As we wrap up another very busy season of new farmer training activities, we’re excited – and very proud – to report on our accomplishments this year.
You might recall it was back in 2010 when we received a major three-year grant from USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to launch our new farmer training programs. In the two short years since then, Groundswell has already far surpassed the goals we set. Almost 250 aspiring and beginning farmers have participated in our programs, compared to our target of 68 trainees by fall of 2013! At least twenty-nine trainees, about 12%, have been people of color. And our latest program, the Groundswell Farm Enterprise Incubator, is set to open in Spring of 2013 on ten acres of agricultural land at EcoVillage in Ithaca.
We are building a multigenerational, multicultural farming community that sees strength in diversity. Our trainees come from all over, and carry with them different experiences, skills, and needs. Some of them grew up in farming families, living in rural regions here in central NY or in other countries. Others were raised in cities, and pick up a shovel yearning for a new way of life. Some are young folks with boundless energy and ambition; others want to retire onto the farm of their dreams.
Many of our trainees come with big hopes, but extremely tight funds. Many are landless. Some face language or cultural barriers that separate them from the surrounding community. All across the board, people have been disconnected from traditional, passed-on knowledge about natural cycles, growing plants, raising animals, and working with the land.
Groundswell is responding to the urgent need to train and support a new generation of farmers and “food citizens.” We have created new training pathways, pairing willing learners with experienced teachers, and raising the level of farming expertise in our region. We focus especially on empowering and directing resources to historically disadvantaged populations, including people of color, new immigrants, and those with very limited economic resources, who have often been excluded from the sustainable farming and local foods movements.
What is most mind-boggling to me, as Director of Groundswell, is that we are doing all this with a TINY, PART-TIME PAID STAFF and VERY LIMITED financial resources! It may look like we’re a big organization and we don’t need your help, but the reality is that we MUST develop a stronger base of financial support from local and regional supporters like you. Our USDA grant ends in less than one year, at the same time that our recent grants from Appalachian Regional Commission and Park Foundation expire. Although we are hopeful of getting additional support from these and other sources, nothing is certain.
That is why we are asking you to consider increasing your level of support for Groundswell this year. We want to rely less on outside grants and instead cultivate a circle of supporters like you, who recognize that your contribution to Groundswell is an INVESTMENT in our local food system and our local community. With your financial contribution, plus the dedication and hard work of our staff, our amazing Mentor Farmers, and our many awesome volunteers, we want to ensure that this Groundswell continues to grow.
Your tax-deductible contribution can make a significant difference: