Welcome to Groundswell

Groundswell’s mission
is to help youth and adult learners develop the skills and knowledge they need to build sustainable local food systems. Our focus is providing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities with real working farms and food businesses in the Ithaca area. Through collaboration with area schools, colleges and universities, Groundswell offers programs of study for beginning farmers, students, community members, and professionals.

Groundswell is an initiative of the EcoVillage Center for Sustainability Education in Ithaca, NY, which is a project of the Center for Transformative Action. Visit the Groundswell website to learn more about our programs, initiatives and resources.


Groundswell's Incubator Farm welcomes New Americans

AP reporter Mary Esch interviews
Ye Myint, originally from Burma
We're fortunate to have people from all over the world living right here in Tompkins County. Many come here to teach or to study. But for others, leaving their home country was a matter of survival, not choice.

Thankfully, there are organizations, teachers, sponsors, and church-based groups who are helping to connect refugees and other New Americans with the things they need to create a new life here in Tompkins County.

Many New Americans bring a huge amount of farming experience from their home countries. The community gardens in Ithaca have long provided an opportunity to grow food, including favorite items from their home cuisine that aren't available in local stores. And now the Groundswell Incubator Farm offers New Americans the opportunity to grow even more food for their families, their communities, and the marketplace.

ESL students admiring Ye's gongura and water spinach crops at the Farm.

To get the word out about the Incubator Farm, we've been working with English as a Second Language programs at TST BOCES and Tompkins Learning Partners. We've made several visits to ESL classes, and last week about 25 students from the TST-BOCES ESL program took a field trip to learn about the Groundswell Incubator Farm.

Even on such a gray and rainy day, the students were smiling and excited to see the Incubator Farm, and they were filled with questions about how the Farm works. 
We are so grateful for the enthusiasm of all the students and teachers, and very hopeful that some may be interested and able to farm with Groundswell in the 2015 season. In any case, they will be spreading the word in their communities.

For more information about the Groundswell Incubator Farm and how you can support our work with New American farmers, please contact us at newamericans@groundswellcenter.org

2015 Applications now open for the Groundswell Incubator Farm

Mo Myint trellises cucumbers on his father's plot at the Incubator Farm.
We're now accepting applications for the 2015 season at the Groundswell Incubator Farm, located in the Town of Ithaca, at EcoVillage. The mission of the Incubator Program is to provide access to land, infrastructure, and short-term enterprise incubation for diverse beginning farmers. 

If you or someone you know is interested in applying to Incubator Program, please contact Groundswell Staff as early as possible to get the conversation started. Our Incubator Coordinator, Devon Van Noble, can be reached at devon@groundswellcenter.org or (607)319-5095.

To be considered for early-decisions, application materials are due by November 21st, however applications will continue to be accepted until February 1st, 2015.

At the Farm, you can rent a quarter-acre plot that comes equipped with drip irrigation, tools and equipment including a walk-behind tractor, storage shed, 8-foot deer fence, and a hoophouse. Incubator Farmers also receive one-on-one mentoring from experienced farmers, and participate in a variety of training workshops, Groundswell’s Farm Business Planning Course, and the Finger Lakes CRAFT network.

To learn more about what to expect from the Incubator Program and to download the application materials, CLICK HERE.

Finger Lakes CRAFT Farm Profile: Main Street Farms

Farmers: Allan Gandelman and Bob Cat
Address: 116 North West Street, Homer, NY
Phone: (607) 218-2101
E-mail: info@mainstreetfarms.com

Website: www.mainstreetfarms.com

Allan is a former high school teacher whose passion for food and agriculture led him to end his career as a teacher and start Main Street Farms. He holds two degrees from SUNY New Paltz; a B.A. in Anthrolopoly and an M.A. in Secondary Education. He also holds a certificate in Sustainable Agriculture from Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming.

Before coming to work at Main Street Farms, Bob Cat spent 5 years as an Outdoor Educator working for Natures Classroom all over New England.  He holds a B.A. in Communication from SUNY New Paltz and has a cetrificate in Sustainable Agriculture from Groundswell Center For Local Food and Farming in Ithaca.  Bob Cat has also spent time WWOOFing in Australia and Costa Rica.

Main Street Farms is an urban aquaponics farm, organic plant nursery, and education center, located in Homer, NY. We are dedicated to sustainable agriculture and local food security. We grow in both water and dirt, utilizing aquaponics techniques (aquaculture plus hydroponics) to raise tilapia in tanks. We feed them and use the waste water to fertilize the plants (lettuce and herbs). The plants in turn clean the water for the fish in a closed loop cycle, creating a symbiotic relationship. We have a wide assortment of sheds and barns to house sheep, horses, hay, and equipment. They are all simple pole barns. 

In 2013 we acquired an amazing 1.5 acre empty city lot in a low income neighborhood in Cortland, which we have converted into the city's first urban farm.  The farm is located on South Ave., and is a pickup location for CSA shares in the 2014 season.

When it comes to agriculture risks and challenges are abundant. During our first farm start up we made our share of mistakes around pest management, allocation of time and resources, and choosing which vegetables to grow. Now that we have learned how to deal with these difficulties we hope we won't make those mistakes again.


Volunteer spotlight: Dean Koyanagi

Dean Koyanagi showing young ones the way.

We give thanks for Dean

Dean has an incredible career background: Navy Veteran, Sustainability Coordinator for Cornell, Co-farmer at Tree Gate Farm, and Groundswell Mentor Farmer, now working closely with our Incubator Farmers. Dean has been involved in Groundswell since our beginnings, and quickly grew to be a major part of our organization, helping organize our first ever Mentor Farmer Training in 2011.

We see Dean as a brilliant and dedicated farmer who is especially excited about innovation and novel, efficient farm systems. We remember the enthusiasm he exuded when he came to share several nifty tools (including an electric tractor model!) at the FarmHack Ithaca event in Fall of 2012, an event he was also deeply involved in at the planning level!

Dean has been mentoring our Incubator Farmers since the inaugural year of the program in 2013, and has been an active voice in shaping the 2014 season.  Dean's input and advice about the timing of workshops, mentoring sessions, and topics has helped Groundswell develop a timeline that fits with the rhythms of the farming season. Mentoring a new business owner and food producer can be a VERY tricky task, and but Dean's understanding of the learning process and his patience has made him an invaluable Mentor Farmer.

As Groundswell staff, we feel blessed to be able to work with a Mentor Farmer who has such a commitment to others' education that he takes the time to be critical of the techniques that are not working, and suggest improved methods.  The efficacy of the Groundswell Incubator Program has been tremendously improved by his voice.

Devon Van Noble, Incubator Development Coordinator, and Groundswell staff


Focus on Food Sovereignty

At one of our Groundswell Development meetings last month, the question came up: "What is Food Sovereignty?" We'd like to share with you the 6 food sovereignty principles which were drafted in 2007 at the International Forum for Food Sovereignty in Mali.

Food sovereignty...

1. Focuses on Food for People: Food sovereignty stresses the right to sufficient, healthy and culturally appropriate food for all individuals, peoples and communities, including those who are hungry or living under occupation, in conflict zones and marginalized. Food sovereignty rejects the proposition that food is just another commodity for international agribusiness.

2. Values Food Providers: Food sovereignty values and supports the contributions, and respects the rights, of women and men, peasants and small scale family farmers, pastoralists, artisanal fishers, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples and agricultural and fisheries workers, including migrants, who cultivate, grow, harvest and process food; and rejects those policies, actions and programs that undervalue them, threaten their livelihoods and eliminate them.

3. Localizes Food Systems: Food sovereignty brings food providers and consumers together in common cause; puts providers and consumers at the center of decision-
making on food issues; protects food providers from the dumping of food and food aid in local markets; protects consumers from poor quality and unhealthy food, inappropriate food aid and food tainted with genetically modified organisms; and resists governance structures, agreements and practices that depend on and promote unsustainable and inequitable international trade and give power to remote and unaccountable corporations.

4. Makes Decisions Locally: Food sovereignty seeks control over and access to territory, land, grazing, water, seeds, livestock and fish populations for local food providers. These resources ought to be used and shared in socially and environmentally sustainable ways which conserve diversity. Food sovereignty recognizes that local territories often cross geopolitical borders and advances the right of local communities to inhabit and use their territories; it promotes positive interaction between food providers in different regions and territories and from different sectors to resolve internal conflicts or conflicts with local and national authorities; and rejects the privatization of natural resources through laws, commercial contracts and intellectual property rights regimes.

Thank You Hoophouse Builders!

Volunteers and staff fasten the plastic on our brand new
20' x 72' hoophouse at the Groundswell Incubator Farm.
Photo by Jim Bosjolie.
We want to shout out a huge THANK YOU to the generous volunteers who have helped Groundswell install our new hoophouse at the Incubator Farm. 

Sara Koste, Rafael Aponte, Ann Piombino, Aidan Hodges, and Elan Shapiro have shown up to work in all sorts of Spring weather to put together this big puzzle. They have laid down ground cover, put up the walls, carried the hoops, built the end walls, attached wiggle wire, and bolted everything together.

We really appreciate the hours that each of them took to work with us and get the project completed in short time. All that is left to do is put the plastic on the roof and get the BCS tractor out to prepare the beds! 

The 72’ long hoophouse at the Incubator Farm was manufactured locally by the Howard Hoover Family Farm in Penn Yan. Hoover's tubular steel structures have become fairly popular due to the ease of installation and mobility. 

Our hoophouse will enable Incubator farmers to extend the growing season into spring and fall, and to grow heat loving summer crops more intensively. Damon Brangman of Roots Rising Farm plans to experiment with some specialty crops from the Caribbean.

If you're interested in volunteering on other projects at the Incubator Farm or working with the Farmers, please let us know at (607)319-5095 or info@groundswellcenter.org.


What Works? Farmer-Led Education

Groundswell's popular Organic Orchards class met in
February at Black Diamond Farm in Trumansburg
to study pruning techniques with master
orchardist Ian Merwin.
By Joanna Green

I love it when a group of really wonderful people put their heads together to make something happen. I love it when a really great idea turns into reality. And I especially love it when it turns out to be a lot of fun!

That's what's happening with Groundswell's new season-long course in Holistic Organic Orchard Management.

Last year a group of small-scale commercial orchardists came to Groundswell and proposed a new program to meet the needs of the emerging organic tree fruits industry. It's hard to grow quality fruit organically, and  here in the Ithaca area there's a tremendous amount of innovation going on in local orchards. Growers  wanted an opportunity to share their knowledge, compare notes, and educate their employees about effective organic management strategies.

I loved the idea. As a home orchardist I'd had a hard time figuring out how to grow a nice crop of apples. And from our previous courses, I knew there were lots of people like me - serious home orchardists who would love to learn from The Masters.

So we cooked up the idea of a monthly program which would focus on a different aspect of production  throughout the entire season. We had nine experienced growers eager to be involved as instructors. But we had no idea how many people would sign up. How much would they be willing to pay for this extraordinary education? Could we bring in enough revenues to pay instructors? Groundswell?

We decided to take a chance together and try it out. Groundswell agreed to manage the course enrollments, marketing, and administration, without compensation if necessary.  The growers agreed to teach without compensation if necessary. We figured out a sliding scale for tuition that seemed reasonable, and began putting the word out...