Creating a More Beautiful Binghamton Through VINES


Morgan Collett-O'Brien, Student Journalist

Across the globe, and even in our own community, people face the challenge of getting access to fresh, healthy foods to support their diets. For those living in urban centers, this effort becomes even more difficult with limited access to green space and no way to get fresh produce but through expensive means at the grocery store. However, the local VINES (Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments) organization of Binghamton is working to address this issue, one garden at a time!

For many people, getting fresh fruits or vegetables is just a brief car ride to the grocery store and a checkout away. However, with this established system, many people, especially those living in urban areas, do not understand how their food is grown and the work that goes into yielding a successful crop. Because of the special labor that goes into growing fresh produce, these products tend to be more expensive at the grocery store, making it difficult for people of low income to have vital nutrients in their diet, and in turn affecting their health.

We can see the effects of this issue nationwide, and even in our own Binghamton community. “Across the globe, people face challenges regarding food access, and our agricultural system can create great environmental harm which negatively affects long-term food security for the human race,” explained VINES employee Amelia LoDolce. This is the problem that VINES looks to fix.

VINES volunteers building garden boxes (Source:

VINES was founded in 2007 by volunteers looking to turn vacant lots into community gardens, working to create a “sustainable and just” food system in our area and beautify neighborhoods. The program grew quickly in both strength and outreach as “demand for urban gardening, garden-based education and access to local food exploded.” VINES was supported by a fiscal sponsor, Earth Day Southern Tier, and run by volunteers until 2013 when it became an independent non-profit organization. Amelia explained, “It wasn’t until 2016 that VINES had [a] paid management staff. The growth of the organization has happened gradually as VINES was able to increase the funding it could secure annually.”

The fruit of VINES’ labor has been immense: “VINES offers 20+ community gardens with 500 garden beds that people can rent for low to no cost. It operates the Grow Binghamton youth employment program that engages youth in growing food for the community year-round, and distributes 350 boxes of locally grown produce through our Farm Share program each week during the growing season. VINES offers free classes on gardening, cooking, and food preservation through our Green Thumb Workshops and more,” Amelia told us, “Our programs now serve over 3,000 people annually, thanks in large part to the dedicated volunteers we have that help run every program with support from our 7 staff members.”

The efforts that VINES puts forward provide a great opportunity for young students to learn the skills and necessity of agriculture, and appreciate the process of growing fresh food. In addition, VINES provides a way for people to have access to produce that socioeconomic conditions may have previously prevented. Amelia expressed how much getting young people involved benefits students themselves, the organization and our community: “We’ve benefited greatly from student volunteer support. We love engaging students in all kinds of volunteer events, internships, and AmeriCorps positions. They bring a lot of energy and passion to our work.” We here at the Voice of the Saints applaud the wonderful work VINES does, and encourage students to help in the effort!

To learn more about VINES, the programs it offers, and how to get involved, visit their website