Groundswell Staff

Elizabeth Gabriel, Director

Elizabeth joins Groundswell as the new Director in January of 2016, bringing significant experience in leadership, education and addressing food sovereignty.  For five years, Elizabeth served as founding director of Washington, DC-based non-profit Common Good City Farm, where she grew the organization from the ground up; securing grants, turning a baseball field into a productive urban farm, and established strong community-wide relationships with youth and adults. Her passion for equitable food access and her collaborative leadership style was seminal to the urban agriculture movement of the Nation’s Capital.   

More recently, Elizabeth served as the Professional Development Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension. In this role, she developed relationships with educators throughout New York State and created and taught workshops that helped educators with program development, establishing systems for evaluation, volunteer management, fundraising, and program sustainability.

Elizabeth has a background in environmental studies and education and a dual master’s degree in Natural Resources and Sustainable Community Development. She moved back to her roots in the Finger Lakes in 2009, where she and her husband Steve co-own a small agroforestry farm and homestead called Wellspring Forest Farm.

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Kate Cardona, Outreach and Equity Coordinator

20160711_164109-1Kate Cardona is Groundswell’s Outreach and Equity Coordinator. She works to connect with community partners, coordinates and develops Groundswell programs and curriculum, and supports Groundswell in their commitment to the creation of an equitable local food system.

Originally from Brooklyn, NY, Kate has been a part of various organizations working for food justice in NYC such as Corbin Hill Farm, Just Food, and the Community/Farmworker Alliance. Kate moved to Ithaca three years ago to deepen her knowledge of food production on a small organic farm. She is a graduate of SUNY Binghamton where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies. Kate is inspired by people’s movements for liberation, land, and power around the world and her commitment to justice is guided by this work. She finds her peace in the garden, on long walks through the gorges, and on the dance floor.

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Liz Coakley, Incubator Farm and Business Manager

Liz Coakley is Groundswell’s Incubator Farm and Business Manager. She ​oversees the Incubator Farm Program, which includes site management, recruiting Incubator Farmers, ​coordinating farmer mentoring, meet​ing​ one on one with farmer​s​ to discuss crop and market plans. Liz ​also​ ​coordinates Groundswell’s ​farm and food ​business ​planning ​activities for regional farmers wanting assistance. This includes facilitating Groundswell’s winter Farm & Food Business Planning Course offered each year.

Liz moved to Ithaca in 2005, and has been working in the farm community ever since. After learning on the crews at a variety of amazing local vegetable farms, Liz took off for Nova Scotia to lease land and run her own market farm. Homesick for the gorges, Liz quickly returned to Ithaca, and has most recently managed small vegetable operations at Wood’s Earth Farm (now merged with The Youth Farm Project) and Ithaca Beer Company. You might also recognize her face from many years working at GreenStar Coop, and the Carriage House Café. Liz is interested in the complex intersection between organic food fairly grown on financially viable farms, and the accessibility of this high quality produce.

When not in the field, Liz can be found with her dog by her side, hiking nearby trails and gorges.

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Natalie Hughes, Fundraising & Development Manager

Natalie is Groundswell’s Fundraising & Development Manager. She works to diversify the organization’s funding streams through donor management, fundraising events, grant writing, and exploring new development strategies. Natalie comes to the Ithaca area from Binghamton, NY where she raised funds and engaged community volunteers to successfully manage the city’s network of 10 community gardens and implement teen employment programming on an urban farm. She graduated from Binghamton University with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. In her free time, Natalie enjoys rock climbing, snowboarding, and many other outdoor activities upstate NY has to offer.

Damon Brangman, Farm to Plate Organizer

Damon Brangman is a Community & School Garden Educator. He teaches gardening and nutrition to local Elementary and High School students, and consults with community gardeners. In 2012, he began working at Cornell Cooperative Extension, in Ithaca NY. Additionally, Damon produces videos, and has completed digital storytelling workshops through the Food Dignity Project, a 5-year research grant funded by the USDA.

While growing up on the small island of Bermuda, he tended a large family garden from a young age. As a teenager he really enjoyed sharing the food he grew, as well as the knowledge of how it’s grown. His first job was farming and landscaping with his Great-uncle during summer breaks from High School.  He also worked closely with Roots Development, one of the few organic farms on the island growing a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Damon moved to Ithaca NY in 2004. He created Roots Rising Farm in 2014, as an educational outreach to provide a garden-based curriculum for school students. He has attended numerous conferences and gardening workshops, and is currently organizing educational events, which promote sustainable food production. Media production provides Damon the opportunity to capture the stories created from the healing experiences people encounter through re-connecting to nature.


Joanna Green, Founding Director

Joanna  is the founding Director of Groundswell, with over 30 years of experience in the fields of sustainable agriculture and regional food systems development. Before retiring from Cornell University in 2009, she served as Extension Associate with the Cornell Small Farms Program and as Senior Extension Associate with Cornell’s Community, Food and Agriculture Program and Farming Alternatives Program. She is the coauthor of Growing Home: A Guide to Reconnecting Agriculture, Food and Communities, as well as coauthor of the award-winning publication, Farming Alternatives: A Guide to Evaluating the Feasibility of New Farm-Based Enterprises. She produces much of her family’s food on a 2-acre homestead farm in Enfield, NY.

Cornell Cooperative Extension Partner Staff

Groundswell is partnering closely with Cornell Cooperative Extension’s South Central NY Ag Team to carry out a three-year project funded by USDA’s Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program. Through this collaboration, CCE educators are providing beginning farmers with one-on-one marketing support, business management consulting, land linking services and technical training.

Monika Roth, Agriculture Business Development Specialist, CCE Tompkins

Monika Roth06MoreRecentMonika Roth has been an agriculture extension educator for 35 years working with local farmers on production, business and marketing issues, as well as supporting new farm and food enterprises.  Addressing infrastructure needs of farmers, rebuilding the local food system, and improving low income access to local foods are recent areas of emphasis driving the CCE Agriculture work plan.  Given Monika’s long history with extension, she is especially adept at networking and linking producers, buyers, consumers, community organizations and Cornell resources.  Ask a question…she probably has the answer or knows where to find it!  Monika can be reached at 607-272-2292 ext. 126, or

 Matt LeRoux, Marketing Specialist, CCE Tompkins

_49R7695Matt LeRoux is an Agricultural Marketing Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County on a five county team.  In that role he works with a diverse mix of produce and livestock producers in the southern tier of NY.  In 2008 Matt developed the Marketing Channel Assessment Tool to assist producer decision making and improve marketing performance. You can reach Matt at  (607) 272-2292 ext. 159 or



Other CCE South Central NY Ag Team Staff

Heather Birdsall
Livestock Specialist
Cortland CCE

Brett Chedzoy

Forestry, Agroforestry & Natural Resources Specialist
Grazing and Silvopasture Specialist
Schuyler CCE

Margaret Ball
Agriculture Development Specialist
Tioga CCE
(607) 687-4020 ext 319