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.

Thursday, April 2

A Cutting Edge Return to Old Traditions: Farming with Draft Animal Power

New farmers, returning to old traditions and using cutting edge knowledge, learn to “think like a horse” and farm with draft animals.
With the rising cost of fuel and farm equipment, more farmers are turning towards a centuries old tradition: farming with draft animals.  Even though farming with draft animals is a seven thousand year old technology, new farmers don’t have to utilize ancient equipment or ideas.  Instead, they can utilize cutting edge technology and innovative ideas to move towards fuel-independent farming.  

Traditionally, the skills required to work with draft animals were passed down through oral tradition, but with more and more young people choosing farming as a career, rather than inheriting it, there has become a need for a different way to gain this knowledge and experience.  Donn Hewes, of Northland Sheep Dairy and Donn’s Teamster School in Marathon, NY, has become passionate about passing on the almost-lost art of training and driving draft animals.  

On Saturday, May 2nd and Sunday, May 3rd, Donn’s Teamster School and the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming will host a two day Draft Animal Practicum designed to provide new farmers with hands-on experience in driving draft horses.  “This workshop will help folks better understand how draft horses and mules think and why they do what they do,” Hewes says.  “It’ll be a fun learning experience for anyone just getting started with horses.  We’ll spend time focusing on how we prepare animals for success at farm work.”  

Genevieve DeClerck, an aspiring farmer who participated in 2011 Draft Animal Practicum says, "The draft horse workshop at Northland was incredible. Literally one of the coolest things I've ever participated in EVER.”

What, Where, When

How Draft Horses & Mules Think Horse : Training Methods for Beginning Teamsters
Saturday & Sunday, May 2-3, 9 AM - 3PM
Location: Northland Sheep Dairy, Marathon, NY
Tuition: $150 for one day,  $250 for two days. Tuition Assistance is available for those with limited financial resources.
To register please visit www.groundswellcenter.org or call 607-319-5095

Saturday, March 28

Incubator Farm News: Drop the Plows!

By Devon Van Noble, Incubator Program Manager

I believe everyone comes out of Winter feeling excited about the coming warm weather, but almost every farmer also carries a certain anxiousness about the impending Spring to-do list.  As the sun comes out farmers everywhere are preparing: starting seeds, fixing equipment, planning for markets.  Once the ground thaws, you better be ready to drop the plow, or you are starting the season behind the curve.   In the first 2 years at the Groundswell Incubator Farm, we have found ourselves with plenty of anxiety about the overwhelming farm to-do list and have been in catch-up mode most of the time.  In year 1 (2013) the deer fence wasn’t even complete until late June, and year 2 I felt like I was fixing and re-fixing the irrigation for most of the Spring.  Consequently the planning horizon for the Incubator Farmers was delayed each season, but in spite of the early setbacks each of the Farmers did an amazing job at growing their enterprises.

But this year is different!

Finally, in year 3, I can say that we all have some experience under our belts and have created a much more robust program for the five farmers on the land this year.  We started meeting with the farmers earlier in the year, developed an organic management course, and hired a farm mentor to work 1-on-1 with the farmers.  Through the organic management course the new incubator instructor, Andy Fellenz of Fellenz Family Farm in Phelps, is teaching the farmers about the practices involved with growing quality organic crops in ways that are efficient for a small commercial farm.  The curriculum he has developed is based on a combination of class time and field education that will cover topics from crop planning to soil fertility to pests & diseases.  On top of Andy’s training, the incubator farm mentor, Dean Koyanagi, of Tree Gate Farm in Ithaca, will be demonstrating the management practices he has learned through 9 years of raising a variety of crop families for his CSA and retail farm stand.  Dean will be displaying these practices in a 1/8th acre demonstration plot at the incubator, and he will be giving each incubator farmer direct feedback through a weekly farm log.  During his time on-site each week, Dean will also be supporting the farmers by answering their questions and helping them solve production problems as they come up.

I think all of us, including the incubator farmers, are already seeing the impacts of this preparation and experience that we have collectively put in place.  Groundswell staff have been blessed to be supported in developing this program by a dedicated team of advisors, including Barb Neal of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tioga County, Brian Caldwell of Cornell’s School of Integrative Plant Science, and Owen Raymond of Farm Credit-East.  Additionally, the program would not be what it is today without the ongoing support of our farm mentor, Dean Koyanagi, who has been a mentor to the farmers since 2013.  Dean’s patience, humility, and keen interest in supporting these new producers has been invaluable to the process of enhancing the mentoring in the program.  And no doubt, we owe a huge debt of appreciation to the Farmers who started with us and had the patience to stick with it— Surik Mehrabyan of Hill Top Farm, Damon Brangman of Roots Rising Farm, and Ye Myint.

We would also like to express our appreciation for the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program that has allowed us to expand many of these elements of the Groundswell Incubator Program, as well as the Park Foundation which has provided ongoing support to Groundswell since the Incubator first launched.

Sunday, February 22

Introducing New Groundswell Staff



Becca Rimmel, Education Program Manager

Becca will be coordinating a number of Groundswell programs, including Finger Lakes CRAFT, Year-Round High Tunnels, Draft Animal Practicum, Finger Lakes Orchards Exchange, Cooperative Farming Network, and several other programs still being developed.
Becca brings to Groundswell a passion for sustainable food systems, awesome organizing skills, and years of experience with curriculum development, educational and mentoring program design, volunteer coordination, non-profit management, and group facilitation.  She has lots of experience working with farmers, having managed 3 different farmers markets, and serving last year as the Farm to School Americorps VISTA staff at New Roots Charter School. And to top it all off, she is also working towards a masters degree in Sustainable Food Systems through Green Mountain College's distance learning program.


Becca was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and spent time in quite a few different mid-western and New England states, before relocating to Ithaca. When she's not working, she enjoys hanging out with family, diggin╩╝ in the dirt, snapping photos, spinning yarn, and spending as much time birding and poking around in the woods as possible.

You can contact Becca at becca@groundswellcenter.org.


Rafael Aponte, Outreach Specialist


Rafael Aponte will be leading our outreach program, ensuring that Groundswell is connecting with the diverse audiences that we aspire to support. He will also be the lead curriculum designer for our Farming Opportunities workshops and Farming While Brown programs. A beginning farmer himself, Rafa's Rocky Acres Farm will serve as a host site for some of these programs.



Rafa was born and raised in the South Bronx and has over twelve years of experience working as a community activist, advocate, and educator.  In 2011 he completed the two-year Farm School NYC certificate program focused on urban agriculture and food justice. He then served as Assistant Farm Manager at Wassaic Community Farm in Wassaic, NY. He relocated to Ithaca, NY and completed Groundswell’s Farm Business Planning Course in 2012, and also joined Groundswell’s Steering Committee at that time.



In 2013 Aponte established Rocky Acres Community Farm in Dryden, NY, a community-minded farming venture that combines the spirit of activism with the transformative healing aspects of nature.

You can contact Rafa at rafael@groundswellcenter.org.

Sunday, November 16

Helping New Farmers Find Land: Finger Lakes LandLink

The Finger Lakes LandLink is a project of Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County and Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming.  It's purpose is to help connect land owners and land seekers in the Finger Lakes region. Our goals are to:
  • Help beginning farmers find suitable land to lease or buy
  • Help retiring farmers connect with the next generation of farmers and keep their land in farming
  • Help retiring and beginning farmers create a mutually beneficial plan for ownership transition

The LandLink database stores information about land available for lease, loan or sale for beginning and established farmers in the 14 counties comprising the Finger Lakes region.  It likewise has a listing of land seekers.  Both land owner and land seeker listings are searchable by pertinent agricultural criteria.

This service is free and confidential.  If the land owners or land seekers do not wish to have their contact information listed on the database, Cornell Cooperative Extension staff will serve as the intermediary between landowners and land seekers. 

Both landowners and land seekers can also request direct assistance from Cornell Cooperative Extension staff at any time. 

How it works:


First, both land owners and land seekers will need to create an account.  Once your account is approved by the website manager, your listing will be entered into the database and you will have access to the other database listings.


Second, once your listing is approved by the website manager it will appear in the database and will be active for one year.  After one year, you will receive and automated email with the option to renew or remove your listing.  You can update your listing at any time by logging into your account.     


Third, you can search either the land owner or land seeker listings to find an appropriate match.  Both land owners and land seekers have the option to either be contacted directly or to have all inquiries go though the website manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension.  


Fourth, once a connection has been made between a land owner and land seeker both parties can request assistance from Cornell Cooperative Extension or utilize the resources listed on this website to draft an equitable lease.

Incubator Farm accepting applications for 2015

Groundswell’s Incubator Farm opens its gates again to beginning producers!

ESL students visit the Groundswell Incubator Farm.

The Groundswell Center’s Farm Business Incubator Program is again accepting applications from beginning farmers who are ready to launch a new farm enterprise. After two successful growing seasons and three farmers in production at the Incubator Farm, we are encouraging eligible beginning farmers to apply to the 2015 Incubator Program. 

Producers who participate in the Incubator Program have access to land, irrigation, tools and equipment, as well as mentoring from Groundswell’s network of experienced farmers and business consultants. 

Participants can farm on 1/8 acre or 1/4 acre plots in their 1st year, and are able to apply for additional space, up to ½ acre, in their 2nd year. If you might be interested, we encourage you to contact us to discuss your farming goals and the policies of the Incubator Program.

In an effort to foster diversity and equity in the food system, Groundswell’s Incubator Program is focused on assisting beginning farmers of color, New Americans, veterans, and those with very limited financial resources in taking steps toward ownership. Tuition assistance and some language support services may be available if you fall into these categories. Please contact Groundswell Staff as early as possible to discuss your specific situation, and what support you would need to participate in the Program.

The Groundswell Incubator Farm is located at EcoVillage at Ithaca just 2 miles outside of the City of Ithaca. It is equipped with basic farm infrastructure including an 8-foot deer fence, drip irrigation, 72’ high tunnel, bathroom and storage shed, as well as cutting edge equipment including digital scales, BCS walk-behind tractor, and high-quality hand tools. Participants only pay modest fees to participate in the Farm Business Incubator Program, which allows them to establish their businesses with minimal capital investment and minimal risk.

For more information, please contact Groundswell’s Incubator Program Manager, Devon Van Noble, at devon@groundswellcenter.org.

Thursday, November 13

High Tunnels Year Round!


Groundswell, CCE and local Mentor Farmers are teaming up to offer a new season-long course on growing, managing and marketing high tunnel crops.

At Plowbreak Farm, diverse greens are planted in the high
tunnels in September right after the tomatoes are pulled up. They
will be marketed through the fall and winter.

High tunnels are becoming a must have tool for produce farmers looking to extend the season in spring and fall, and to protect crops from weather, pests and disease during the growing season.   If you are considering the purchase of a high tunnel or want to become more proficient at using tunnels you have, this series is for you.

Introduction to High Tunnels Workshop, February 9, 2015
An Introduction to High Tunnels Workshop will be held on MONDAY, February 9, from 1-4 PM at Good Life Farm in Interlaken. Judson Reid, Cooperative Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist and growers Melissa Madden of Good Life Farm and Evangeline Sarat of Sweet Land Farm will co-teach this session.  Come early at noon for soup and informal conversation with other growers. In addition, Patrick Barry from USDA NRCS will talk about funding for tunnels.  

The February overview session is a stand-alone, introductory-level workshop. To register for the overview class on Feb. 9, call Cooperative Extension, 607-272-2292 or email mr55@cornell.edu. There is a $5 charge for this class. 

Year-Round High Tunnels Course, March – November 2015 
For those looking for more in-depth technical training, a 27-hour Year-Round High Tunnels Course will be offered, patterned after Groundswell’s popular farmer-designed course in Holistic Organic Orchard Management. Sessions will be held on the second Sunday of each month, March through November. Each session will be held at a different farm, highlighting diverse production systems.  Host farmers and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators will address the full range of production and management issues including: soil fertility, pest and disease management, varieties, economics, marketing, and crop-specific practices for tomatoes, greens and fruit. 

To accommodate changes in daylight hours, our March and April classes will run from 1-4 PM; then from May through November, classes will run from 4-7 PM. The list of topics and host farms will be finalized in early December.

Class size is limited so please register early!
Full tuition for the Year-Round High Tunnels Course is $435. Tuition assistance is available for those with financial limitations. To register and to apply for tuition assistance contact info@groundswellcenter.org.

2015 Year-Round High Tunnels Course schedule:

  • March 8, 1-4 PM
  • April 12, 1-4 PM
  • May 10, 4-7 PM
  • June 14, 4-7 PM
  • July 12, 4-7 PM
  • Sept. 13, 4-7 PM
  • Oct. 11, 4-7 PM
  • Nov. 8, 4-7 PM

Helping farm businesses thrive!


Groundswell Center, CCE-Tompkins, and Alternatives Federal Credit Union team up to offer Farm Business Planning Course for beginning and established farmers



Ithaca, NY.  In collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and Alternatives Federal Credit Union’s Business CENTS Program, the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming will once again offer an intensive Farm Business Planning Course in the winter of 2015. 

This course is for the serious beginning farmer who needs a plan. It is also appropriate for established farmers who want to improve their business planning and management skills. Ten weekly sessions cover all major aspects of the farm business planning process, including assessing your resources; legal and regulatory issues; production planning; marketing; financial feasibility, budgets and record keeping; and more. 

Farm Business Planning is designed for those who:
  • Have at least one year of hands-on farming experience
  • Have a clear business concept and expect to get started within one year, or are in already in business;
  • Can fully commit to an intensive ten-week course with substantial outside research and homework.

The class will run for ten weeks, meeting every Thursday evening from 6-9 pm from January 15th through March 19th. Instructors are Monika Roth, Agriculture Program Leader and Matt LeRoux, Agriculture Marketing Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and Leslie Ackerman, Director of the Business CENTS Program of Alternatives Federal Credit Union, along with area farmers and business owners whose stories illustrate the benefits of business planning and financial management skills. Tuition for the course is $480.  Tuition assistance is available for those with limited financial resources.

Apply Online Now!


"This is a rigorous course for the serious farming entrepreneur,” says Joanna Green, Director of the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming. Recent graduates of the course have gone on to establish innovative businesses like Main Street Farms, Redbyrd Cider Orchard, Crooked Carrot CSK Farm, Second Wind Farm, and Hammerstone Orchard. And graduates of the course have been very successful in obtaining loans to start these businesses.

Groundswell is committed to supporting a new generation of farmers that reflects the diversity of culture, color, and class in our community. It is NOT a requirement that you own land or have the financial resources to own land. This course will examine opportunities to lease land for farming in the Tompkins County area, and to secure financing through ag and commercial lenders.
 
Groundswell Farm Business Planning Course
2015 Class Schedule and Topics

Week #
Date
Topics
1
Jan 15
6-9 pm
Orientation, Setting Your Goals
2
Jan 22
6-9 pm
Planning for Your Farm Enterprise
3
Jan 29
6-9 pm
Reality Check with Farmers
4
Feb 5
6-9 pm
Marketing Basics & Strategy Development
5
Feb 12
6-9 pm
Accounting Basics & Financial Feasibility
6
Feb 19
6-9 pm
Financial Statements & Sources of Funds
7
Feb 26
6-9 pm
Creating a Marketing Plan
8
Feb 5
6-9 pm
Farm Business Legalities and Logistics
9
Mar 12
6-9 pm
Final Projects
10
Mar 19
6-9 pm
Final Projects