Community gardens are the root of VINES. In 2007, a group of dedicated volunteers came together to transform two vacant lots in downtown Binghamton into vibrant community gardens, leading to the creation of VINES. Since then there has been such a great demand for community gardens in the area that VINES has created a proposal process for prospective sites. Today, VINES manages 20 community gardens — 21 as of October 16, 2021 when volunteers come together again, this time in Endicott, to build another garden.
Witnessing a VINES Community Garden build is an extraordinary event. At the beginning of the day, early in the morning, there’s a vacant lot with lumber, tools and piles of soil and compost. Volunteers descend on the space, everyone taking a role and working systematically throughout the morning. By midday the once empty lot is full of garden beds giving the surrounding community a space to grow healthy food for their families and gather together.
“It’s kind of like a barn-raising,” a volunteer commented at the September 11th garden build at New Street in Binghamton. A true statement. In the 18th and 19th centuries a barn was a necessary structure for any farmer and assembling one was cumbersome for one family. Barn raising enlisted members of the community, unpaid, to assist in the building of their neighbors’ barns. It was community supporting community and a VINES garden build has the same feel.
Sixty-three volunteers came to the New Street garden build. Two of them were Donna, who lives across the street, and her granddaughter, Adriana. “I remember looking out on the vacant lot thinking ‘that would be a beautiful spot for a VINES garden’,” she says, “Now, I look at the gardens and I’m so excited!” Adriana is especially looking forward to growing cucumbers with her grandma, which she loves to eat. “Between the volunteers, Metro Interfaith and VINES you’ve made my dreams come true,” Donna says.