Signs of Sustainability

Youth Farm Project Pushes for Social Justice

Tompkins Weekly.    11-23-21

By Katie Church

At the Youth Farm Project (YFP), November is all about tucking the farm into bed for the season: pulling drip tape from the fields, taking down the deer fencing, planting cover crops and mulching.

This fall has been long and warm, if wet. In the bedtime analogy, we have “stayed up a little late” for one more bit of fun. With the first dusting of snow, our minds and bodies are ready for the internal season that is winter in a four-season climate: dreaming.

YFP is a farm-based social justice education organization. The work is with people and land, and that means things are always changing. The winter months allow us to look back over the year, to process what went well, what went amazingly and what fell short, and to listen for what is being asked.

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Protecting Our Natural Resources

Tompkins Weekly    11-10-21

By Becca Harber

Forests and our effects on them are woven throughout our lives, often without our knowledge. Learning how our choices affect forests and making different decisions can contribute to better health and continued existence of forests worldwide.

Cumulative effects of numerous people making different choices contribute to lessening climate catastrophe in the long run. Examples include no longer buying any rainforest woods products, redwood or many of the numerous food items containing palm oil or having big bonfires.

Regarding wood products from rainforests, “supposed sustainable production of tropical timber is a fabrication of the industry,” according to Rainforest Rescue (, a national nonprofit dedicated to preserving rainforests. Tropical timber is in many items, like terraces, garden furniture, window frames and toilet seats.

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Gratitude for Hunting and Gathering

Tompkins Weekly      10-27-21

By Zak Kozlowski

Have you gathered any wild foods this month?

This October is often my favorite time of year. Like many folks around Tompkins County, I enjoy gathering and hunting wild foods from the local landscape. September through mid-October is usually when I do most of my foraging, processing and storing of wild edible plants. It is also the time of year that marks the start of hunting season.

Since starting to learn about and use wild plants in 2009, I have spent more time noticing and working with certain plants than others. Maybe I get excited by certain species of plants more, or maybe they were the ones trying to get my attention. Either way, I’ve noticed that I get motivated to spend time collecting and working with some of the fruits and nuts during this time of year.

Many of the wild food plants that I enjoy, I’ve noticed, also choose to live and share space with the human environment and can be found in both the city and countryside. They seem to benefit from a close relationship with humans, needing disturbed ground, fences and maintained edge habitats. Sometimes the line between what is wild and what is landscaped appears blurry or nonexistent.

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Pushing for Food for All in Tompkins County

Tompkins Weekly     10-13-21

By Cathleen and Eric Banford

How do we realize the vision of living with zero food insecurity in Tompkins County? What does this look like in relation to sustainability and Ithaca’s Green New Deal? What is our untapped potential? How do we coordinate and balance our county’s needs regarding food security and food sovereignty and simultaneously support ecological regeneration?

On Sept. 29, the Tompkins Food Future (TFF) team hosted a free community event where results of the Tompkins County Food System Baseline Assessment were shared at the Ithaca Farmers Market.

Over 75 community members were in attendance, with people representing many sectors of the food system and the community. Interestingly, TFF’s last public meeting was in late February 2020 just before the pandemic hit, and many in attendance commented on how nice it was to be together in person once again.

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NY Potential in Perennial Nut Crops

Tompkins Weekly        9-22-21

By Eric and Cathleen Banford

New York State has a long history of nut growing and harvesting, dating back at least 6,000 years. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in this nutritious, perennial crop as part of our agricultural systems. Samantha Bosco, a Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University’s School of Integrated Plant Science, recently gave an inspiring and informative talk on the history and potential of nuts.

The talk was titled “Nut Production in New York: Past, Present, Future” and is available on the Cornell Small Farms YouTube Channel, along with other talks from the current series. Bosco covered the history of nut tree cultivation in the area and how their local production can help meet climate resilience and social justice goals.

Cornell’s Agroforestry website explains that “Agroforestry describes a wide range of practices that integrate trees, forests, and agricultural production. These systems preserve and enhance woodland and tree landscapes and are an important solution to climate change and in developing healthy farm economics. Agroforestry is rooted in both Indigenous knowledge from around the world and in the work of numerous individuals who have conducted research and engaged as practitioners over centuries.”

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Tompkins Food Future Hosts Gathering

Tompkins Weekly        8-8-21

By Katie Hallas and Don Barber

Food Policy Council (FPC) of Tompkins County is a grassroots Good Food advocacy group created in 2016 with representatives from all facets of our food system: production, food access and security, retail, consumption and waste.

In 2020, in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, we embarked on the development of a communitywide planning process to develop Tompkins County’s first-ever Community Food System Plan (FSP).

This two-year planning process, titled, “Tompkins Food Future,” aims to lay the foundation for a more sustainable, equitable, affordable and healthy food system for all residents of Tompkins County.

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Effective Methods of Keeping Your House Comfortable

Tompkins Weekly   8-25-21

By Becca Harber

Through the years I’ve lived in my one-story house, I’ve gradually made various changes to it that make my home cooler when it’s hot outdoors and warmer during cold weather. With the increases in very hot days and higher temperatures, keeping myself cooler inside is more important than ever.

So many people worldwide continue to die at home during extreme weather events and more so during power outages. Some of the actions I’ve taken to help with both heat and cold are simple and require little money, time or effort.

Luckily, after I moved in, I heard about how Tompkins Community Action (TCA) could possibly insulate one’s home better at no charge if one’s income was below a certain amount. I qualified to receive these services my first autumn here.

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TCCPI 2020 Annual Report Released, Part 2

Tompkins Weekly       8-11-21

By Peter Bardaglio

As noted in Part I, the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) has been compiling reports from coalition members on their annual efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, facilitate the transition to a clean energy economy and strengthen climate resiliency since 2009.

The Park Foundation has provided generous support for the work of TCCPI, including these reports, for 13 years. The full report for 2020 contains submissions from 37 organizations, institutions and businesses in Tompkins County and can be found at Like Part 1, the following provides highlights from these submissions.

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TCCPI 2020 Annual Report Released, Part 1

Tompkins Weekly      7-28-21

By Peter Bardaglio

Raging wildfires in the U.S. West. A megadrought in the Southwest, where reservoirs that supply drinking water to Las Vegas and Phoenix are at historic lows. Soaring temperatures in Siberia, Canada and the Pacific Northwest that smash previous records. Disastrous flash floods in Europe, China and Japan. These extreme weather events are all part of the same story: Climate change is accelerating at a pace far faster than any of the computer models projected, and many scientists are worried that runaway climate destabilization is underway.

The current climate news could hardly be more frightening and depressing, all the more reason not to lose sight of the fact that we can still do much to mitigate the worst consequences of climate change. After all, if we can’t stop global warming from hitting 2 degrees C, keeping it under 2.3 or 2.5 is a lot better than 2.7 or 3.

Since the summer of 2008, the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI) — a coalition of community activists, leaders and concerned citizens — has been meeting monthly to discuss and share information about what we can do locally to reduce our carbon footprint and help the county meet its ambitious climate goals.

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A Visit with T-Burg’s Edible Acres

Tompkins Weekly 7-14-21

By Cathleen and Eric Banford

We recently interviewed Sean Dembrosky and Sasha Kellner-Rogers of Edible Acres, who dare to honor nature, their own well-being and the reality of today’s challenges. Edible Acres is a permaculture nursery and forest farm research space in Trumansburg focused on hardy perennial plants and low- and no-tech solutions.

Dembrosky and Kellner-Rogers start off by addressing today’s challenges directly.

“It feels like each year things are a bit more tenuous around overall food stability,” Dembrosky said. “Watch the southwest, and most of the fruits and vegetables that people rely on are coming from that area, and there’s pretty much no water there. It feels pretty critical for as many people as possible to grow as much food as possible right where we live. We need to work out the kinks on that and how distribution will work, and sharing, abundance, value-add and preservation.”

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