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.

Monday, July 16

Prepping the Ground!: Starting Work on Groundswell's Incubator Farm

The Groundswell Incubator pond site.
by Devon Van Noble

We’re thrilled to announce that field work on the Incubator site at EcoVillage has begun!  On June 23rd, Groundswell volunteer Jeff Gilmore from EcoVillage started brush-hogging a 3-acre section of the 10 acres designated for the project. In the coming weeks, Melissa Madden of The Good Life Farm is going to do the heavy work of plowing and discing the field for the first time in… too many years.  She and Jeff are doing a tremendous service for Groundswell by taking care of all of this initial field work.  Melissa will also be helping us put a nice cover crop on the ground by fall, probably some hearty rye that we’ll plow under at the start of the 2013 season to warm the beds up for the first group of trainees!  Additional sections will be cleared this fall using larger equipment to make space for infrastructure, such as a hoophouse and sheds. 

After months of communication with consultants, neighbors, and regulators exploring different options for the Incubator site's water supply, the Incubator team has determined that simply expanding the current West Haven Farm pond (just north of the Incubator site) is the simplest and most sensible solution.  John, Jen, and Todd of West Haven Farm have generously agreed to share this water supply with Groundswell, but there will be secure metering systems installed to help manage this common resource carefully. Creating a water supply has been one of the most intensive parts of developing this farmland, especially because of other interests that need to be considered. Readers who plan to develop land in the future would be wise to start evaluating your water source early in your design process.

If you’ve been up to EcoVillage in the past several weeks, you’ll notice that we aren’t the only ones working the land this summer.  The groundwork for the third neighborhood at EcoVillage, TREE, is well on its way.  In fact, it turns out that Groundswell will be using some of the same excavating equipment from the TREE project for developing the area, including the Incubator's pond site.

To learn more about the Incubator design process, visit our website.

You can help build the Incubator!

Help us grow new opportunities for beginning farmers in our community!  By supporting the Farm Enterprise Incubator, you'll be helping landless aspiring farmers take the first steps towards launching a viable farm business. The year, Groundswell will be using a crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter, to launch a 2-month fundraising campaign to pay for many of the elements of the Incubator’s infrastructure. By participating in our Kickstarter campaign, you'll be able to specify which component of the site you wish to support, and you'll also receive food & farm gifts for making a donation (so keep an eye out, because there will be some good “farm and food” perks for your participation!).  We will be kicking off this FUN-raising campaign at Groundswell’s first annual Food & Farm Festival in October.  The Festival will be your chance to see the Incubator Farm firsthand and show your support.

Want to make an in-kind contribution? The Incubator site can use sheds, fencing, hoophouses, wood and insulation to build a Cool Bot Cooler, and lightly-worn farm tools among other items.  If you or someone you know has items they believe would be of use for the program or Groundswell trainees, please have them contact us at info@groundswellcenter.org, or call 607-277-0180.

Friday, July 13

The Quintessential Black Farmer: The Urban Garden

Kirtrina's urban garden.
by Kirtrina Baxter

Urban gardening is the new wave of healthy eating in the city, but is it so new? When talking and meeting folks the last few months, I have met many people of African descent who tell me of ancestral garden spots created out of small spaces of land available practically anywhere around their living areas. My feeling is that this practice was carried over, not just from slavery, but from Africa where our ancestors were known agriculturalists and land stewards. It only makes sense that when they were forced to work the white man’s land that they continued to find ways to grow their own crops, some of which they had introduced to the American fields (such as yams, okra, eggplant, and black eyed peas), to supplement the scraps that they received for meals. This practice was carried on for many years as people of African descent migrated into urban areas in search of opportunity.

I am reading a book written in 1933 by a man of African descent, Carter G. Woodson, called The Mis-Education of the Negro. He tells a story of significance to me when he says that most black people he knows had always known they could at least always scrape a living out of the soil. He talks about how folks knew they could feed their families, if not much else, if they had a little bit of land to work with. It seems we are centuries away from this sentiment in our society, though this was less than 100 years ago.

Despite the hundreds of years of cruel, forced labor upon the earth, there were thousands of years previous that link me to the land of my ancestors. Though most of the crops we grow would be unfamiliar to them, the responsibilities and tasks are the same and the care is immeasurable to the earth that sustains us. Early on this July 4th morning, as many Americans are still resting and dreaming about the day’s festivities to come, I think of my ancestors who were still enslaved at the brink of this “American independence.” And as I revel in my small 10x9 urban plot, which is larger I’m sure than most folks had back in the day, I look up and give thanks to all those who came before me and paved a way for me to love the earth as we should and care for her as she does us.