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.


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...


New Americans, New Farmers: How immigrants and refugees are enriching the landscape

A New American farmer with Burlington, VT's
New Farms for New Americans

by Susannah Spero

Farms run by New Americans are thriving all over the United States. Fueled primarily by federal and state funding, New American agriculture programs offer immigrants and refugees opportunities to prosper from their agricultural skills while gaining valuable English language, marketing, and management experience.

New Americans often worked as farmers in their native countries and thus possess a great deal of agricultural knowledge; however, after arriving in the United States, New Americans may lack the capital necessary to purchase land or manage a farm business. Agricultural programming for New Americans extends the benefits of the local food and farming movement to these populations, merging public interest in the development of vibrant regional food economies with New Americans’ expertise and needs.


UN: Democracy and diversity can mend broken food systems

From the United Nations:
GENEVA (10 March 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, 
today called for the world’s food systems to be radically and democratically redesigned to ensure the human right to adequate food and freedom from hunger.

“The eradication of hunger and malnutrition is an achievable goal. However, it will not be enough to refine the logic of our food systems – it must instead be reversed,” Mr. De Schutter stressed during the presentation of his final report* to the UN Human Rights Council after a six-year term as Special Rapporteur.

The expert warned that the current food systems are efficient only from the point of view of maximizing agribusiness profits. “At the local, national and international levels, the policy environment must urgently accommodate alternative, democratically-mandated visions,” he said.

Objectives such as supplying diverse, culturally-acceptable foods to communities, supporting smallholders, sustaining soil and water resources, and raising food security within particularly vulnerable areas, must not be crowded out by the one-dimensional quest to produce more food.”

“The greatest deficit in the food economy is the democratic one. By harnessing people’s knowledge and building their needs and preferences into the design of ambitious food policies at every level, we would arrive at food systems that are built to endure,” Mr. De Schutter said.

Local food systems
“Food democracy must start from the bottom-up, at the level of villages, regions, cities, and municipalities,” the rights expert said.


Community College Farming Program Has Groundswell Roots

Todd McLane, now Organic Farm Director for TC3, is shown
teaching Groundswell's Summer Practicum students in 2010.

TC3's new Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program grew out of Groundswell's Summer Practicum

Groundswell is delighted to welcome TC3's new Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program onto the scene!

And we're especially pleased to announce that long-time Groundswell Mentor Farmer Todd McLane will serve as Director of the new TC3 Organic Farm.

TC3's new program had its origins in Groundswell's Summer Practicum in Sustainable Farming and Local Food Systems, which we offered from 2010 to 2012 in collaboration with the community college.

TC3 President Carl Haynes was impressed with the program and with the enthusiasm of our students. And he appreciated the fact that Groundswell was bringing new students to TC3 from as far away as North Carolina. So he and TC3 colleagues have been working hard since then to develop the new Farm-To-Bistro venture.

Program Information

The Sustainable Farming and Food Systems program emphasizes the practical skills it takes to manage a small, diverse farm, while providing students with a broad exposure to the social and ecological considerations of truly sustainable food production and distribution. Students in the program take courses in entrepreneurship, accounting, environmental studies, biology, and unique food systems seminars. 

They will apply this knowledge on a working farm located on TC3’s main campus and work closely with food retailers, restaurants, as well as the TC3 Eatery and the College’s planned Coltivare culinary center in downtown Ithaca as part of the College’s unique Farm to Bistro program.