Urban farming debate grows

By Perry Russom

July 1, 2013 Updated Jul 1, 2013 at 11:18 PM EST

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The debate on whether the city of Binghamton will allow chickens and yard-sized gardens within corporate limits could be decided Tuesday.

City Council is expected to vote on a proposal to establish rules and regulations for urban farming, which would cover farmers markets, outdoor composting, raising small livestock and other farming practices.

While council debated the issue again Monday, Binghamton farmers said there is always more demand than supply when it comes to urban farming.

"Each year, there's a demand for community garden space that we're trying to grow in order to meet," said Sean Cummings, Binghamton farm manager at VINES.

VINES is a non-profit organization set to fill those demands by creating and sustaining community gardens in the Binghamton area. VINES stands for Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments.

Cummings said community gardens not only supply food, but eliminate blight from the city.

"This property, which use to be a dilapidated house, is now growing what is going to be a few hundred pounds of potatoes," said Cummings.

VINES leases four acres of city-owned land.

Opponents of the farming legislation said instead of gardens, blight should be turned into homes.

"We have eight, 10, 12 community gardens already," said Councilman Bill Berg. "Every weekday, downtown, we have farmer's markets ... how many community gardens do we need in the area?"

Some are concerned about raising small livestock, which includes chickens, ducks and rabbits.

"When you only have three or four chickens, everything is pretty manageable," said Dan Livingston, who owns chickens.

Livingston and his girlfriend own four chickens on their lot in the west side of Binghamton.

"I'm not talking about keeping 1,000 chickens on a quarter-acre city lot," said Livingston. "I'm talking about keeping three or four chickens at a nicely kept coop."

Livingston uses his chickens for eggs and recycles their waste in his compost.

Cummings said Binghamton is behind the national trend of urban farming. Other cities across the country are blossoming as their gardens grow.

"I think we're on a good pace," said Cummings. "But, there's a demand on the part of the community for more spaces like this for producing food for the community."