Thanks to Gil Gillespie, first chair of Groundswell's Steering Committee!
Thank you Gil Gillespie, Steering Committee, and Groundswell donors!
Behind the scenes at Groundswell is a small group of dedicated volunteers who meet monthly to give guidance, oversight and support for Groundswell staff and programs. For more than a year, this Steering Committee has been ably chaired by Gil Gillespie, a sociologist by training and a long-time sustainable agriculture activist and researcher. Gil made a huge contribution of time and talent during his tenure as Chair, which ended in December. Among his accomplishments was leading the Committee in creating Groundswell’s Vision, Mission, Values, and Guiding Principles. On behalf of the entire Groundswell community, Thank You Gil!
I also want to thank Steering Committee members Peter Bardaglio, Sam Bosco Heartwood, Julia Lapp, Jeanne Leccese , Todd McLane, Monika Roth, Jemila Sequeira, and Fred Schoeps for their outstanding support, and to welcome two new Steering Committee members, Rafael Aponte and Sharon Clarke, to the team. Thank you all, so very much, for your dedication to the Groundswell mission!
Finally, I’d like to thank every one of you who responded to our December fundraising letter. Your support helps us grow new farmers and build a stronger, more inclusive regional food system. It’s never too late to make a contribution – just click HERE! Thank you!
Mapping the Mentor's Journey: A Workshop for Farmers and Farm Educators
Sunday, February 10
9 am - 5 pm
EcoVillage at Ithaca
Potluck lunch- bring a dish to pass
Dress for indoor and outdoor activity
$25; scholarships available
Are you a farmer, farm manager or farm educator with a passion for cultivating new farmers?
Do you care deeply about building intern and employee relationships that go "beyond teaching" to a place of mutual support and growth?
Are you ready to take your mentorship skills to the next level to become a truly inspirational on-farm educator?
Join leading nature awareness educators and experienced mentors Tim Drake and Jed Jordan and leadership coach Corinne Eisenman (Primitive Pursuits) for an exciting and transformative day-long experience on the farm mentor's journey.
From hands-on exercises to co-created conversations, and even the occasional download, we'll take a look at farm education through the eyes of a mentor. Farmer folks will leave with new tools and renewed passion for educating aspiring farmers and managing farm staff.
Read more and RSVP...
by Rachel Firak, New Farmer Training Coordinator
It is my pleasure to extend a warm welcome to Groundswell's Farm Business Planning Course, class of 2013!
Our 20 students hail from Ithaca to as far as Kersey, Pennsylvania, and have interests as varied as vegetable CSA, hops, honey, raw milk dairy, and pastured hogs.
After introducing themselves with an elevator speech on Day 1, they'll finish the 10-week course with a business plan under their belt and new know-how about marketing, finances, legalities, and improving efficiency and profitability.
Welcome new farm entrepreneurs! We're excited to learn and grow with you this winter.
Got Information Technology skills? Wanna make a difference volunteering with a great local organization?
Groundswell is looking for a talented and motivated IT person who can help us with occasional software and hardware troubleshooting. Brilliant as we are here at the Groundswell office, we just don’t have the knowledge or the patience to deal with some of the annoying technical problems that crop up. We’re looking for someone with demonstrated IT skills who can do the occasional "house calls" to our office on the west side of downtown Ithaca. We take volunteers seriously, and can offer a fun and quality volunteer experience that you can put on your resume. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested, or pass this message along to your geeky friends!
Sunflower Planting Event at the Carrie McCracken TRUCE Community Garden
By Milagros Gustafson-Hernandez
Steven Kidd is a gardener and community organizer in the food sovereignty movement in Harlem, NYC, and participated in Groundswell's Farm Business Planning Course in 2012. Here he shares his story and his hopes for the future.
Steven became interested in farming in the late 70’s, when he moved from Harlem to Kentucky. There he met his ex father-in-law, a Louisiana native who grew vegetables for his family on a plot of land. When his father-in-law passed away, his children- including Steven's ex-wife, disagreed about what to do with the land. His ex-wife wanted to continue her father’s legacy of farming, but could not come up with the financing to purchase it. The other sibling sold the land for about 1/8 of what it was worth. Steven feels this is a prime example of the epidemic of black land loss in our country: how predatory financiers scoop up black-owned land at a fraction of its worth, leaving generations of black families landless and with fewer assets over generations.
Shortly after this incident left him shaken, Steven became determined to get involved with gardening. Some friends of his were growing peppers in their backyards and were jarring pepper sauces in their homes, where they had set up processing kitchens. Steven began looking for spots to garden in the city. A sign on the fence of a nearby vacant lot said it was being taken care of as a community gardening project, but no one was really tending to the garden, and it was locked and inaccessible. So Steven had to travel quite a distance to another community to do his gardening. He felt the commute was unnecessary if there was a spot near his home that could be used. He contacted the City and they eventually provided him with a key to the garden near his home.
This garden became the Carrie McCracken TRUCE Community Garden in Harlem, NY, a garden which "striv[es] for a green and welcoming space offering horticultural, educational, and cultural activities." This is the garden with which Steven spends most of his time now. Having a space to garden-- to grow plants as well as community -- was monumental. But Steven felt he needed more education and training.
Southside Community Center in Ithaca, NY
Finding a great space to hold Groundswell’s indoor classes can sometimes be a challenge. Last fall we started looking for a site for our winter Farm Business Planning Course. We needed an affordable space that was conveniently located downtown, that would accommodate 15 or more aspiring farmers, allow us to serve snacks, be open until 9PM, and oh – it also needed to provide computers for our students.
We were thrilled to find the computer lab at Southside Community Center, freshly painted, well equipped, and perfect for our needs. Southside Director Nia Nunn Makepeace and Computer Lab Coordinator Vinnie Sierra were immensely helpful, even offering us a discount so that we could stay within our tight budget.
We’re really please with this partnership, and want to thank Southside for making this great community resource available to our students!
Devon and one of his pigs.
Groundswell trainee, staff member, and new farmer Devon Van Noble shares his personal journey from dreamer to farmer.
by Devon Van Noble
I feel like I've been becoming a farmer for my whole life, but it's only in the past few years that my journey really took off. Growing up in suburban community in Florida, where locally-sourced food is a rarity, I was only recently able to connect with farming on the ground. I read a lot about farming in school, but really only started participating in it when I returned from Vermont, where I went to grad school, to Ithaca. In the spring of 2011 I started working for Groundswell, and soon after I took Groundswell's Sustainable Farming Certificate Program (SFCP). That season I also began harvesting with Early Morning Farm in Genoa, a medium-sized organic vegetable farm, on Fridays, a farm like the one I dreamed I'd have someday.
Coming into the SFCP, I definitely felt like a “noob.” I was still totally unsure of what to do or how I could successfully enter farming. So I tried to immerse myself as quickly as possible in the Ithaca agriculture scene. I became familiar with Groundswell's Mentor Farmers, learned a lot about other enterprises that existed locally, and tried to gain a general sense of how farming was being done in this area. In the SFCP program, I learned the basics of crop production, planning, and management, and toyed around with the idea of raising livestock. But most importantly, it was one of my first steps towards becoming a farmer.
After I finished the SFCP program, I don’t think I was totally conscious of it, but I was definitely discouraged about my prospects of being a successful farmer. The main reason for this is that I realized (and maybe had this inclination prior to the program) how much intelligence and what strong skill sets it takes to be a successful farmer. And the reality really hit me that most farmers are forced to supplement with off-farm income, and only a select few really make their living off of it (and some of them are in substantial debt). It is an incredible feat to manage your production, finances, labor, and markets, not to mention put it all together in a successful and coherent way. I felt really intimidated by all of that.
Since I had based my entire farming future upon the idea that I would be a crop farmer, and plants are not nearly as intuitive to me as animals, it seemed like it would be many more years—and a major uphill battle of classes, reading, questions, and mistakes—before I would be competent enough to make a living from a farm enterprise. At that point, I had never even considered that I could really pull off being a livestock farmer. I'm not sure why—maybe because I didn't quite understand how livestock farmers successfully process and sell their product. Because this option never seemed open to me, I imagined that I'd remain in an off-farm job for the next few years with only occasional day trips to work on farms.
Groundswell depends on the tireless efforts of our volunteers and local community supporters. There are lots of ways you can get involved! To find out how you can make a donation or become one of our business supporters, click here. Help us spread the word about Groundswell by sharing this newsletter with others!
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Groundswell's monthly newsletter is compiled by Milagros Gustafson, Administrative Manager, and Rachel Firak, New Farmer Training Coordinator.
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Groundswell is an initiative of the EcoVillage at Ithaca Center for Sustainability Education, which is a Project of the not-for-profit Center for Transformative Action, Tax ID 16-0990318.