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.

Sunday, November 16

Helping New Farmers Find Land: Finger Lakes LandLink

The Finger Lakes LandLink is a project of Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County and Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming.  It's purpose is to help connect land owners and land seekers in the Finger Lakes region. Our goals are to:
  • Help beginning farmers find suitable land to lease or buy
  • Help retiring farmers connect with the next generation of farmers and keep their land in farming
  • Help retiring and beginning farmers create a mutually beneficial plan for ownership transition

The LandLink database stores information about land available for lease, loan or sale for beginning and established farmers in the 14 counties comprising the Finger Lakes region.  It likewise has a listing of land seekers.  Both land owner and land seeker listings are searchable by pertinent agricultural criteria.

This service is free and confidential.  If the land owners or land seekers do not wish to have their contact information listed on the database, Cornell Cooperative Extension staff will serve as the intermediary between landowners and land seekers. 

Both landowners and land seekers can also request direct assistance from Cornell Cooperative Extension staff at any time. 

How it works:

First, both land owners and land seekers will need to create an account.  Once your account is approved by the website manager, your listing will be entered into the database and you will have access to the other database listings.

Second, once your listing is approved by the website manager it will appear in the database and will be active for one year.  After one year, you will receive and automated email with the option to renew or remove your listing.  You can update your listing at any time by logging into your account.     

Third, you can search either the land owner or land seeker listings to find an appropriate match.  Both land owners and land seekers have the option to either be contacted directly or to have all inquiries go though the website manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension.  

Fourth, once a connection has been made between a land owner and land seeker both parties can request assistance from Cornell Cooperative Extension or utilize the resources listed on this website to draft an equitable lease.

Incubator Farm accepting applications for 2015

Groundswell’s Incubator Farm opens its gates again to beginning producers!

ESL students visit the Groundswell Incubator Farm.

The Groundswell Center’s Farm Business Incubator Program is again accepting applications from beginning farmers who are ready to launch a new farm enterprise. After two successful growing seasons and three farmers in production at the Incubator Farm, we are encouraging eligible beginning farmers to apply to the 2015 Incubator Program. 

Producers who participate in the Incubator Program have access to land, irrigation, tools and equipment, as well as mentoring from Groundswell’s network of experienced farmers and business consultants. 

Participants can farm on 1/8 acre or 1/4 acre plots in their 1st year, and are able to apply for additional space, up to ½ acre, in their 2nd year. If you might be interested, we encourage you to contact us to discuss your farming goals and the policies of the Incubator Program.

In an effort to foster diversity and equity in the food system, Groundswell’s Incubator Program is focused on assisting beginning farmers of color, New Americans, veterans, and those with very limited financial resources in taking steps toward ownership. Tuition assistance and some language support services may be available if you fall into these categories. Please contact Groundswell Staff as early as possible to discuss your specific situation, and what support you would need to participate in the Program.

The Groundswell Incubator Farm is located at EcoVillage at Ithaca just 2 miles outside of the City of Ithaca. It is equipped with basic farm infrastructure including an 8-foot deer fence, drip irrigation, 72’ high tunnel, bathroom and storage shed, as well as cutting edge equipment including digital scales, BCS walk-behind tractor, and high-quality hand tools. Participants only pay modest fees to participate in the Farm Business Incubator Program, which allows them to establish their businesses with minimal capital investment and minimal risk.

For more information, please contact Groundswell’s Incubator Program Manager, Devon Van Noble, at devon@groundswellcenter.org.

Thursday, November 13

High Tunnels Year Round!

Groundswell, CCE and local Mentor Farmers are teaming up to offer a new season-long course on growing, managing and marketing high tunnel crops.

At Plowbreak Farm, diverse greens are planted in the high
tunnels in September right after the tomatoes are pulled up. They
will be marketed through the fall and winter.

High tunnels are becoming a must have tool for produce farmers looking to extend the season in spring and fall, and to protect crops from weather, pests and disease during the growing season.   If you are considering the purchase of a high tunnel or want to become more proficient at using tunnels you have, this series is for you.

Introduction to High Tunnels Workshop, February 9, 2015
An Introduction to High Tunnels Workshop will be held on MONDAY, February 9, from 1-4 PM at Good Life Farm in Interlaken. Judson Reid, Cooperative Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist and growers Melissa Madden of Good Life Farm and Evangeline Sarat of Sweet Land Farm will co-teach this session.  Come early at noon for soup and informal conversation with other growers. In addition, Patrick Barry from USDA NRCS will talk about funding for tunnels.  

The February overview session is a stand-alone, introductory-level workshop. To register for the overview class on Feb. 9, call Cooperative Extension, 607-272-2292 or email mr55@cornell.edu. There is a $5 charge for this class. 

Year-Round High Tunnels Course, March – November 2015 
For those looking for more in-depth technical training, a 27-hour Year-Round High Tunnels Course will be offered, patterned after Groundswell’s popular farmer-designed course in Holistic Organic Orchard Management. Sessions will be held on the second Sunday of each month, March through November. Each session will be held at a different farm, highlighting diverse production systems.  Host farmers and Cornell Cooperative Extension educators will address the full range of production and management issues including: soil fertility, pest and disease management, varieties, economics, marketing, and crop-specific practices for tomatoes, greens and fruit. 

To accommodate changes in daylight hours, our March and April classes will run from 1-4 PM; then from May through November, classes will run from 4-7 PM. The list of topics and host farms will be finalized in early December.

Class size is limited so please register early!
Full tuition for the Year-Round High Tunnels Course is $435. Tuition assistance is available for those with financial limitations. To register and to apply for tuition assistance contact info@groundswellcenter.org.

2015 Year-Round High Tunnels Course schedule:

  • March 8, 1-4 PM
  • April 12, 1-4 PM
  • May 10, 4-7 PM
  • June 14, 4-7 PM
  • July 12, 4-7 PM
  • Sept. 13, 4-7 PM
  • Oct. 11, 4-7 PM
  • Nov. 8, 4-7 PM

Helping farm businesses thrive!

Groundswell Center, CCE-Tompkins, and Alternatives Federal Credit Union team up to offer Farm Business Planning Course for beginning and established farmers

Ithaca, NY.  In collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County and Alternatives Federal Credit Union’s Business CENTS Program, the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming will once again offer an intensive Farm Business Planning Course in the winter of 2015. 

This course is for the serious beginning farmer who needs a plan. It is also appropriate for established farmers who want to improve their business planning and management skills. Ten weekly sessions cover all major aspects of the farm business planning process, including assessing your resources; legal and regulatory issues; production planning; marketing; financial feasibility, budgets and record keeping; and more. 

Farm Business Planning is designed for those who:
  • Have at least one year of hands-on farming experience
  • Have a clear business concept and expect to get started within one year, or are in already in business;
  • Can fully commit to an intensive ten-week course with substantial outside research and homework.

The class will run for ten weeks, meeting every Thursday evening from 6-9 pm from January 15th through March 19th. Instructors are Monika Roth, Agriculture Program Leader and Matt LeRoux, Agriculture Marketing Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, and Leslie Ackerman, Director of the Business CENTS Program of Alternatives Federal Credit Union, along with area farmers and business owners whose stories illustrate the benefits of business planning and financial management skills. Tuition for the course is $480.  Tuition assistance is available for those with limited financial resources.

Apply Online Now!

"This is a rigorous course for the serious farming entrepreneur,” says Joanna Green, Director of the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming. Recent graduates of the course have gone on to establish innovative businesses like Main Street Farms, Redbyrd Cider Orchard, Crooked Carrot CSK Farm, Second Wind Farm, and Hammerstone Orchard. And graduates of the course have been very successful in obtaining loans to start these businesses.

Groundswell is committed to supporting a new generation of farmers that reflects the diversity of culture, color, and class in our community. It is NOT a requirement that you own land or have the financial resources to own land. This course will examine opportunities to lease land for farming in the Tompkins County area, and to secure financing through ag and commercial lenders.
Groundswell Farm Business Planning Course
2015 Class Schedule and Topics

Week #
Jan 15
6-9 pm
Orientation, Setting Your Goals
Jan 22
6-9 pm
Planning for Your Farm Enterprise
Jan 29
6-9 pm
Reality Check with Farmers
Feb 5
6-9 pm
Marketing Basics & Strategy Development
Feb 12
6-9 pm
Accounting Basics & Financial Feasibility
Feb 19
6-9 pm
Financial Statements & Sources of Funds
Feb 26
6-9 pm
Creating a Marketing Plan
Feb 5
6-9 pm
Farm Business Legalities and Logistics
Mar 12
6-9 pm
Final Projects
Mar 19
6-9 pm
Final Projects


Monday, September 22

Forget-Me-Not Farm will host October Homesteaders gathering

PrintE-mailSunday, October 12, 3:30-5:30 PM, Candor, NY

Don't miss our last Homestead Farmers & Gardeners Gathering of the 2014 season. Homesteaders Gatherings are free for registered Groundswell Members. Email info@groundswellcenter.org to sign up.

Jennifer and Dean Whitmore have built their lives and their Candor homestead farm around family. They're a home schooling family with nine children, several adopted. The kids are very involved in 4-H, and raise a variety of livestock.

The Whitmores raises much of their own food, and also supply the bed and breakfast on the farm. They raise 2 heritage sheep breeds, Jacob and Hog Island. They sell yarn, fiber, lambskins, ramps, onions, lettuce, greens, summer squash, tomatoes, winter squash varieties, garlic and sunflowers at the Caroline Farmers Market. Along with the farm, the family also runs Small Graces B&B, a green built, private Bed and Breakfast cottage, in a woods setting. They gather wood and do the plowing with a Morgan horse and a team of Haflingers. 
They love having the flexibility that a home-based business provides.  It allows Jenn to be a full time mom, and the children are involved in all aspects of the homestead.  As described in their online listing with Natural Choice Vacations: "The farm is home to Jacob and Jacob/cross sheep, a guard donkey named Whiskey, four horses and a pony, organically raised poultry and pigs. They raise several rare and heritage breeds of poultry. Lambs and organic pork is available in the fall.  Jenn is a fiber artist, and her six children are in training!  They spin, knit and felt using their own wool and other various fibers as well.  Their oldest daughter, Blessing, also designed an earache pillow using wool with a little lanolin stuffed inside. This pillow soothes ear infections and is a best seller at the farm shop and at festivals."

Jennifer says, "On October 12 we can see and discuss the B&B that we built. It's a good source of income for a homestead. Also the greenhouse, the types of animals we chose to raise to complement a homestead and the balance that we strive for there. The gardens will be done for the year, but we can brush on how they have changed and developed also."

Friday, September 19

Finger Lakes CRAFT: Inspiring Beginning AND experienced Farmers

Members of the Finger Lakes CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) gathered September 15, 2014 at the Good Life Farm in Interlaken to tour this amazing and diverse farm operation. Owners Melissa Madden and Garrett Miller are serious innovators, dedicated to "farming on an energy descent curve." 

They're developing systems of "perennial plant and animal polyculture," interweaving perennial crops (fruit trees, asparagus), high-value annual crops (ginger, turmeric, vegetables, winter greens) and lush pasture, intensively grazed by diverse livestock. The farm is a complex, integrated biological system, designed to mimick the super-productive ecosystems of the forest edge.

"Our neighbors were appalled to see us planting trees on this good corn ground," she laughs. In 6 short years since purchasing the land, they've transformed it from a pure monoculture of corn to an incredibly diverse, multi-storied landscape.

Good Life Farm's latest adventure is construction of a spanking new cidery building, with state-of-the-art cider brewing equipment and gigantic walk-in cooler on the basement floor, and a generous retail space on the main floor. In keeping with Good Life Farm's commitment to creative marketing partnerships with other farmers, they will share the facility with four other orchardists/cider makers in the area.

CRAFT membership is open to all farm interns, employees, aspiring and experienced farmers. The CRAFT meets monthly throughout the growing season at each of 6 Mentor Farms. To join click HERE.

Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week features Groundswell participants

Groundswell graduates, instructors and Mentor Farmers feature heavily in the emerging craft cider industry in our region. Banding together as the Finger Lakes Cider Alliance, these orchardists are the impetus behind Finger Lakes Craft Cider Week, which will run from October 3rd through October 12th. The event bringing together the widest variety of local ciders from the Finger Lakes. We will be more than doubling the number of available ciders this year.Participating Groundswell grads, instructors and Mentors include Red Byrd Cidery (Burdett), Eve’s Cidery (Van Etten), Black Diamond Farm (Trumansburg) and Good Life Farm (Interlaken.)

Anchored by the Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival (October 3-5), Craft Cider Week offers a variety of events such as tastings, cider dinners with local chefs, a local orchard tour, and a cider-flavored square dance. Visitors and locals alike will the opportunity to try local cider by the glass or presented in cider flights, pairings with hand-selected entrĂ©es, and cider cocktails at a number of local venues throughout Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region.  There is no other event in the area showcasing the diversity of craft cider.

This week of activities is patterned after the wildly popular New York City Cider Week, presenting its annual celebration later in October. Colonial America’s favorite beverage is making a comeback and the Finger Lakes region is leading the way with world-class cider made from locally grown apples.  Besides trying and enjoying local hard cider, folks can also discover the culinary delights of cider pairings, traditional and modern mixes, and the people behind the region’s beautiful orchards.

This year, organizers have substantially increased the number of participating cideries and locations.  Try more varieties of local hard cider in more locations throughout Ithaca and the surrounding areas!
Other participating cideries include:
  • Bellwether Hard Cider (Trumansburg)
  • Black Bird Cider Works (Barker)
  • Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards (Hector)
  • South Hill Cider (Ithaca)
  • Beak & Skiff (LaFayette)
  • Three Brothers (Geneva)
  • Harvest Moon Cidery (Cazenovia)
  • Steampunk (Medina)
For more information check out the website: www.ciderweekflx.com

Hammerstone School teaches Carpentry for Farmsteaders

Groundswell grad Maria Klemperer-Johnson is now a full-fledged beginning farmer, running Hammerstone Orchards with her partner Chad Purdy.  As part of the burgeoning cider revival, they grow exclusively traditional cider varieties of apples for wholesale to local craft cideries, and for you-pick to home cider-makers.

Through the orchard's sister business, Hammerstone School, Maria also teaches carpentry skills to women and to farmstead operators.  On October 12th and 13th Hammerstone is partnering with local cider makers Redbyrd Orchard Cider (also a Groundswell grad!) to present a two-day class in both woodworking and cider making.

New York state has a rich tradition of cidermaking, both hard and sweet. Unfortunately, recent changes in food safety laws requiring expensive pasteurization of cider have put some local custom presses out of business. Now the easiest way to get un-pasteurized cider, either sweet or to make hard cider, is to press your own. Join veteran carpenter and carpentry teacher Maria Klemperer-Johnson and master cidermaker Eric Shatt to build your own rack and cloth press, learn about the history and techniques of cidermaking, and press your first batch of cider on your brand new press.

 On the first day of class, Maria will guide participants through the assembly of cider presses. Frames are pre-cut and drilled for fasteners, but must be assembled. Racks must be nailed together, and the trays must be assembled. In order to have a functioning press by the following class, any remaining work should be done by participants before the second class. 

On the second day of class, Eric Shatt and Deva Maas of Redbyrd Orchard Cider will teach us all about the history of cider, growing apples, making cider, and different apple varieties. Then we will put our presses to the test, each grinding and pressing enough apples to fill a 5-gallon carboy. At the end of the day, you may optionally join us for a tour of the Redbyrd orchard and pressing facility in Hector (about a 15 minute drive away.) 

Students take home a fully functional cider press, as well as 5 gallons of cider ready to ferment.This popular class is the final event of the Finger Lakes Cider Week. More information can be found at www.hammerstoneschool.com or by calling 607-351-6878.

Topics Covered:
  • Tool use and safety
  • Basic carpentry skills
  • Assembly of presses
  • History of cider production in NY
  • Traditional cider apple varieties (with tasting)
  • Growing apples
  • Pressing cider
  • Fermentation basics

Join Groundswell at the Food Justice Fair!

Food Justice Fair AND Latinos Multicultural Festival!
Saturday, September 27, 12-4pm 

BJM Elementary School

302 West Buffalo Street, Ithaca

Please join Groundswell, GreenStar Community Projects, and a host of community leaders at the 2014 Food Justice Fair! The Fair is a fun and educational gathering for the whole family, celebrating the efforts of this community to build a more sustainable and just local food system. This year the Fair is combined with the Latinos Multicultural Festival for even more fun!

Enjoy LOTS of family activities including an Anarchy Zone run by the Ithaca Children’s Garden in the BJM playground, games and contests with fruit and vegetable prizes, chicken petting, youth cooking demo and free food - delicious seasoned roasted veggies!  Hear from local speakers - including Groundswell's Director, Joanna Green - talking about the great work going on in this community. The  Latinos Multicultural Festival will offer live music, a DJ contest, children’s craft area and food vendors.

GreenStar Community Projects defines Food Justice as... 
  • Elimination of disparities in healthy food access and nutrition education
  • Transformation of our food system, leading to comprehensive local healthy food distribution
  • Support for allied movements for social justice and environmental stewardship.

Mark your calendars and join us for this great community event. Get some family fun while supporting the growing movement to take local control of the food we eat, how it is grown and processed, and who has access to it. You can find more information about the Food Justice Fair on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FoodJusticeSummitNY.