Binghampton growing healthier food options in unexpected places

In the depths of Binghampton, colorful vegetation is grown. The seeds that are sown transcend through the city in a paradoxical way.

A short drive on Waynoka Avenue, there is a neon yellow sign signaling a dead end is near. On the other side of this dead end, where the gravel becomes soil, there are plants and vegetables growing, reproducing and changing the dietary model for Memphis – staring with Binghampton.

The area is considered a food dessert or a part of “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options,” according to the USDA.

In efforts to help the residents of the area, the Binghampton Development Corporation began the first urban farm in 2010. The farm has evolved away from the Binghamton Development Corporation, but still holds true to the idea of improving access to healthy food.

“I dig, weed, plant, water, and plan. That’s kind of it. I get to be outside all the time. I’m able to enjoy the perfect weather or suffer the worst weather. Overall, it’s much better.” — Dennis O’Bryan, farm manager

Dennis O’Bryan, farm manager, worked in a cubicle for 20 years in Hilton’s IT department, but now spends his entire workday outside.

“I dig, weed, plant, water, and plan. That’s kind of it. I get to be outside all the time. I’m able to enjoy the perfect weather or suffer the worst weather. Overall, it’s much better,” O’Bryan said.

This urban farmer provides food for the Overton Park Community Farmers Market, Great St. Luke’s Food Pantry and Bring It Food Hub, a non-profit distributor of local fruits and vegetables.

“In a farmers market setting or for a food pantry, I don’t charge them [because] it’s a charitable donation. We always give them more than what they ask for,” O’Bryan said. “We always give them top quality.”

The food is also accessible to anyone who stops by. Because it’s local, organic, and freshly picked the same day, O’Bryan said he charges supermarket prices.

He reasons the prices match the quality and it’s the overall healthier choice. “There are 600,000 supermarket items, and 80 percent of them have added sugar,” O’Bryan said. This claim is noted in Medical Daily and the American Diabetes Association.

in an area that could use some extra attention and some love,” said Harris.

The safe zone the Purple House provides for many children moved Harris to tears. “We have a lot of older boys that come regularly. One of them wrote a poem saying this is the place he calls home. When there just out and about in the neighborhood they have to be a certain way to survive and they don’t have to be that way here. They can come here and do art, write, be loved on, and just be themselves,” said Harris.

O’Bryan and Harris are more than growers of food, but are nurturers of life. There deeds can be seen in Binghampton and throughout the city.

“Your first fruits should be used in a special way,” said O’Bryan

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About the Author

Kitaen Jones
Kitaen Jones, a University of Memphis senior, runs a Memphis nonprofit organization called Clothes Minded Ones. Along with her nonprofit work, Jones writes for the The Daily Helmsman and VOICES magazine. Kitaen is involved with the U of M chapter of National Association of Black Journalists and the National Society of Leadership and Success.

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