From staple foods to bicycling infrastructure to botany education, small locally-based initiatives can help to meet the needs and improve the lives of people in rural areas. In April 2023, Sustainable Finger Lakes awarded a total of $2,500 in four Neighborhood Mini-Grants supporting such projects across Tompkins County.

Artist/ecologist Ash Ferlito and ecological landscape designer Brandon Hoak have created and maintained the Marshy Garden, a habitat restoration project and educational venue at The Soil Factory south of Ithaca. This year, they seek to increase the garden’s biodiversity and habitat value, along with expanding the on-site array of educational programming for college students and the public. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will support their purchase of native plants for this purpose from Grow Wild Nursery in Brooktondale.

The organization Friends of the Lansing Center Trail will install informational plant identification signs in the native plant garden near the entrance to the popular Lansing Center Trail in the Town of Lansing, aiming to educate trail visitors and encourage gardening with native plants. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will contribute to the purchase of these signs.

The organization Groton Community Cupboard, formerly Groton Food Providers, runs a food pantry serving a large and growing need for food assistance in an area without a full grocery store. They are moving the food pantry to a new location, which will need renovation, and striving to maintain operation during the transition. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will help to pay the expenses of this endeavor.

Dryden resident Kate McKee will install bike racks at four small businesses throughout the Village of Dryden to facilitate local bicycle travel. A Neighborhood Mini-Grant will pay for the racks, along with chains and locks.

The Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program provides seed money to diverse initiatives to build environmental, economic, and social resilience and well-being in Tompkins County. The program is sponsored by NYSEG, Craig Riecke, and local donors. The next deadline for the Mini-Grant program will be October 1, 2023. To request an application or learn more, email