Monday, April 12, 2010

Press Connects: CHOW Conklin Farm mentioned

City parcels to become garden sites

Crops will be sold to nearby residents
By George Basler • • April 11, 2010, 8:26 pm

BINGHAMTON -- Properties at 16 and 20 Tudor St. don't fit the pastoral picture of a farm. Bucolic they are not.

Dilapidated buildings stood on the site before they were demolished by the city. Today, the two properties are a vacant lot in the downtown neighborhood close to Columbus Park.
Now members of a community gardening group, Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments, are looking to change that.

VINES is leasing the Tudor Street properties for a $1 a year from the city and plans to turn them into an urban farm that will provide fresh greens, herbs, fruits and vegetables to neighborhood residents and the community.

"Our purpose is to provide healthier food to people that is affordable and accessible," said Lauren Tonti, 23, a VINES member and one of the organizers of the urban farm.
Called the Binghamton Urban Agriculture Project, the effort is an extension of VINES' work over the past several years to turn vacant lots into community gardens.

A core group of eight volunteers plans to farm the Tudor Street site, which covers about one-quarter of an acre, using Growing Power Inc., a Milwaukee-based organization that promotes sustainable farming methods in urban areas, as its main model.
The volunteers will move a greenhouse and several hoop houses -- small greenhouses -- onto the site and grow food in multiple layers, using natural compost as a base.

"It's all organic. There are no pesticides, no herbicides and no artificial fertilizer," said group member Scott Barvainis.
The goal is to harvest more than 2,500 pounds of produce during a growing season.

The Tudor Street site is one of two farming projects being developed by VINES. The group also is using 1 acre of the 4.5-acre Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse farm in Conklin to grow staple crops. It hopes to raise 4,000 pounds of food per season at this site.
"To me, the project is of interest and importance as a food security issue," said group member Sean Cummings. "We're changing the way food is grown in our society."

Volunteers will work the Tudor Street and Conklin sites, and each will have two project managers, Cummings said.

Projects are designed to be self-supporting, organizers said, adding the group plans to sell shares to between 30 and 100 people who would receive food each week in exchange for buying in.

Organizers also will sell their produce at local farmers' markets, Barvainis said. Revenue generated would cover expenses.

Cummings said they plan to involve neighborhood residents in the project, hopefully by having them put in some volunteer time at the site in exchange for food.

Volunteers plan to begin moving greenhouses onto the Tudor Street site by the end of the month. There are 1,000 sprouts ready for planting.

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