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.

Wednesday, December 15

Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Come Together: Lessons from Brooklyn for Tompkins County

By: Anthony Gallucci
Date: 12/10/2010
I was honored to attend the 2010 “Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference: Growing Health, Wealth, & Justice in Our Communities” in Brooklyn, NYC. The gathering of numerous Original People (Black, Latin@ and Indigenous) to discuss, educate and network around food security, farming rights, agricultural policy, the need for agricultural autonomy, and methods for achieving such a reality was inspirational and motivational. The conference began with Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee discussing the possibilities of using technological development for the purposes of healthy food market sustainability and closed with a personal peek into the concerns, remedies and aspirations of downtown Brooklyn community agriculturist, historians and urban farming operations. Since the closure of the conference I have been contemplating how the experience could translate to our local space here in Tompkins County.

The focus of the conference being Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners, I thought to focus on how we can credibly create opportunities for Black people to farm and garden in Tompkins County’s urban and rural areas. It has been my own conjecture that urban farming is a plausible way to increase health in the urban communities, traditionally composed of Black and Latin@ Americans. The Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference showed there are a plethora of individuals and organizations, locally and nationally, who agree.In reflecting on urban gardening and how to move forward on increasing Black farming in urban centers such as Brooklyn, I must remind people that however inspirational, a sixteenth or quarter of an acre on one city block in a housing project is not going to provide a sustainable way to feed the people in the area. This is especially the case when the (paid) organizers and directors of these operations rarely are empowered from within the communities being served. With limited financial backing, land and social investment there surely would not be enough yield to afford for the undercutting of mass-production farm products in the local food markets, nor for the sustainability of an independent “People’s” food market.

But the motivation, the markets, the distribution networks and the dedicated people already exist within urban centers. Therefore, adequate land space, "ownership," and autonomy of ecology* would secure a more independent and sustainable urban agriculture as a reality, and people could offer the access to year-round healthy foods that is required for individual behavioral change to beget cultural change in regards to healthy eating.

For this to happen there needs to be an initial exchange of land space, “ownership” and autonomy of ecology (voluntarily or involuntarily) from the private interest to the People whom inhabit the space. Secondly, there needs to be an increase in access, affordability and social comfort* offered, or taken, through land redistribution outside of the urban centers for people quarantined to the urban centers (traditionally Black and Latin@ Americans).

Working Toward Food Security in Ithaca: An Interview with Jemila Sequeira

Last week the Ithaca community held a Community Food Security Dialogue to discuss what a food system that works for everyone would look like, and how Ithaca can begin moving toward that goal. We caught up with Jemila Sequeira, Groundswell advisor and Community Food Security Dialogue organizer, to ask some questions about this important work. 

Jemila Sequeira
Groundswell: How did the Community Food Security Dialogue begin? What events led up to it?

Jemila Sequeira: In 2009, the Cornell Public Service center appointed myself and Bethany Schroeder as Civic Fellows. My fellowship focused on recognizing my work with Gardens 4 Humanity; Bethany's for her work with the Ithaca Health Alliance and the Ithaca Free Clinic. This gave rise to two civic dialogues in 2009 on health and food security. My fellowship ended in the spring of 2010, but I felt I had a moral obligation to continue this work. After the civic dialogues, many people- landowners, farmers, food preservers, and others- were looking for a way to bring cohesiveness and a sense of purpose around the creation of a healthy food system for our community. The Community Food Security Dialogue was a way to keep the conversation going.

I was also concerned about including people who, historically, haven't been part of the discussion. Conversations around food in our community are often fragmented and top-heavy, with disproportionate input at the academic and institutional level, while those usually most profoundly affected by these issues of food and well-being are not at the table. I didn't want to close out the year without a chance for those people who were not being represented to have a voice. I also had been inspired by my recent trip with other Ithacans involved in the food movement to the Community Food Security Conference in New Orleans earlier this year. The dialogue here was a way to begin to examine how the ten square miles around Ithaca fit into the global movement around building a healthy food system.

GS: Who has been working with you on this project?

JS: Logistically, to hold this dialogue, I worked with Joanna Green, Kirtrina Baxter, Elan Shapiro, Sarah Reistetter, Cornell students Meredith Palmer, Zackery Murray, and Ben Pinon, and several community representatives. But people have been working on and thinking about this project begun long before I came. It always has been, and will always be, a project of the whole community. This work is cross-generational, and spans the entire socioeconomic, political, institutional, and community spectrum, and so many people have been involved. In particular I want to recognize Tony Petito of the new Neighborhood Pride grocery store, and his role as part of a group of elders that are still active and committed to their community, with their hearts centered in the neighborhood.

Monday, December 13

After the Summer Practicum: A guest entry from Krista Fieselmann

Krista was one of 14 students who participated in Groundswell's first college class, the Summer Practicum in Sustainable Farming and Local Food Systems. She caught up with Groundswell this past week to share a bit about where she is now- and relay some important reading material. Thanks Krista!

An update on me: After this week, my 1st semester of graduate studies in foods and nutrition will be completed! The program is really focused on practical application of the science of health and physiology and how it shapes policy, and life! So this was an exciting time for me, as the new dietary requirements from the government came out.  I spent a lot of time reading the papers that went into the decisions and discussing the their strengths and weaknesses.

The summer practicum really showed me that food choice and nutrition has a wide range of impacts, and the research that goes into discovering what those are is really developing, and freaking awesome! I wanted to share the findings of a recent speaker in the department with you. Dr. Kevin Hall was the speaker, and he came up with a model for how people eat that reflects body weight (it is very complicated but that is the gist). Compared to the normal body weight for Americans, he was able to see that most food available in America is not consumed and an estimated 3-4/8ths of all food produced is wasted! The USDA doesn't have a good tracking system for food waste, but EPA data on food energy in landfills supports his numbers. This obviously has huge environmental impacts, and really shows how food in America has become more of an industry, and less about feeding people! 

Heres a link to his paper (check out figure 1):
- Krista