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, March 18

Trainee Spotlight: Allan Gandelman and Main Street Farms

by Amy Cheatle
March, 2013

Allan Gandelman and farming partner Bob Cat greet visitors to their Homer, NY farm wearing huge grins. Their project, Main Street Farms, located between Syracuse and Ithaca, is a small but successful study in greenhouse aquaponics. Made possible in part by the programs of the Groundswell Center, it’s recent success is making these gentlemen smile.

Inside the largest greenhouse on the one-acre property, life is flourishing. Hot rays of sun stream in and support stacked rows of green, red and purple edibles. Underneath the two tiers of plants, 9,000 tilapia fish peacefully live in tanks, their waste feeding the roots of the floating plants above. The operation runs year-round, providing wholesale and private customers with fish and greens weekly, even during the cold winter months. Lately, Gandelman says they can barely keep up the orders for their greens, and demand is only growing.

The inspiration for farming came gradually to Gandelman, who earned degrees in geography, anthropology and secondary education before teaching middle and high school social studies in upstate New York. A desire to grow food and to feed others called Gandelman from the classroom to the land, but not before he spent months traveling the globe and living in India. 

In 2010, after returning to the states, Allan completed the Groundswell New Farmer Training Program and the Sustainable Farming Certificate Program. He then founded Main Street Farms and began raising aquaponic greens. After a year of successfully growing and selling his organic produce, he incorporated aquaculture into his process and began farming antibiotic and hormone free tilapia. Bob joined the farm after completing the Sustainable Farming Certificate with The Groundswell Center as well.

Allan and Bob Cat credit Groundswell for guiding them towards a successful enterprise. Says Gandelman, “...with Groundswell, you’re getting the best farmers in the area to open up their farms, their business plans, their marketing strategies, growing practices and maybe most importantly, their lifestyles”. The business classes he took through Groundswell allowed them to bring “...spreadsheets filled with numbers” into funding meetings and for use in competitive grant applications. The program provided them entry into a rich network of food producers, and allowed them to become beacons for other individuals interested in sustainable aquaponics. Gandelman notes that visitors come to learn from their farm from all over the country, and that a good deal of his work week is spent educating others who are interested in the practice.

This year Main Street Farms was awarded an S.A.R.E Grant to research farming Black Soldier Fly larvae for use as fish food. The fly larvae would be raised on cafeteria waste from the local middle school adjacent to the farm property, allowing the school to reduce it’s total garbage footprint while providing the farm with much-needed compostables. If successful, the project would enable Allan to come closer to achieving a sustainable, closed loop system of aquaculture.  As part of the grant dictates sharing findings with other area farmers,  Gandelman again looks to the Groundswell network as a tool to connect with the region’s network of food producers.

The future of Main Street Farms will incorporate new growth. Allan and Bob will be building a new high-tunnel this spring on the property to raise tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Gandelman has recently acquired an empty two acre lot in the city of Cortland which will be turned into a traditional urban farm which will utilize the latest is season extension practices.   And if he comes across a problem during his period of expansion, he can look to Groundswell for guidance, support, information, connections and encouragement.

To learn more about Main Street Farms visit their website atwww.mainstreetfarms.com or join them on Facebook and stay up-to-date on farm happenings.

We're now on Ithaca Community Radio!

Thanks to Groundswell Steering Committee Member Sharon Clarke, you can now tune into the Groundswell Local Food & Farming Radio Show on Ithaca Community Radio every third Friday of the month from 7 - 8 AM. The show is part of The Morning Show's Sustainability & Environment segment which will run from 7AM-8AM every Friday.

Our first show was March 15, and featured guest speaker Elizabeth Henderson of the Agricultural Justice Project, along with Todd McLane, Farm Manager at Westhaven Farm and Joanna Green, Director of Groundswell. We talked about Groundswell's history and mission and announced the 2013 Sustainable Farming Certificate Program beginning in May.

Ithaca Community Radio is now WRFI, 88.1, Radio for the People by the People, covering Ithaca and Watkins Glen.

Their new name reflects the fact that they are serving communities beyond Ithaca. They cover much of Tompkins and Schuyler Counties.

Again, Groundswell will be featured the third Friday of each month.  So, please tune in for the latest in Local Food and Farming.

Friday, March 15

The New American Farmer Education Project

Do you work with Immigrants, Refugees and/or First Generation Americans? Do they have an interest in farming? The New American Farmer Education Project can help refugees and other immigrants to get started in small-scale farming in the Southern Tier. We provide:

·         Farming Workshops taught by experienced local farmers
·         Support in Obtaining Land
·         Farm and Business Mentors
·         ESL & Translation Support

The New American Farmer Education Project is a collaborative effort of the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming and the Center for Agriculture Development and Entrepreneurshsip (CADE),along with the NYS Department of State’s Office for New Americans (ONA.) ONA was established recently in order to encourage New Americans to participate in New York’s civic and economic life, and to help legal permanent residents navigate the path to citizenship.

We need your help connecting with individuals or groups of new Americans in your area who might be interested in farming. We will be hosting an Information Session for service providers Friday April 12, 
2-4 PM in Ithaca, to share information about the opportunities and challenges for new Americans who want to get started in farming, and to explain the programs and services that we offer. Please RSVP by email to newamericans@groundswellcenter.org or call the Groundswell office at 607-319-5095.

Thursday, March 14

Fence-Raising Parties at the Groundswell Incubator Farm!

Learn skills, make friends, have fun and support new farmers in our community!

Have you ever wanted to learn how to install a deer fence at your farm or homestead?  Better yet, would you like to get some hands-on fence-building experience with the guidance of an experienced farmer? Then join us!

Sunday March 24th, 10 AM - 4 PM

Fence-Raising Workshop & Work Party


Friday March 29, 11 AM - 3 PM   (NOTE THE NEW DATE!)

Fence-Raising Work Party
Groundswell invites you to be part of the fence-raising action at the Groundswell  Incubator Farm.  We'll start on Sunday at 10 am with a one-hour workshop on the basics of designing and installing deer fencing.  Then we will all put our heads & hands together to create a lasting and beautiful fence, which will protect the new farm enterprises that will be launching in 2013 and beyond.

The workshop is free for those who can put in 3 hours or more of fence-building help, $30 for those who can't. Let us know if you plan to come by sending an email to info@groundswellcenter.org. Or just show up!

First, we will set about 50 black locust posts into their pre-dug holes.  Then we will roll out the woven wire along the fence line, and use everyone’s energy to hold it up to the posts while it gets stapled on and tightened. Altogether we'll be building about 1700 feet of 8 foot tall woven-wire fencing that will protect 4 acres of the Incubator Farm from deer and other critters who feast on farmers’ crops.

On Friday March 29th, we will finish building the fence with a group of high school students on a service trip from the MATCH charter schools in the Boston area.  These students have shown a high-level of dedication to their education, but rarely get a chance to spend time working outside or to experience new types of careers and lifestyles.  If you would like to work alongside these student-volunteers, we encourage you to come work with us on Monday, March 25th from 11 am to 3 pm.

We look forward to raising this fence with your help... Many hands make light work!