On Tudor Street in Downtown Binghamton, a garden is starting to take shape.
The garden belongs to an organization known as Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments (VINES), which is using damaged property to build a community garden that will help feed people in the Binghamton area.
Severe flooding of the Susquehanna River in 2006 and 2011 rendered some private properties and houses on Tudor Street damaged. The city of Binghamton, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), offered buyouts to homeowners, enabling them to sell their houses at market rate and offering them assistance to move elsewhere.
Because of flooding concerns, FEMA mandated that no structures could be built on the properties in the future. This left the land available for VINES to lease it from the city of Binghamton and expand their pre-existing garden on the same street. According to a news release on the city of Binghamton’s official website, VINES overtook 13 properties in the immediate area.
VINES also received a $100,000 grant in 2017 from New York state to help expand their operations. Without the expansion, the property consists of less than one acre of land that features a hoop greenhouse, which is constructed from semicircular metal bands, a plastic covering and several garden plots, where residents can pay to rent a garden bed to grow fresh vegetables. With the expansion, the property will grow to two acres, and according to Amelia LoDolce, executive director of VINES, the organization plans on using the new land to increase their crop supply.
“We will build another hoop house adjacent to the existing one on another property that we’ve been using since 2010 and that was not part of the FEMA project, which means we will be able to build on it,” LoDolce said. “We’ll expand our perennial food forest and build new perennial food gardens around the property, but the majority of the site will be used for growing crops.”
LoDolce also said VINES wants the land to be a fun and beautiful place for residents of the greater Binghamton area to visit.
“We’ll be exploring opportunities to incorporate public art and interactive features,” LoDolce said. “We’ll also be reserving some space for community members to help design so we can make it functional and attractive for the immediate neighbors.”
In a 2017 press conference about VINES’ expansion, Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo spoke on VINES’ involvement with the community.
“VINES has been dedicated to improving neighborhoods through urban farming and its community gardens, enriching the lives of many residents,” Lupardo said. “Agriculture is a key component of ongoing economic development efforts across the region and VINES is doing its part by introducing local foods to new customers and inspiring a new generation to consider this industry as a career path.”
Along with growing and providing fresh food, LoDolce said she believes the gardens can benefit urban communities and its residents in other ways.
“Urban agriculture can help to make fresh food more available in city neighborhoods while beautifying empty lots,” LoDolce said. “We also use our urban farm to host our summer youth employment program, Grow Binghamton, which gives teenagers the opportunity to learn about growing food and build important job and life skills while earning a paycheck.”