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, November 23

Video: Malik Yakini: Undoing Racism in the Food System

Malik Kenyatta Yakini was invited to Ithaca, NY to share his experiences in Detroit's urban agriculture development with our growing food justice movement. This community conversation took place in Cornell University's Anabel Taylor Hall café after a weekend of food justice events in Ithaca. Yakini is a founder and the Interim Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which operates a four acre farm in Detroit and spearheaded efforts to establish the Detroit Food Policy Council, which he chairs. He is an activist and educator dedicated to working to identify and alleviate the impact of racism and white privilege in the food system. He views the "good food revolution" as part of the larger movement for freedom, justice and equality. He currently serves as a Food and Community Fellow of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

Event cosponsored by: Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming, New World Agriculture and Ecology Group at Cornell, Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell Department of Development Sociology, Dorothy Cotton Institute, Gardens 4 Humanity, Whole Community Project, Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program, Moosewood Restaurant

Tuesday, November 22

Modern Day Slavery in Agriculture: Another Good Reason to Buy Local

Florida farm workers tell their stories as part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' anti-slavery media campaign.
By Milagros Gustafson Hernandez

In 1993, in Immokalee, Florida a group of Latino, Mayan, and Haitian workers began meeting regularly to discuss changes in their community.
They organized and named themselves the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (“CIW”). Fighting for fairer wages, and succeeding, they moved on to help the federal government in the fight against involuntary servitude through worker-led investigations. In the last 10 years they have helped in the prosecution of 7 cases in Florida alone (with two pending) --exposing the horrendous farm-worker abuses. Here are some examples:

  • U.S. vs. Flores -- In 1997, Miguel Flores and Sebastian Gomez were sentenced to 15 years each in federal prison on slavery, extortion, and firearms charges, amongst others. Flores and Gomez had a workforce of over 400 men and women in Florida and South Carolina, harvesting vegetables and citrus.

  • U.S. vs. Cuello -- In 1999, Abel Cuello was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison on slavery charges. He had held more than 30 tomato pickers in two trailers in the isolated swampland west of Immokalee, keeping them under constant watch. Three workers escaped the camp, only to have their boss track them down a few weeks later. The employer ran one of them down with his car, stating that he owned them. The workers sought help from the CIW and the police, and the CIW worked with the DOJ on the ensuing investigation. Cuello worked for Manley Farms North Inc., a major Bonita Springs tomato supplier. Once out of prison, Cuello supplied labor to Ag-Mart Farms, a tomato company operating in Florida and North Carolina.

Student Profile: Ellie Limpert (Summer Practicum 2010)

Ellie at West Haven Farm.

Groundswell volunteer Audrey Gyr caught up with former Groundswell student Ellie Limpert this past week to capture her reflections on her participation in Groundswell's Summer Practicum in Sustainable Farming & Local Food Systems.

Groundswell: What is your background?

Ellie Limpert: I am a senior at Cornell University majoring in Biology and Society with a focus on Human and Environmental Health, and Agricultural Development. Before the Summer Practicum I was a nutritional science major. My minimal agricultural experience was as a horticulture apprentice at a greenhouse for 2 summers, and a bit of volunteering at Dilmun Hill the student Organic Farm. 2010- I was unsure how to spend my summer, I got an email from a sustainability club about the practicum and I was intrigued…looked into it, one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

GS: Where are you and what are you doing now?

EL: I am currently studying abroad in Granada Spain—in an Environmental Studies program. I am taking classes on Sustainability in the Mediterranean, Environmental Politics of the European Union, and Ecosystems of the Andalucia. In addition (most exciting!) I have found work on a local small organic farm! Never would I have even dreamt of seeking this out on my own, but since working at West Haven I have been longing to be on a farm again—there honestly isn’t another way I’d rather spend my free time—and it’s one of my most cherished experiences here!

Friday, October 21

Student Profile: Lynne and Justin of Finger Lakes CRAFT

Lynne and Justin plowing with horses at Northland.

Interview by Audrey Gyr, Groundswell volunteer

Lynne Haynor and Justin Schaude were both members of the Finger Lakes CRAFT program this year while they interned on Northland Sheep Dairy. While they were there, they started a vegetable market garden and sold at the Homer Farmers Market.

They first met while studying at UW Madison. Lynne was studying agroecology and Justin was working at the student garden while studying Rural Sociology. Lynne grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and first discovered agriculture at the age of 24 when she worked at a periurban gardening program for youth. The program focused on education and work readiness in marginalized communities and Lynne spent 3 growing seasons there producing organic vegetables.

Justin grew up in the suburbs of Minnesota and California. He dropped out of college and traveled extensively while working odd jobs, including in an orphanage in India. He first became attracted to agriculture while working at a men’s shelter in Minneapolis. During that time he read a book that posited farming as a strategy to get people off the street. Justin decided to go back to school for social work but he became more and more interested in farming.  He has been farming for the past 5 years. Lynne and Justin both did another apprenticeship on a CSA farm in Wisconsin after graduating from college. They have also worked on farms in Mexico. They strongly suggest any beginning farmers to have an apprenticeship because it can really help you plan what you want to do. They also stress the importance of having a mentor and that a beginner can accomplish a lot by just working on a project.

Slow Money on the Move in Central New York

Slow Money advcate and Groundswell advisor Krys Cail reflects on her participation in the Third Annual Slow Money Gathering. Krys also recently wrote an article in TCLocal, Relocalizing Investment in Our Local Food System, which delves deeply into this topic.

The Groundswell Center has been participating over the past year in the development of a Slow Money Central New York group. This growing planning group sent me, as the convener of the group, to the Third Annual Slow Money National Gathering in San Francisco last week. Three packed days long, this gathering was the largest meeting yet of people inspired by Woody Tasch’s ideal, set out in his book Slow Money, that local investment in farm and food enterprises at a relatively modest rate of interest—no higher than a natural rate of return based on sustainable agricultural methods—could transform both farming and investing.

Any reader who is interested in more detail about the Slow Money movement should see (and, if you agree, sign!) the Slow Money Principles. They are available on the Slow Money website.

The Slow Money Alliance local and regional groups across the country sent representatives, and it was very interesting to learn about how different groups were organizing their work and beginning to move funds to local farm and food businesses. The models in use in Boulder, Colorado and Madison, Wisconsin seemed particularly interesting and good for local emulation to me, resembling as they did the Ithaca area in the make-up of investors, members, and farm and food businesses. Also of note is ACEnet, an Ohio regional economic development organization that predates the Slow Money Movement, but has adopted the Slow Money Principles and is developing related programming.

Friday, September 16

Volunteer Spotlight: Fred Schoeps

Since being a part of its creation in 2009, Fred Schoeps has volunteered for Groundswell in many capacities and we are grateful for the significant commitment he continues to make!

By Devon Van Noble

This month’s Volunteer Spotlight is on a very special Groundswell contributor, Fred Schoeps. Fred was instrumental in the planning and creation of the Groundswell Center in 2008-9 and he has continued to provide support through advising, envisioning, and putting his shoulder to the wheel on numerous projects.

Fred’s contributions have included helping to manage the early phases of our website development, scoping out database options for tracking our many contacts in the community, reviewing budgets and grant proposals, and harnessing his tremendous passion for Groundswell to reach out to organizational supporters and community members. He is a model of inspired and inspiring volunteer commitment, making himself available to address almost any of Groundswell’s organizational needs as they come up. He was also our first Advisor to step forward with a generous donation for the Groundswell Farm Enterprise Incubator.

“Fred brings a wealth of business and organizational expertise to the Groundswell team,” says Groundswell Director Joanna Green. “He is absolutely passionate about what he calls 'knowledge management systems' and he loves to think creatively about how to improve communications, organize information, and support people to achieve great things.” Fred’s professional background includes many years with IBM in its systems engineering, management consulting and marketing departments. He was a member of the launch team for IBM’s original foray into the PC business and later, as IBM’s Director of Learning and Knowledge Management, was instrumental in the Re-Engineering IBM project. After retiring from IBM he moved with his wife Margot to Ithaca in 2008. Shortly thereafter he joined the Board of Directors for EVI, Inc. that advises EcoVillage at Ithaca Center for Sustainability Education.

Student Profile: Marcia Harrington

This month, Groundswell is proud to spotlight Marcia Harrington, a trainee from Groundswell's New Farmer Training Program!

A lifetime New Yorker from Syracuse, Marcia grew up spending time in the garden and has happy early memories of her grandfather’s small urban farm. Her interest in agriculture continued in her teen years, when she enjoyed visiting family member’s farms. 6 years ago, after years of backyard gardening, she began seriously looking for a property where she could create a farm of her own. Two years ago, she bought a beautiful piece of land in the town of Skaneateles, and found herself living her dream of getting back to the land. Although Marcia did have an understanding of agriculture that she gleaned at an early age, she felt she needed to get some training to refresh her knowledge and says the New Farmer Training Program has given her the confidence to begin some of her dream projects. 

Although she spent brief periods of her life in other places across the Northeast, Marcia has maintained a very close connection to the Central New York area. As a young adult, Marcia got a Fine Arts Education between Carnegie-Mellon and Syracuse Univeristy. She had a studio at Eureka Studios in Armory Square where she founded a figure-drawing group called the “Walton St. Irregulars” that provided local atists with an opportunity to work with live models. In the 1980’s she became a cartographer at SU, where her work focused on thematic mapping of post-colonial Latin America. Marcia has also been a committed community organizer, active in the Interreligious Council’s Community Dialogue to End Racism, Syracuse’s Tomorrow’s Neighborhoods Today community councils, working in community gardens, and on the Board of the Syracuse Neighborhoods Initiative, addressing neighborhood vitality and safety. For the past 12 years, she worked for United Way of Central New York as the Marketing Vice President.

Marcia’s 8-acre homestead has been the same contiguous parcel since the house was first built in 1830, and has been a family homestead farm ever since. The previous owners had bought it just after the Great Depression and raised a family there. When the patriarch passed away, the home sat empty for about 5 years before Marcia moved in. Because it had not been updated in some time, Marcia hired a contractor to renovate the home. But when he went bankrupt in the middle of the project, Marcia realized that she was going to have to learn much more than just how to farm. She soon found that home renovtions can be a time and money pit, but the the work itself was something she could learn to do and she steadily took on each new challenge. Working on the home renovations gave her time to observed the land’s life through the year before she planted or modified the landscape, but this spring she could wait no longer! She prepared a 50’ x 50’ garden (see above; Marcia’s garden in June 2011) and has already grown a wide variety of herbs, flowers, and vegetables (see below; September 2011). You can see the joy in Marcia’s face when she describes the beautiful land and its Wassaic silt loam soil!

Ithaca’s Growing Food Justice Movement

By Kirtrina Baxter

The food justice movement in Ithaca and surrounding areas is spreading fast. What exactly is a food justice movement, you ask? Well, according to Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi, authors of the book Food Justice,

Food advocates may work on several different issue areas, but share the common goal of challenging the injustices that exist throughout the dominant industrial and increasingly globalized food system. By striving to alleviate these injustices in the entire food system, the Food Justice movement is linked to and supports allied movements such as those related to the environment, land use, health, immigration, worker rights, economic and community development, cultural integrity, and social justice.”

For decades, there has been a robust local foods movement in our area, promoting healthier ways to eat while educating people on sustaining our community. However, because the planning of this was not inclusive, ultimately the benefits of this movement have not been shared by all. The food justice movement strives to correct this fact by engaging communities of color and those of limited means so that they too have access to affordable, healthy food choices. Not only that, but the food justice movement serves to include diverse voices in the planning of a local food system that benefits all populations of our community and address issues of disparities and inequities. But as the definition above alludes to, the food justice movement seeks to provide a holistic approach to addressing the inadequacies of our current food system.

The fight against our current food system is also about community health. The rates of diabetes and high blood pressure disproportionately affect people in communities of color and next, people in lower income ranges. Information about the connections between our health and our eating habits are being addressed somewhat by health agencies, however, giving community members the resources to access culturally relevant food solutions is still a large problem. 

Thursday, August 18

EVI turns 20!

EcoVillage was the benefactor that made the creation of Groundswell possible just three years ago. Now EVI is celebrating their 20th anniversary, and you're invited!

EcoVillage at Ithaca Celebrates its 20th Anniversary
Saturday, September 17, 2011, 1- 4pm, Free & Open to the public
EcoVillage at Ithaca, 100 Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca, NY (off Route 79 West, 2 miles west of Route 13.)

Come Celebrate! EcoVillage at Ithaca is 20 Years and Growing. Twenty years ago, EcoVillage at Ithaca held a kick-off event, a five day “Envisioning Retreat” attended by 100 people. The purpose of the retreat was to inspire people to create an ecological village, one that could serve as an educational model of sustainable living. Now, twenty years later, award-winning EVI is one of the most well-known ecovillages in the world, and the largest in the U.S.

While there is much to celebrate about the accomplishments of the last twenty years, EVI is looking ahead to the future, with the expansion of a new 40 unit neighborhood, a new 50 KW solar array to power the first neighborhood, and new educational programs, such as Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming www.groundswellcenter.org and a Climate Showcase Communities collaboration with Tompkins County Planning Department.
Free Tours of:
  • EcoVillage Cohousing Communities
  • New 50 KW solar array for 30 homes
  • Green Buildings
  • Organic Farms
Family Friendly Fun:
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Local musicians
  • U-Pick Raspberries
  • Solar Popcorn & Snacks
  • EcoVillage Crafts Sale
For further information contact: Fred Schoeps, kmtalk@earthlink.net, 914-500-7872 or Arlene Muzyka, amuzyka@panix.com, 908-537-9933

Groundswell Goes to Kentucky, Finds Friends in the Local & Just Foods Movement

Wendell Berry greets the crowd at the SAEA conference.
By Sam Bosco, Groundswell CRAFT Coordinator

It may be strange to see Groundswell, Lexington, Kentucky (over 650 miles away), and the word “local” in the same sentence. But indeed, two weeks ago, Groundswell and over a hundred people from across the country (and some from as far as Norway) descended upon the University of Kentucky’s (UK) campus from August 4th through the 5th to engage in a national conversation about education in local, sustainable agriculture – for students of higher education, youth, and adult learners, especially those in traditionally underserved communities. 

The Sustainable Agriculture Education Association (SAEA) provides the only forum for discussing education within sustainable agriculture on a national level. I represented Groundswell at the Association’s 4th conference,  presenting about Groundswell’s mission to provide diverse learners the access to knowledge and resources, through our educational programs, in order to facilitate the growth of a sustainable and equitable food system. 

In a series dedicated to new farmer training programs, I gave Groundswell’s presentation alongside the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, Michigan State Univserity’s Organic Farmer Training Program, and the Farm Life Ecology Summer Intensive at Green Mountain College (Poultney, VT). The overall notion was that there is no one right way to grow a farmer and the diversity of approaches shared by the presenters is a testament to this. We all felt that each others’ offerings provided learning experiences and resource access in unique ways suited to our local context.

Sunday, August 7

Plowing Over: Can Urban Farming Save Detroit and Other Declining Cities? Will the Law Allow It?

This article from the American Bar Association Journal addresses the legal intricacies of urban farming in Chicago and other cities- how organizations are acquiring land, what zoning challenges they face, and how some city governments are bending their own rules to make way for the new green industry.
The article also links to three urban farming resources (in PDF) that are available for public view:
Growing Food in the City: The Production Potential of Detroit’s Vacant Land
Re-Imagining a More Sustainable Cleveland
Vacant Land Management in Philadelphia
It’s a warm day in April, and Skip Wiener is showing off the crown jewel of gardens that the Urban Tree Connection has created out of 29 vacant lots in the poverty-ridden Haddington neighborhood on Philadelphia’s west side.

The site, tucked away in the center of a block of 60 homes, once was used by a construction firm for storage. When Wiener, the founder and director of the UTC, was first alerted about the property by a local block captain, it was overgrown, riddled with industrial waste, and a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes.

It was just what the UTC was looking for. The nonprofit organization supports renewal efforts in low-income communities by turning abandoned open spaces into various types of gardens, including some devoted to growing fruits and vegetables.

The site is now called the Neighborhood Food Central Production Farm. Any remaining debris has been pushed to the side; wood chips have been sprinkled over the driveway; and, in the center, neat rows of vegetables are growing, marked by cheerful hand-painted signs announcing such crops as potatoes, bok choy, collards and cabbages.

The “farm” is special, partly because of its comparatively large size—two-thirds of an acre—but also because it’s the only property over which the UTC enjoys actual legal possession. On the others, says Wiener, the organization’s founder and executive director, “we’re basically squatting.”

The UTC’s farm typifies a growing but still uncertain movement to bring agriculture back to America’s cities.


Friday, August 5

Food Justice Certification Gains Momentum: Certifiers and Farm Worker Representatives Complete Training and Qualifying Exam

The Agricultural Justice Project proudly announces the awarding of certificates to representatives of four organic certification agencies and five farm worker organizations who successfully completed a 3-day training on the requirements for the Food Justice Certified label.  Twenty one people took part in the training May 3 – 5, 2011, in Eugene, Oregon, which included formal presentations on AJP standards and policies, and three practice inspections on area farms and a business. Management Committee member Sally Lee explained, “A Memo of Understanding with AJP will allow the certification agencies to offer our domestic fair trade certification to farms and food businesses across North America. A unique feature of the AJP system requires the trained certification inspectors to cooperate with representatives of farm worker organizations in performing the third party verification.”
The long-term goal of the AJP is to transform the existing unjust food system. AJP envisions a food system that is based on thriving, ecological family-scale farms that provide well-being for farmers, dignified work for wage laborers, and that distributes its benefits fairly throughout the food chain from seed to table. As a first small step towards this ambitious goal, AJP is launching domestic fair trade in the United States with a social justice label, Food Justice Certified. This new label allows family-scale farms to distinguish their products from industrialized organic products. The standards for this label are based on the complementary principles of fair pricing for the farmer and just working conditions for farm and food business workers resulting in a win/win/win/win scenario in which workers, farmers, buyers, and ultimately consumers all benefit.
For more information, contact Sally Lee at agjusticeproject@gmail.com or visit the website – www.agriculturaljusticeproject.org.

Monday, August 1

Via Campesina: Shashe Declaration

Via Campesina, the International Peasant Movement, just released the Shashe Declaration, a culmination of a recent meeting of agroecology trainers from around the globe. The document discusses threats to food security and affirms the goals and commitments of Via Campesina as they work to support sustainable farming by farmers with small holdings. To learn more, visit http://www.viacampesina.org.

1st Encounter of Agroecology Trainers in
Africa Region 1 of La Via Campesina

12-20 June 2011

Shashe Declaration

We are 47 people from 22 organizations in 18 countries (Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Angola, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa, Central African Republic, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Portugal, USA, France, and Germany).  We are farmers and staff representing member organizations of La Via Campesina, along with allies from other farmer organizations and networks, NGOs, academics, researchers, interpreters and others.  

We have been meeting at the Shashe Endogenous Development Training Centre in Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe to plan how to promote agroecology in our Region (Southern, Eastern & Central Africa). Here we have been privileged to witness firsthand the successful combination of agrarian reform with organic farming and agroecology carried out by local small holder farming families.  In what were once large cattle ranches owned by three large farmers who owned 800 head of cattle and produced no grain or anything else, there are now more than 365 small holder peasant farming families with more than 3,400 head of cattle, who also produce a yearly average of 1 to 2 tonnes of grain per family plus vegetables and other products, in many cases using agroecological methods and local peasant seeds.  This experience strengthens our commitment to and belief in agroecology and agrarian reform as fundamental pillars in the construction of Food Sovereignty.

Wednesday, July 20

Student Profile: Allan Gandelman

Allan Gandelman is a student in Groundwell's New Farmer Training Program.

Interview by Devon Van Noble
Allan Gandelman in the greenhouse
at Main Street Farms.

Allan has had a lifelong passion for farming. "For the past 10 years I had my own gardens, fruit trees, and raised goats in New Paltz," he says. When he moved to the area and began working as a middle/high school social studies teacher at Cortland Alternatives School, Allan found himself deeply interested in school food. "Being aware of school food issues in the Cortland County School District inspired me to be able to provide healthy food for kids year round, food that didn't depend on international sources."

Now Allan is an urban farmer and entrepreneur in the rural town of Homer, NY. His enterprise, Main Street Farms, sells organic produce and vegetable transplants.  He hopes to tackle the issue of healthy school food by distributing his locally grown produce to area schools through his nonprofit, Schoolyard Gardens.

Student Profile: Joseph Amsili

Joseph Amsili is a student in Groundswell's Summer Practicum in Sustainable Farming & Local Food Systems.

by Drew Walsh, Summer Practicum Teaching Assistant
Joseph carries transplants destined
for the field at the Ithaca Youth Farm.

Joseph entered the world of local food in 11th grade at the Lehman Alternative Central School (LACS) as part of the Green Thumb Committee, spending his summers in the fields at the LACS garden and West Haven Farm.  During 11th and 12th grades, he was involved in in growing food for the school cafeteria in the LACS garden and hydroponically.  He recalls preparing lots of pesto, salsa, and other produce for the school, musing that even though slicing lots of peppers doesn't seem like much on the surface, he was also forging connections between students and their food as well as gaining a better understanding the environmental consequences of agriculture, which he finds to be extremely important and meaningful work.

After high school, Joseph spent some time abroad in Barcelona, tending gardens in a housing co-op and working with Transition Barcelona and Wiser Earth, an environmental activist networking site, in between his many hours of skateboarding.  Upon returning to the Ithaca area, he interned at Stick and Stone Farm, and resumed his volunteer work with the LACS garden and Localvores club.  Joseph attended American University for about a year, finding himself again working in student gardens and even began an internship at Will Allen's Growing Power, before that was cut short by a broken collarbone.  

Wednesday, June 29

Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty

Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty

  1. Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.
  2. Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.
  3. Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.
  4. Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.
  5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.
  6. Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.
  7. Democratic control. Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decision-making on food and rural issues.

Friday, June 24

Dynamic Equilibrium as a Farm Goal

Elizabeth Henderson, farmer of Peacework Organic Farm, ag justice champion and regional organic/CSA pioneer, wrote this piece back in 2002 for Growing for Market. We wanted to share it with beginning farmers who are seeking balance in their lives on the farm.

Running a Resilient Farm Business
by Elizabeth Henderson

   For several years, I followed the engaging saga of the Arnosky’s farm in this magazine (Growing for Market).  They added more flowers, more acres, more greenhouses, more employees.  Then they added vegetables.  And then they announced that they had no more time to write for Growing for Market, an activity they had seemed to enjoy.  While creative and adventurous in their farming techniques, the Arnosky’s turned out to be orthodox true believers in their business strategy.  The sign over the door of US business reads:  “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying.”  The ag. establishment bullies farms with the demand: “get bigger or get out.”  Are these good mantras for sustainable farm businesses?  Wouldn’t “resilience,” and ”dynamic equilibrium” be healthier goals to guide us in developing our farms?   

     Achieving dynamic equilibrium or dynamic stability means finding a way to run your farm so that it does not run you into the ground.  Designing your farm for maximum resilience means that you can withstand the shocks of bad weather, business cycles, and the fragility of human existence.  Most of us who are doing market farming chose this path because growing vegetables or flowers or tending livestock is something we love to do.  We get satisfaction from living close to the earth, working outdoors, planting and seeing things grow, nurturing living creatures, using our bodies as well as our minds.  We can imagine small-scale farming as a wonderful style of life for ourselves and future generations.  The trick is to design our farms so that we do not destroy our love.  That means we have to find the right scale of activities, the number of acres we can handle, the optimum amount of equipment, the fairest markets, and the financial goals that will make our farming socially as well as environmentally sustainable.

Jerry Dell Farms in Dryden, NY now licensed to sell raw milk

From ODairy:

BIG news for raw milk and the consumer!!

The LARGEST ORGANIC DAIRY in the Northeast US is now licensed by the NY State Dept. of Agriculture and Markets to provide consumers directly with uncooked, unfooled-around-with, natural, organic RAW MILK. Jerry Dell Farms in Dryden, NY (Ithaca area) now has a NYS Raw Milk Permit according to NYS Ag & Markets Division of Milk Control and Dairy Services. Though large by local, organic standards, it is still a small farm compared to the large conventional industrial milk "factories". They produce about 30,000lbs or about 3,500 gallons of organic, pastured, quality milk per day, so COME AND GET IT NEW YORK!

Jerry Dell Farm is a family farm owned by operated Vaughn Sherman & family. We congratulate him on his commitment to quality organic dairy and on his courage to stand up to Organic Valley. Mr. Sherman is not only an Organic Valley member farm, but is also chairman of the OV Dairy Executive Committee (DEC) so this should be a very interesting situation as it unfolds. I'm sure most of you are well aware of the prohibition that Organic Valley has placed on its member farms regarding the sale of Raw Milk. As I said before, Jerry Dell is the largest organic dairy in the Northeast, more than doubling the production of the next largest farm, so I find it hard to believe that they will "kick them to the curb". They may regret it if they do as this farm is big enough to have its own bottling plant. NY Raw milk permits only allow on farm sales, but a small plant could provide the low-temp pasteurized, non-homogenized milk that has seen real growth in popularity. This opt! ion also offers the producer an alternative to the big monopolistic dairy coops and processors. Or better yet, we could all pick up the phone and tell your NY Senators and Assemblymen & Assemblywomen to LEGALIZE OFF FARM SALES OF RAW MILK! All our best to Vaughn Sherman & Family!

Wednesday, June 22

Washington Post features local McDonald Farm

The original article can be found here.
Ole McDonald Makes a Comeback in NY's Finger Lakes and Hangs Out a "Clean Food" Shingle 
By Associated Press 
The Washington Post          
June 22, 2011
Ole McDonald 
Peter McDonald assigns his 9-year-old twin boys the tricky task of erecting a mesh fence in one part of the family farm, then tramps across lushly carpeted fields for a daily evaluation of his grass-chomping cows and sheep.

But first, there's ... Hello! A hundred head-bobbing turkeys interrupt their foraging for bugs and clover-leaf morsels to hurtle across the pasture to greet him.

Behind this wholesome agrarian drama with its “Old McDonald” echoes from long ago is a determined effort to crystallize the definition of grass-based livestock farming. A father of nine with a picaresque past and a famous brother in Hollywood, this 57-year-old McDonald allows his assortment of amiable animals to loiter outdoors all day over a dense mix of grasses untainted by chemical fertilizers.

Saturday, June 18

Broccoli and carrots and tomatoes, oh my!: The Youth Grow Summit

by Emily Belle, Selene Chew and Amanda Wagner

Farming is cool
We learned that in school!

Tons of youth love it
So we’re having a summit!

We demand local
We will be vocal!

We don’t mind getting dirty
We’re all under thirty!

Don’t panic
It’s organic!


Economically just
It’s a must!

Food for all
All for food!

Broccoli and carrots and tomatoes, oh my!
The Youth Grow Summit

This summer, high school students from across New York State will come together in our quest for food justice and environmental stability. The Youth Grow Summit, a new initiative sponsored by the Cornell Garden-Based Learning Program, will be held from June 28-30, and will provide a forum for youth to discuss issues related to agricultural and food systems. Workshops will cover a breadth of topics, from leadership training and community organizing to the fundamentals of sustainable agriculture. Summit participants will have the opportunity to get into the fields in various farms and gardens around Ithaca, where they can experience the reality of local, community-oriented food systems and learn some new hands-on farming techniques.

As students at the Lehman Alternative Community School, we have had the chance to integrate the ideas of the local food movement into our lives, both inside and outside of the classroom. This spring, a group from our Ecology class joined a regional delegation and thousands of other youth at the Power Shift conference in Washington, DC. There, we took to the streets and lobbied our representatives on Capitol Hill, demonstrating our commitment to providing a sustainable future for people of all backgrounds and experiences. Now, we are excited to apply the energy and inspiration that came out of Power Shift to one of the most important factors in our vision for a better, healthier world: reshaping the food systems that support us and represent our most basic interaction with the earth. Over the last year, we have been able to work within our school and in collaboration with initiatives around Ithaca that share our goals. We look forward to expanding our network and learning from other knowledgeable, dedicated individuals at the Youth Grow Summit.

Come join us! Learn more and register to participate at http://blogs.cornell.edu/youthgrow/about/

Peace out, be happy, eat kale

~Emily, Selene, and Amanda

Wednesday, May 18

The Congo Square Market: an interview with Jhakeem Haltom

The Congo Square Market at the Southside Community Center will reopen for its third season this Friday afternoon. A collaboration between Southside Community Center, Ithaca Youth Bureau's Paul Scheurs Memorial Program, and the Whole Community Project at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, the market's mission is threefold: "one, to build a stronger and more self-reliant local community; two, to develop Southside's economic base; and three, to encourage community and personal health." Groundswell interviewed Jhakeem Haltom, the market's founder and manager, to talk about how the market came to be and what he's looking forward to this year.

Groundswell: How did the Congo Square market get started and what inspired you and others to create it?

Jhakeem Haltom: The name Congo Square Market is derived from the physical space located in New Orleans called Congo Square. Throughout the American institution of Slavery, Congo Square was a space in which slaves, Whites, and Native Americans could share culture without the oppressive interruption of systematic bondage. This was a place of tremendous joy and jubilation, as plans for future freedom and community development were discussed, stories of the lost past were told, and the community shared music, dance, and food. The idea is to bring this concept to Ithaca, where we can honor African-American history and create a place of convening to better develop community health within the African American population, and eventually for the community at large. All will be welcome at the market, but what people will experience is the strength within the Southside and Northside communities, rather than weaknesses that are often overemphasized.

GS: What did you use as a model or a guide?

JH: In talking to various community leaders, it has become abundantly clear that many residents in the urban downtown community are interested in exploring a healthy diet as well as building a strong community for themselves and their children to live in. Although Ithaca has a farmers market, local organic farms, and multiple grocery stores highlighting organic and natural foods, there are durable barriers hindering many people in our community from accessing those goods. The lack of affordability is time and time again revealed as the primary reason behind not buying these foods or even entering these stores. There are very real cultural barriers as well. Through Congo Square Market, we hope to make this space available by providing affordable healthy food as well a cultural bend toward this community. The cultural element will include the types of foods and goods available, music, the personal element and people working in the market. This safe space will provide a more comfortable arena for members of this community to approach the idea of community unity and healthy eating. 

Friday, April 22

Groundswell Events Calendar

The Groundswell Events Calendar showcases upcoming farming and gardening events in the Finger Lakes area with some select additions from beyond our community. Click here to view in full-screen mode. Email info@groundswellcenter.org to add an event to the list.

Sunday, April 17

A New Farmer's Story

Antonio and Rebeca are starting their farm on a small scale this season.
We'd like to share the story of one of our trainees in the New Farmer Training Program. Anthony Ceravalo is a first generation American who is starting to farm this year with his fiancée on land he owns near Cazenovia, NY.
"I am an immigrant. My father was a farmer who had olive and citrus groves. My family has a long history of growing their own foods as well as canning and preserving. I worked in manufacturing in the upstate New York for 20 years. I lived through many plant closings. In 2009 I lost my job of 15 years when my former company went bankrupt. There are no jobs in upstate New York, so I knew I had to try something different.

"When I exhausted my unemployment benefits, I moved back to Spain with my fiancée Rebeca (we are dual citizens), leaving my young adult children at my home in upstate New York. However, there is a severe economic crisis everywhere. I missed my home and my relatives in New York. The quality of life here is superior. I started to plan to go home and start my own business. Rebeca inspired me to become a vegan in 2008. My health improved dramatically. She inspired me to think about where my food comes from, how it is produced, etc. We gardened extensively, but now I want to start a farming business to provide jobs for both of us (she is also unemployed) and my children (two of which are unemployed or underemployed) and my fiancée's relatives (also unemployed)."

"I want to focus on locally grown vegetables and fruits and prefer not to use pesticides. I think I can be successful because I own 30 acres of land in upstate New York, I have gardened all my life, and I worked as a maintenance manager so I can fix any machine and build anything. Farming is the future of America and it is the one thing that cannot be offshore."

We look forward to working with Antonio, Rebeca, and all of our other trainees as they embark on the exciting and challenging pathway toward creating successful farming enterprises.

Groundswell welcomes 2011 New Farmer Training Program participants!

Trainees will be instructed by experienced farmer mentors like Maryrose Livingston and Donn Hewes of Northland Sheep Dairy, who'll be teaching about livestock husbandry and farming with draft animals (shown here demonstrating working with draft horses)
It’s hard to believe that after two years of planning, we are about to launch our New Farmer Training Program this Wednesday, April 20. And how gratifying to be able to report that we had 37 applicants to the program, and have confirmed 23 trainees! We are thrilled with the enthusiastic response we've received, and are ready to begin the first year of the program with a bang.

So we'd like to say a HUGE WELCOME! to this amazing and inspiring group of trainees. Some of you are probably reading this newsletter for the first time.

Let me tell you a little about yourselves. First, you're all from New York State, which isn’t surprising since we designed the program for people who live in this region and who already have housing, jobs, or farms. Fifteen of you are from Tompkins County, six from Onondaga County (Syracuse area), one each from Cortland and Madison Counties, and one coming all the way from Brooklyn! We had applicants from as far away as California, Detroit and Arizona, but as you might expect, these folks decided it was not feasible to relocate to Ithaca for the program.

An important part of Groundswell's mission is to engage a diverse group of trainees to ensure that historically marginalized people have access to our programs. We haven't collected demographic information from everyone yet, but so far our efforts have been successful insofar as our group includes 5 African-Americans, 2 Latinos, 2 immigrants and 15 women. At least 30% of the applicants identify as people of color. Thanks to our grant from USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, we were also able to provide scholarship support to twelve people who identified as being of "limited resources."

Every one of you has a unique background that you bring to the program, and unique goals and dreams. We are really looking forward to meeting all of you next Wednesday evening and beginning our journey together!

Supporting Farmers as Mentors: Groundswell's March Mentor Training Workshop

It's an often-cited statistic: 40% of all farmers in America are over the age of 55. More people- especially young people- are going to need to step up to the plate when that 40% leaves the workforce. As Maryrose Livingston, one of Groundswell's most involved farmers, says, with emphasis on each word: "I. Want. More. Farmers! Thousands of 'em! Ten thousands of 'em!"

How do we raise new farmers? Traditionally, farmers came from farming backgrounds and took over the family enterprise when they came of age. Now that only 1-2% of Americans farm, that education path has narrowed considerably. Land grant universities take up some of the slack, but many students leave school without planning to become producers. For the aspiring small farmer, perhaps the most common site of learning is on another person's farm as an employee, intern, volunteer, or maybe just a visitor.

Now, maybe more than ever, farmers are being looked to as mentors by the next generation. However, most farmers don't have a teaching background. Groundswell's mission to grow a more ecological, sustainable and fair food system starts with supporting these farmers in their roles as educators.

On March 16, sixteen area farmers came together for a potluck supper and informal workshop on becoming a better educator and mentor. Hosted by the farmers of the Finger Lakes CRAFT, the Groundswell Center, and NOFA-NY, the workshop was aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of farm-based training in our region, and ultimately, improving the skills of the farming workforce and the success of new farm businesses. The workshop was facilitated by Dean Konayagi and Sharon Tragaskis from Tree Gate Farm, beginning farmers who also have strong backgrounds in communication and experiential education. The group included farmers with years of experience training and mentoring interns, and some who are taking on their first interns this season.

Monday, March 14

Report from the Field: The Nuts and Bolts of Getting Started in Farming

What kinds of pathways can an aspiring farmer take to get up and running? And what new tools can be found in a Northeast-based beginning farmer's toolkit? This past January, Melissa Madden of The Good Life Farm teamed up with other farmers and resource providers to present "The Nuts and Bolts of Getting Started in Farming” at the NOFA-NY Winter Conference. Here, she reflects on the presentation and shares some tips for those just starting out.

By Melissa Madden with input from Erica Frenay and Maryrose Livingston

As a beginning farmer, I am typically hungry for resources to help my planning and skill development. Before I reached my current stage in the process of Farming as a Career, I was able to bounce around through apprenticeships, manager positions and an incubator farm opportunity. These resources were essential to my personal development as both a farmer and a citizen, and when working with “aspiring” beginning farmers, I often emphasize this path. What is clear to me now is that over the past 5-10 years, resources to support the beginning farmer population have blossomed into a well-rounded set of tools designed for multiple learning styles. While both my partner and I took a very hands-on approach that landed us at our new farm (The Good Life Farm, Interlaken, NY), we barely tapped the current plethora of resources which range from non-profits, like our dear Groundswell’s programs and affiliates (Ithaca Crop Mob, Finger Lakes CRAFT), to increased offerings in sustainable agriculture at universities and colleges (see the Beginning Farmer Project, for one), to more focused apprenticeships and management positions offered through farming associations (see NOFA-NY’s new apprentice matching tool and the BioDynamic Association for examples).

From my perspective as both a farmer and Cornell’s former staff member assigned to the Dilmun Hill Student Farm, public and private resources are providing new farmers-- young and old--with everything from land acquisition advice to accounting to farm safety training and essential technical skills. Trying to encapsulate the variety of things a new farmer needs to know in any one session or resource can be daunting, and that is exactly what a group of Groundswell and Cornell- affiliated farmers and educators did this past January at NOFA-NY’s 2011 Winter Conference in Saratoga Springs, NY. Led by Erica Frenay, Cornell Small Farms Program’s Beginning Farmer Project Coordinator, we guided workshop participants through a day-long session focused on de-mystifying the farm start-up process. The “Nuts and Bolts of Getting Started in Farming” topic was in its second year at the 2011 conference, and presenters Erica Frenay and Jamie Edelstein (Wylie Fox Farm, Cato, NY) brought in extra muscle (literally) with Donn Hewes and Maryrose Livingston (Northland Sheep Dairy, Marathon, NY) and the beginning farmer perspective via my partner Garrett Miller and me. Our focus sweepingly included advising participants about goal setting, getting access to good land, start-up financing and business planning, assessing resources and skills, and marketing and profitability. The way it turned out, we might have addressed many more topics than those specifically, but these were the framework for our day.

Wednesday, February 16

Policies and Polycultures: Reflections on Race, Class and Ethnicity at the NOFA Winter Conference

by Rachel Firak

In January, I was lucky enough to attend the annual Winter Conference of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY). This year's theme was a nod to that all-around health- and equity-promoting principle: “Diggin' Diversity.” Fittingly, presenters took this theme in several different directions, speaking on the necessity of diversification of crops and animals, schools of farming, and, most importantly, people.

This was my second time attending the conference, but looking around, it was clear that this was some folks' 15th, 20th, even 30th+ year of involvement with NOFA. Over the decades, NOFA has managed to serve as a common ground for both organic pioneers and young activists. It's no small feat; often, sustainable agriculture programs are led by Generation Y, for Generation Y. Refreshingly, nearly every workshop at a NOFA conference begins or ends with a word of acknowledgment to the numerous older farmers present who blazed the trail, and a blessing to the young farmers just setting out on their journey.

NOFA has certainly succeeded in building a multigenerational organization that fosters communication and mutual respect among age groups. Now, NOFA is beginning to address the ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic monoculture that has dominated its membership for quite some time.

Sunday, February 13

Ithaca Community Harvest: Get Involved in Food Access & Equity

A letter from Ithaca Community Harvest's Lara Kaltman on how you can support ICH's work in the coming year:

Dear BJM, GIAC and SSCC Families & Friends,

I'd like to first thank you for supporting Ithaca Community Harvest during the holiday season, whether it’s been through making a donation at the Ithaca Alternative Gift Fair, stepping in to help with the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program at BJM when the college students went home for winter break, or simply inspiring us with your stories about our children learning to love and appreciate local fruits and vegetables.

Here's another opportunity to express your interest in introducing more local produce into our schools and healthier school meals. This link connects you to an online survey on ICSD school district budget priorities, in which we are asked to identify other essential needs we'd like the Superintendent to consider as he develops the 2011-2012 budget.

Monday, January 31

Groundswell's Events Calendar

The Groundswell Events Calendar showcases upcoming farming and gardening events in the Finger Lakes area. Click here to view in full-screen mode. Email info@groundswellcenter.org to add an event to the list.

Farm Business Workshops Offered through Cornell Cooperative Extension

Whether you are an established farmer or just starting out, this is a good time of year to take stock and think about what could be done to increase sales and become more profitable. Cornell Cooperative Extension South Central NY Agriculture Program is offering three winter workshops on Sharpening Farm Business Skills focused on marketing and business analysis.

The workshops are offered in 3 locations on Saturday mornings. The first workshop on Feb. 5 in Montour Falls at the Schuyler County Extension office will focus on branding and promoting your business with an emphasis on building your identity and spending your marketing dollars wisely. A second marketing workshop on Feb. 19 at the Tioga County Extension office focuses on evaluating market channels you are using and on new marketing opportunities with a focus on how to establish successful marketing relationships. And the final workshop, on March 5, at the Cooperative Extension office in Tompkins County, will focus on record keeping and financial tools for business analysis.

All workshops run from 9:30-Noon at the various county extension office locations. Pre-registration is requested.

For Feb. 5 - call 535-7161; For Feb. 19 - call 687-4020; for March 5 call 272-2292. For more information as to which workshop is best for you, call Monika Roth at 607-272-2292.

Sunday, January 9

The Food Safety Modernization Act becomes law

On Tuesday, January 4th, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), ending a long and contentious debate about the government's role in the food system. In general, the FSMA is designed to limit the spread of foodborne illness through increased regulation. Among other things, the bill allows the Secretary of Health & Human Services and the Food & Drug Administration to more frequently inspect food processing facilities, recall tainted food, and impose stricter regulations on imported food. While most applauded the move as much-needed consumer protection, many were concerned that new regulations could put family farms and other small producers at a great disadvantage.

Thanks to the efforts of many grassroots political action groups, the FSMA we have today is far more sensitive to the needs of small- and mid-scale farms and food producers. Instead of imposing one-size-fits-all regulations, paperwork, and costs, the Tester-Hagan and other amendments ensure that our local food producers receive fair and evenhanded treatment. The result is an FSMA that most sustainable agriculture organizations are hailing as a "victory" for the local food movement and consumers in general.

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture coalition, six amendments in particular sponsored by NSAC and remain intact in the final version of the FSMA were critical in making the FSMA a better, more effective Act for small farmers:
  • An amendment, sponsored by Senator Sanders (I-VT), giving FDA the authority to either exempt farms engaged in low or no risk processing or co-mingling activities from new regulatory requirements or to modify particular regulatory requirements for such farming operations.

Friday, January 7

What do we mean by a "sustainable" food system?

Food activists often say they work for a "sustainable," "healthy," "fair," and "diverse" food system. These words sound good enough. But what exactly do they mean? Clarifying our terms is an critical facet of making a coherent statement and a measurable impact on our communities. As organizations and individuals, we would do well to sit down with our colleagues and elucidate our mission statements to ensure that we are all on the same page when it comes to envisioning a better future.

Last summer, four major public health entities- The American Dietetic Association, American Nurses Association, American Planning Association, and American Public Health Association- did exactly that. They worked together to develop seven principles of a healthy, sustainable food system that they could use as a "shared platform for systems-wide food policy change." Groundswell joins them in affirming these vitally important tenets of a food system that works for everyone. Thanks to Groundswell advisor Gil Gillespie for sharing this important message.

Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System

We support socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable food systems that promote health — the current and future health of individuals, communities, and the natural environment.
A healthy, sustainable food system is:

  • Supports the physical and mental health of all farmers, workers, and eaters
  • Accounts for the public health impacts across the entire lifecycle of how food is produced, processed, packaged, labeled, distributed, marketed, consumed, and disposed
  • Conserves, protects, and regenerates natural resources, landscapes, and biodiversity
  • Meets our current food and nutrition needs without compromising the ability of the system to meet the needs of future generations