Celebrating the 1st Full Year of Grow Binghamton Youth Program

The VINES Grow Binghamton program recently completed its first year employing youth throughout the year, adding in a spring and fall session in addition to the traditional summer session. Also, with the slight easing of covid restrictions, the summer session was back up to 14 awesome, hard working youth, one of the highlights at VINES this year. 

A full year program allows more time for positive youth-adult partnerships, additional field trips engaging in local policy advocacy around food, farming and nutrition, and youth involvement in building community gardens. This allows Grow Binghamton Youth to put to use and share the skills they honed in the summer, bolstering the understanding of agriculture within the community.

The Grow Binghamton Summer Crew grew food this summer at the VINES Binghamton Urban Farm and the CHOW Farm that was donated or sold into the community through markets and Farm Share. “I thought we would just be planting,” first year crew member Lane said, “I didn’t think about weeding, harvesting or bugs.” Despite the bugs and the sweltering temperatures the area felt this summer the 2021 crew had a great season and made some great bonds. “The first day no one really talked, but by the end, everyone was genuinely friends,” crew leader Robert said. 

The youth are split into small pods each summer with crew leaders, who have been through the program previously, acting as peer supervisors. “Ish is molding me into a better leader. I’d like to be a crew leader in seasons to come,” Keyaan, another first year crew member said of his crew leader. Ish gave the compliment right back when asked what skills he’s developed over the summer.  “I’m still working on it, but I’m talking more and improving my communication skills,” he said. “I have a good crew, so that really helps.”

During their season the youth didn’t only tend to produce.  They were also learning financial literacy skills from S.E.E.D. Planning Group, Visions Federal Credit Union and stress management and mental wellness techniques from Alexis Fumi. Weekly field trips included a trip to Bleuet Hill Farm, JADA Hill Farm and Binghamton University Acres.  The summer group finished their six weeks on Friday, August 13th.

A smaller group of six youth returned for the fall session in late September. “You get to know people a lot more,” crew leader, Robert, said, “because the program is so much smaller in the fall.” This autumn they worked closely with the Build a Garden project, constructing raised garden beds in the yards of community members who have mobility issues or other barriers to accessing fresh food. As well, they helped finish up projects on the Urban Farm, like the perennial garden and plantings around the new pergola and helped with the construction of VINES’ 20th and 21st community gardens in Binghamton and Endicott. 

“VINES is where my heart is,” crew member Evelyn said at the end of the fall session. “It’s a nice place where I can come back to, where everyone is understanding.” Thank you to everyone who helps create this kind of feeling at VINES, who supports VINES and makes this, and our other important programs, possible.


September 2021- Community Gardens – A Dream Come True

July 2021 – Unexpected Sunshine & Other Side Effects of Build a Garden

November 2020 – Raising Spirits & Creating Joy through Cooking

October 2020 – Farm Share Supports Healthy Families

August 2020 – Grow Binghamton Crew 2020: Small but Mighty

July 2020 – Growing Food, Growing Community – Together with Binghamton Food Rescue 

June 2020 – Jessica & Leta: Two Urban Farm Volunteers

April 2020 – Laurel Community Garden’s Peg Johnston

March 2020 – Nolan’s Reflection on Grow Binghamton Youth Program