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.

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.