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, November 19

Just Harvest: Growing abundance in food deserts

by Zach Murray

Research has widely confirmed that millions of Americans live in communities that lack sufficient access to nutritious affordable foods. In many of these communities known as “food deserts” residents often travel well over a mile to access healthy foods most commonly available at grocery stores and supermarkets. Vulnerable low-income and minority households who have access to fewer supermarkets and vehicles than wealthier, predominantly white communities often populate food deserts. The USDA estimates that there are as many as 23.5 million residents of food deserts and 82.5% of this population resides in urban areas.

Physical distance to healthy foods adds pressure to vulnerable populations and is frequently linked to the preponderance of poor diet and in time to diabetes, obesity, and a number of diet related illnesses. The prevalence of small corner stores, convenience stores, and fast food, as well as the absence of supermarkets and other sources of fresh food, constitute a poor “food environment”. A poor food environment intensifies risk factors for obesity such as low-incomes, absence of reliable transportation, and lack of cooking knowledge. A number of medical professionals and scientists agree, a community’s food environment affects people’s eating habits, which are an essential contributor to obesity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General, 2001). When low-income households and people of color lack access to stores that feature nutritious, affordable, high quality foods, it is more difficult to make healthier diet decisions that could lead to improved health outcomes.

Therefore, distance to supermarkets and the availability of public transportation are important determinants of a community’s access to healthy food. It is no coincidence that many residents living within food desert communities are also SNAP (Food Stamps) recipients. While research reveals that SNAP recipients face barriers in accessing vital social services, SNAP recipients also experience difficulties redeeming their benefits in their own communities. SNAP recipients live on average, 1.8 miles from a nearby supermarket and redeem their benefits 4.9 miles away from their home. When healthy food is out of reach, families whose budgets are already stretched thin must find extra money to pay for higher local prices or to cover extra transportation costs. Commonly, SNAP users attempt to stretch their dollars by shopping at distant large grocery stores, supermarkets, and supercenters where they experience cost savings.

The New American Farmer

Groundswell receives award to train immigrant and refugee beginning farmers

We're excited to announce a new, one-year grant award of $73,443 from New York Department of State's New Americans Initiative! This initiative is funded by the Appalachian Regional Commission, with support from the Southern Tier East Regional Planning Development Program. The new funding will enable us to enhance our outreach, training and farm business incubation for immigrant and refugee beginning farmers.

Getting the word out
Are you a “New American” immigrant, with experience in farming in your home country? Or do you work with refugees or other immigrants in your community who might be interested in small-scale farming? If the answer is yes, Groundswell needs your help.  Beginning next spring, we will offer customized training in farm business management, production and marketing, as well as personalized mentoring from experienced farmers and business advisers. For those with limited English language skills, ESL support will be provided. Affordable access to land, water and equipment will also be available at the Groundswell Incubator Farm, at EcoVillage in Ithaca, New York.

Our focus in the next three months is on finding out who might be interested, and getting the word out to them. We’re looking for help from New Americans and from community-based groups who work with New Americans in Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Schuyler, Steuben, Tioga and Tompkins Counties. If you know of individuals or communities who may have an interest in farming, please contact us at 607-319-5095 or info@groundswellcenter.org. 

Changing the face of farming
“Like previous waves of new Americans, these newcomers are engines for economic growth in our state,” said Secretary of State Cesar Perales.”We are proud to be partnering with Groundswell and others to fund a program that helps newcomers skilled in agricultural production realize their entrepreneurial dreams, while strengthening the Southern Tier local agricultural economy. By working with this population to fill education gaps, locate capital, and identify property suitable for agriculture projects, new Americans will increase employment opportunities in the region, and preserve the region’s agricultural lands.”

“This project will significantly boost our ability to train and support New American beginning farmers,” says Devon Van Noble, Coordinator of Groundswell’s Incubator Farm. “We’ve had a number of immigrant trainees who have been able to participate fully in Groundswell’s existing programs, but those with significant language barriers or cultural barriers need more customized support.”

“Our goal is to foster a new generation of farmers that reflects the diversity of culture, color, and class in our region,” says Rachel Firak, Groundswell’s New Farmer Training Coordinator. “Support from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the NY Department of State and Southern Tier East will help us connect with immigrant communities in our area, find out who is interested in farming, and help them get started.”

Thursday, November 15

Thank you Groundswell Festival Vendors & Volunteers!

A painting of the Big Tent at our event.
Thanks to artist Khalil Bey!

Groundswell’s very first Local Foods & Farm Festival was a success-- and we couldn’t have done it without you!  Your participation made it a warm, informative and fun-filled event.

Our fabulous line-up of farmers, vendors and educators included West Haven Farm, Main Street Farm , Northland Sheep Dairy, Open Heart Farm, Wolf Tree Farm, Sapsquatch Maple, Edible Acres, Kestrel Perch Berry CSA, Dilmun Hill Student Farm, Kay’s Rare Cacti & Succulents, artist Khalil Bey, Crooked Carrot Community Supported Kitchen, Sol Kitchen, The Piggery, Cayuga Lake Creamery, Ithaca Youth Farm Project, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, Gardens 4 Humanity, Farmshed CNY, Good Life Cookbook, Tompkins County Solid Waste and Ithaca Community Radio. Thank you all for sharing your knowledge, your enthusiasm and your goodies!

Thank you SO MUCH to all our Volunteers:

Our Parking Crew Barb Neal, Matt Limbach and Nikki Sayward were awesome directing cars and keeping the road clear ‘til the very end!  You are much appreciated!

EcoVillagers,  Gregg Pitts and Jeff Gilmore provided us with a portable solar trailer for sound, and Art Godin set up the sound system and kept an eye on it all day. It worked great!

Xiao Luo, our student intern from the Sustainability Center, did a fabulous job with outreach and media before the event. Way to go Xiao!

Volunteer Coordinator, Sarah Kelsen, worked tirelessly, throughout the day, with a big smile, checking in volunteers and directing them to their task.  Thank you Sarah!

Hooray for our Groundswell Ambassadors Gil Gillespie, Monika Roth, Sam Bosco, Fred Schoeps, Jemila Sequeira, Peter Bardaglio, and Todd McLane who shared their enthusiasm at the Groundswell table, along with lots of information about our programs.

Thank you Sam Bosco for manning our entrance table engaging the public with a warm smile and information and helping throughout the festival—Sam you are a keeper!

Norma Gutierez, Liz Karabinakis, and Olivia Armstrong were awesome, helping with vendor registration and set-up, and making sure their needs were met during the event.

To the New Roots Teachers Todd Ayoung, Rebecca Cutter, Rebecca Graham; vista workers, Alex Graham and Leslie Santi, and most of all, all the New Roots Students who pulled together at the last minute to provide us with all those terrific, vibrant signs and soulful music Thank you!

And what about those incredible musicians?  Solo performer Luke Gustafson, Aiden Nielsen-Hodges and Jonathan Seaman, and the White Clay Thieves band, who all managed to entertain the crowd with a great music vibe for our festival - you all were GREAT!  Thank you again.

And how fabulous it was to have Binta Wold, Aiden Cotrell and Sarah helping us with odd jobs and with clean-up! Many, many thanks!

Finally, a big thank you to Groundswell’s Steering Committee members, who helped shape this event, and who have shown SO MUCH DEDICATION to the Groundswell mission:

•    Gil Gillespie
•    Todd McLane
•    Julia Lapp
•    Jemila Sequeira
•    Sam Bosco
•    Fred Schoeps
•    Monika Roth
•    Peter Bardaglio
•    Jeanne Leccese

Thank you again one and all!  We couldn’t have done it without you!  If we missed someone, we do apologize—be sure that your help contributed to the success of our event!

We are in this together, all of us, to create a community of members who have access to healthful and affordable agricultural products; engaging diverse learners to empower them with skills, knowledge and access to resources so they can build sustainable land-based livelihoods and equitable local food systems.

From your friends at Groundswell
Millie, Devon, Joanna, and Rachel