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, May 24

Update: Groundswell's Farm Enterprise Incubator

Urban agriculture leader Karen Washington visited
our incubator site in late April.
by Devon Van Noble

Ahhh -- Finally the onset of lasting warm weather.  It's not only a critical time of year for established farmers, it’s also an important season for assessing new farmland.  At the site of Groundswell's Farm Enterprise Incubator, we've been busy measuring and mapping, reading the biological communities, taking soil samples, analyzing hydrology and digging test holes for ponds.  We have been fortunate to have the guidance of some great resource people in this process. 

David Werier, a botanical consultant and an instructor in Groundswell’s Sustainable Farming Certificate Program this year, gave us a sense of how to think about the various types of vegetation and micro-ecosystems as we plan the site to interact with them.  We’ve found that the very different stages of succession across the site will offer opportunities to diversify the type of enterprises that are incubated, to preserve habitat for wildlife and beneficial insects, and create transitional spaces that we bring into production slowly. 
Recently we have made a lot of progress in identifying potential water sources at the site, and found that digging a new farm pond is a strong possibility.  With the help of Phil Snyder, a consultant who has worked on several pond projects at EcoVillage, we have accurately identified the major flows through the site.  We've mapped out several locations that would be able to catch a sufficient amount of water to supply the Incubator enterprises.  After getting a bit smarter about the levels of regulation that can be involved, I was beginning to get concerned that some of the potential sites might not work, but thankfully we have been getting a positive response from the Town of Ithaca Planning Department, the New York State DEC, and the Army Corp of Engineers.  We will be returning to them with more detailed design plans soon, and I will post a new Incubator Update on our website with any news about the Incubator farm pond.

The Quintessential Black Farmer: Marathon Master St Farm

by Kirtrina Baxter

Eddie Branch makes the Marathon Farm POP!
Moving to Philadelphia has been an enriching experience thus far. Over the past 2 months, I have had the opportunity to volunteer at the community garden three blocks from my house named the Marathon Master St Farm. The land parcel is very large and supports about twenty 70-ft raised beds for market produce and 15 smaller beds for residents. There are also bees and an amazing mural going up sponsored by Philadelphia, renowned Mural Arts Program. The farm hosts a children’s play area and a covered porch that they plan to turn into an outdoor community kitchen for cooking classes.

This farm, unlike a lot of other community farms, is sponsored by Marathon Grill, a successful local restaurant chain here in Philadelphia. The owners are very interested in locally sourcing food. The benefits of this sponsorship I am still learning about. However from my time volunteering and talking with Garden Manager Eddie Branch, I can see that the resources he has available to him are much more than I’ve experienced with other community garden projects.

Eddie Branch is really who this article is about because he makes the farm POP! Eddie lives on 27th St right next to the farm. He has been a resident there for 47 years. The farm is pretty new, this is only their second season but produce is growing abundantly. Eddie began volunteering last year when the project began. He is a handy man who has been doing construction and home repairs for years in the neighborhood. He says he’s always been good with his hands. But not only is he good with his hands he has an excellent memory that puts mine to shame and is a fast learner. He quickly picked up on everything that was happening at the farm in the first year.

At first, Eddie pitched in where he could and paid close attention to all that was going on. “Of course,” he says, “whatever’s going on in my neighborhood, I wanna know about it.” He was there daily and the previous farm manager gave him plenty of support and trusted him with large responsibilities seeing his enthusiasm and ability. Last summer Eddie suggested they offer the city-sponsored free children’s lunch program at the site. The program was so successful; the garden got a lot of publicity around it and the community really began to see what good things could come from this project. When I asked him about the idea for the program he mentioned that a neighbor moved in with 13 children and there were already lots of children in the neighborhood that would come over and play at the farm, so he felt it would serve the community well if they could offer the resident children this service, since they had the space.