh produce is a welcome addition for those who come into the pantry.

“We want them to come in and have more of a shopping experience,” he said.

Feed Our Vets also operates a mobile pantry that holds a distribution in Watertown from 9 a.m. to noon on the third Saturday of each month.

The organization in 2013 handed out 70,540 pounds of food to 1,157 veterans and families.

While not certified organic, Maris Farm uses organic farming practices and heirloom seeds to help with bio-diversity, Mrs. Byrne said.

This year’s mega-garden featured three different varieties of kale, as well as tomatoes, peppers, herbs, basil, peppers, corn, zucchinis, squash and potatoes.

It also had numerous varieties of flowers, including a row of roughly 10-foot-tall sunflowers that stood like sentinels guarding the back side of the plot.

“We’ve moved our site every year,” Mrs. Byrne said. “We were trying to find the best spot. We think we found it this year.”

If Kenmax officials decide to keep the garden in the same spot this time around, winter wheat or buckwheat will likely be planted there this fall as a cover crop for the winter months, she said.


The Kenmax Foundation was formed about a decade ago by Mrs. Byrne’s father-in-law, Nicholas E. Byrne, a retired New Jersey teacher, past Lewis County legislator and environmentalist and columnist, to address issues like homelessness, poverty, social injustice and pollution and to encourage civic participation. It was named for the first letters of the names of his family members: daughter Katherine, wife Erica, son Nick Jr., son Mike, daughter Allyn and son Xavier.

The foundation held a fishing tournament in conjunction with the Port Leyden Field Days in May and has several other initiatives, including offering scholarships to local students. Mr. Byrne said plans are also underway to develop Kenmax’s 135-acre property near the Popple Pond State Forest off Smith Road in the town of Boonville as a camp for soldiers and veterans, with nature trails also made available to the general public.

By Steve Virkler, Johnson Newspapers

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