Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming

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Tompkins Weekly – April 26, 2010
By Joanna Green
Let’s say you’re a young adult – or maybe a not so young adult – and you’re interested in learning about small-scale farming as a potential livelihood. Where can you go to find out what farming is all about and get the training you need to farm successfully?

Or let’s say you’re an individual or small business owner who just wants to play a role in building a strong, sustainable local food system in our community. How can you plug in and support the next generation of farmers and local foods businesses?

Join the Groundswell!

The Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming is addressing the need for hands-on training and education to support beginning farmers, urban market gardeners and other local foods entrepreneurs in the region. Groundswell was launched in 2008 by the EcoVillage Center for Sustainability Education (a project of the not-for-profit Center for Transformative Action, formerly CRESP) and has been spearheaded by a hard-working bunch of local foods boosters including farmers, community members, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and faculty and students from Cornell, Ithaca College and TC3.

In just two short years we’ve launched some groundbreaking (!) educational programs, and are putting Ithaca on the map as a destination for high quality farm-based education. I’ll just mention a few highlights; you’ll find more information on our website at

An innovative partnership with TC3

Beginning this summer, Groundswell is partnering with the Environmental Studies Program at Tompkins Cortland Community College to offer a “Summer Practicum in Sustainable Farming and Local Food Systems.” This unique, 8-week course is geared for students, community members and professionals interested in learning more about sustainable agriculture, local food systems, and small-scale farming. Much of the teaching will take place at West Haven Farm at EcoVillage, as well as other farms, local food businesses, and organizations in the area.

Students enrolling through TC3 will receive 6 college credits, and a non-credit option is also offered directly through the Groundswell Center. A small mini-grant from Sustainable Tompkins will support a partial tuition scholarship for one of our students.

We’re delighted to report that the Summer Practicum is already almost full. But if you’re interested don’t hesitate to apply — we will be keeping a wait-list in case any of our students withdraw. Contact for the latest information.

Beginning Farmer Training

Groundswell is also partnering with a group of experienced organic farmers to launch the new Finger Lakes Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training. The CRAFT approach was first developed by farmers in the Hudson Valley/Berkshires region, and builds on the training provided by individual farmers to their interns and employees during the course of the growing season.

Finger Lakes CRAFT Mentor Farms for 2010 are: West Haven Farm, Kingbird Farm, Northland Sheep Dairy, Remembrance Farm, and Sweetland Farm. These outstanding farms are offering a series of 8 full-day training sessions, on Mondays May through November. Each session will include an in-depth farm tour; BYO picnic lunch; a workshop or demonstration on a specific production, marketing or management issue; and plenty of time for informal mentoring and networking. Membership in the CRAFT is open to beginning and experienced farmers, farm interns and employees.

Way Cool: Ithaca Crop Mob

Groundswell has also partnered with the Full Plate Farm Collective to organize the new “Ithaca Crop Mob.” Modeled after Crop Mobs first organized in North Carolina in 2009, the Ithaca Crop Mob is a high energy work party held at a different farm each month. We held the first Mob on April 11 at the Good Life Farm in Interlaken, where our 39 volunteers dug about 200 holes, planted 125 apple trees and helped install irrigation lines for hard working beginning farmers Melissa Madden and Garret Miller. In turn, they treated us all to a delicious farm-fresh meal and farm tour, and taught us some great tree-planting skills to boot. Next Mob: Kestrel Perch Berry Farm in May.

Help us build the Groundswell

Groundswell depends on a growing community of supporters who believe in the importance of local foods and local farms. Right now we’re beginning a community fundraising drive to support Groundswell’s programs and our ambitious vision for the future. We’re looking for individuals, groups, and local businesses to become partners in our work. Please contact us at to find out how you can be involved, or visit our website at and click on “Join.”

Joanna Green is Director of the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming.

CropMob2_JoannaGreen_SoS_26apr2010_webGroundswell is all about helping youth and adult learners develop the skills and knowledge we need to build a sustainable local food system. Here, beginning farmer Garrett Miller demonstrates hole digging to an enthusiastic group at the first gathering of the Ithaca Crop Mob.

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