Located on 1217 Vestal Avenue is a store that is not only the cutest shop you’ll ever see, but is also the favorite store of President Harvey Stenger’s wife, Cathy Frankenbach. What is this store called?, you might ask. This store is called Old Barn Hollow, and it is Binghamton’s first and only locavore store, meaning that their food consists of locally grown or produced food.
What is special about Old Barn Hollow?
Well, with Old Barn Hollow, you can influence the Binghamton economy by buying local. All of the food sold at Old Barn Hollow is grown within a hundred mile radius of Binghamton. It is also very easy to get to. The Broome County Number 5 bus stops right in front of the store ( and yes, there ARE buses that go to places besides State Street). Old Barn Hollow has a lot to offer students; there is an academic CSA (Community Supportive Agriculture) that is only available to students. This is a way for students to receive fresh, organic, in-season vegetables by signing up to get weekly boxes of produce. The owner of Old Barn Hollow, Raren Allen, states “This saves a lot of time and a lot of money. You are buying in bulk without having to get the bulk yourself. It makes Old Barn Hollow a one-stop shop. You can get your eggs and your milk here, and pick up your lemons that we wouldn’t otherwise put on our shelves because it isn’t grown within a hundred mile radius. You can still get lemons and avocados and bison burgers here”.
Why does Cathy Frankenbach like this place so much?
“ I was teaching fourth grade in Buffalo when Harvey [Stenger] got this job here…I was getting my fourth graders very involved in an organization in Buffalo very similar to VINES (Volunteers Invested in Neighborhood Environments) who works with Old Barn Hollow. They really have committed to only selling things that are from the area; there are a lot of great things about Binghamton, and you just have to find them, partly because things are spread out a little bit”. Old Barn Hollow does a lot of good in this community, and if the wife of our school’s president loves it, then it probably a place worth checking out.
Is there anything I can do to get involved with Old Barn Hollow?
Yes, there are so many opportunities available through this amazing store. Not only can you volunteer directly with the store, but they can also connect you to local farms that need extra hands, especially during harvesting seasons. This not only helps you “learn the ways of the land”, but also can teach you great marketing and advertising skills.
Wow, this place sounds so cool!
It is pretty cool, and it is a great place for students to go. This store sources from certified organic farms and sustainable farms that are not certified organic but do not use pesticides. It also happens to be the only certified gluten free bakery in the county, with an upcoming expansion project. Old Barn Hollow sells local, organic, delicious food. What more could you ask for in a store?
Interview with Raren Allen- Owner of Old Barn Hollow
I know the mission of Old Barn Hollow is locally grown products, could you tell me a little more about your goals?
R: Well, we started at a Farmers’ Market, and there is a huge drive to buy local. Our farm started in 2008, when we started manufacturing jams and jellies; our store itself opened in 2012. People are learning about the benefits of locally grown food, and we wanted to have that available to the community more than just one day a week. So, we developed Old Barn Hollow, and all of our food comes from a radius of about a hundred miles from Binghamton. We source primarily from organic farms, but also from sustainable farms that use no pesticides but are not certified organic. We have a really great variety of items, and it changed all the time because everything is local. It changes seasonally, it changes weekly; we get new vendors all the time.
Binghamton students don’t always know of all there is available in the Binghamton area, and I think it’s important that places like this are highlighted.
R: The Broome County bus number 5 stops just in front of the store, it is easily accessible to students. We have the only certified gluten free bakery in the county, so this is a good resource for anybody that is on a gluten free diet. Right now, we just make cookies, and the cakes and bread are special order. We are planning an expansion project which is going to quadruple our space, our baking time, and what not.
Is there anything you would want the students of Binghamton University to know about Old Barn Hollow?
R: We also offer a CSA (Community Supportive Agriculture) that is designed for students, you can sign up for a small CSA only offered when students are attending BU. You get a big box of vegetables, whatever is in season that week. This box is packed full of great stuff, and it way cheaper than going out and buying the items individually. All you do is come and pick it up and your grocery shopping is done. We also offer a food co op; you can shop in your pajamas, pick whatever you want, and at the end of the week the shopping cart closes and the box gets shipped to us, and you can get everything you ordered here. This saves a lot of time and a lot of money. You are buying in bulk without having to get the bulk yourself. It makes Old Barn Hollow a one-stop shop. You can get your eggs and your milk here, and pick up your lemons that we wouldn’t otherwise put on our shelves because it isn’t grown within a hundred mile radius. You can still get lemons and avocados and bison burgers here.
If somebody were to want to volunteer here, would that be possible?
R: We have a lot of different options here, we can do volunteer work. We also help locate farms that are looking for volunteers, especially during harvest season, that is when it is hard for them to keep up. We can help make that connection and the students can learn the ways of the land. It can also help students improve in other areas; it can help with marketing skills and advertising, and all other great techniques you can pick up.
Interview with Cathy Frankenbach
Old Barn Hollow is one of Cathy’s favorite shops, and she sat down to talk about the store, and about buying local and students’ involvement in the city of Binghamton
Cathy: I think Old Barn Hollow is such a good place to go. It’s very small but they offer so much there.
Old Barn Hollow is scheduled for an expansion. They have the only certified gluten free bakery in the county and they plan on quadrupling their space.
C: Yes, when I was there, there was a basket of power bars, and I picked them up and was able to see that they were all produced within a hundred mile radius of Binghamton. You would probably know the answer to this, I don’t know if anything actually comes from their own kitchen.
It started out as a small farm; the owners of Old Barn Hollow went to Farmer’s Markets and sold their goods, and they wanted to provide the people of Binghamton with a place they could go to buy locally grown food more than once a week. Now, they continue to grow their own products, but they also bring in food from other farms, if they are within one hundred miles.
C: The reason I found it, because I’ve only been here for a little over a year and a half, I was teaching fourth grade in Buffalo when Harvey [Stenger] got this job here. I was teaching my fourth graders about Buffalo (where the economy is much like Binghamton’s after their steel mill shut down) and there is a big movement for urban farming and community gardens to take the place of abandoned houses and repair the blight that is very present in the city. So, I was getting my fourth graders very involved in an organization in Buffalo very similar to VINES (Volunteers Invested in Neighborhood Environments) who works with Old Barn Hollow, the two people who run the urban farm in Binghamton right off Susquehanna Boulevard, are Binghamton University graduates. One of them graduated in 2009, and found them when I came here and wanted to know what Binghamton has to offer in terms of urban farming. When I moved here, I contacted them and started working on the farm. I know that a lot of what they harvest, especially in late summer/ early fall, goes to Old Barn Hollow. They sell a lot of their produce to some of the local restaurants. They are a great connection, and when I learned that they were bringing a lot of their products to a place called Old Barn Hollow I was very interested in finding it. I was looking at your website, and for Humans of Binghamton I saw that someone said that there are a lot of great things about Binghamton, and you just have to find them, partly because things are spread out a little bit.
Yes, and there has been a big initiative to buy local.
C: Right, I think that’s very important, and that’s what I love about Old Barn Hollow; they really have committed to only selling things that are from the area. There are all these resources available, and no one would really know about it unless there was a store like this. Even some of the brewers that are opening downtown, and places like Java Joe’s, it starts to establish a culture that everybody wants in downtown Binghamton.
Do you think Old Barn Hollow is an important resource for students to know about?
C: That’s a given,and I understand, especially for underclassmen, when you come to college you’re pretty much contained and you have pretty much everything you need on campus for your day to day academic life. Maybe part of it is transportation, but it’s very important. Both Harvey and I are very proud of the university students’ involvement in volunteer work, both on and off campus, and I’m always hearing stories of students showing up to help with big projects.
Old Barn Hollow can also provide students with volunteer options. They can connect students with farms who need extra hands during harvesting periods.
C: The one thing that I found during my first year here is that it is sort of hard to find places where I could volunteer and things to get involved with, everything was sort of scattered. But there are organizations that try to unify the volunteer opportunites, which is good for you guys as students. For me, VINES was a great find, and so much of what I’m interested in has been connected. And even from an economic standpoint, it is so good for students to go downtown and find places such as Old Barn Hollow.
Old Barn Hollow even provides students with resources such as the academic CSA, which allows students to receive a box of in season fruits and vegetables on a regular basis.
C: The elementary school that I volunteer at was one of the pick-up spots for that over the summer, and this is a perfect example of how getting the word out is important, and helping people know that it’s there. We just want to open peoples’ eyes to better nutrition and a healthier lifestyle.
Thankfully there are places like the Food Co Op on campus to get students on board with that.
C: It’s a great thing that we have that on campus. And BU Acres, up on the top of Bunn Hill, is a house with a white picket fence and a Binghamton University sign, and it is a gardening project that was started by a faculty member years ago. Now the people who took over it are a couple of Binghamton University students, who are both seniors now, decided to take over the land, clean it up, make new garden beds, and plant vegetables that can be used to provide the dining hall with fresh vegetables. This past summer was their first harvest, and I don’t know how far it has spread on campus, but they need a ton of help. What’s tough about something like this is that so much of it happens in the summertime and a lot of the student population is away in the summer. In the spring time, every Saturday and Sunday she needs help turning soil over and helping out with anything.
Is that the type of thing that could be put on B-line?
C: I don’t know how she advertised but she had a list of people that helped her last year. There’s always stuff to do because they’re just starting out. It’s getting to be that time to start thinking about the garden.
Is there anything else that you would want people to know?
C: I would want people to know what was really going on in Binghamton. The location of Old Barn Hollow is just beyond where people normally drive, and it’s easy to miss. It’s sort of off a beaten path, but I think some of the best things in Binghamton are sort of hidden. You just have to look around and ask people questions.