Incubator Highlight: Paw Pha

Incubator Highlight: Paw Pha

Meet one of our returning Incubator Farmers: Paw Pha

 

Paw started farming at the Incubator in 2015, operating a ¼ acre, and growing lots of Gongura (Roselle) and other traditional Burmese vegetables, including Watercress, Thai hot peppers, Lemon Cucumber, Long Beans, pumpkins, and Japanese eggplant.  as well as garlic, spring onions, and tomatoes.

In 2015 he started traveling to regional cities like Syracuse, Utica, and Buffalo to reach other Asian food markets in places where there are larger populations of Burmese folks. 

Paw is considered a leader in the Burmese community and has been integral in assisting other Burmese families get started at the Incubator Farm.

Groundswell’s Incubator Farm is full for 2017!

Groundswell’s Incubator Farm is full for 2017!

Groundswell is pleased to announce that our Incubator Farm is full for 2017! In 2016, we graduated our first farmer, Surik Mehrabyan after 4 years in our program. This created space for several new farmers to join for the upcoming season. These new farmers include: Alison Smith (Wild Air Flower Farm), Taylor Shuler (Herbs, medicinals, niche value-added products), Poe Too (Burmese and U.S. vegetables), Sea Nee Sow (Burmese and U.S. vegetables).

In addition to the new incubees, the farm welcomes back Ability in Bloom, Paw PhaAung Htoo & Ea Say, and Eh Hser & Merry Paw, (families originally from Burma who have been working with Groundswell for 3 seasons).

Stay tuned for more updates from the Incubator Farm as the season gets under way.

Help advocate for young farmers: Take the National Young Farmer Survey

Help advocate for young farmers: Take the National Young Farmer Survey

Take the National Young Farmer Survey and let Congress know that #FarmersCount! The survey is conducted every five years by the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) in order to understand and elevate the issues that matter most to young farmers and aspiring farmers. Take the survey today and share it broadly. It is crucial that the survey results represent all young farmers and aspiring farmers, no matter where they live or what they grow. Survey answers are completely confidential.

 

www.youngfarmers.org/survey

 

Cornell Small Farms Announces Support For Shiitake Viability Development

Cornell Small Farms Announces Support For Shiitake Viability Development

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The Cornell Small Farms Program announces a new two-year project funded through the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to support the development of a new niche crop in New York state; log-grown shiitake mushrooms.

Interested farmers and service providers can learn more and sign up for updates here.

Research and development at Cornell over the past decade, along with several partnerships and research projects, has enabled greater understanding of the technical and business aspects of a log-grown shiitake enterprise. Shiitake grown on logs are a niche crop that requires a low-input investment and offers high returns that can also help offset land taxes in New York State.

Data from past research indicates that, over three seasons, a 1,000 log operation would cost $4,740 to establish and would yield 1,040 pounds of mushrooms annually and could generate $12,480 of income for the farmer each year. This rate can be perpetually sustained from year four onward and would qualify a producer for agricultural exemption in New York.

The crop is positioned for adoption by farmers who are interested in developing diversified niche crops on their farm. Over the next two years, the grant will focus on developing the following opportunities for farmers in New York:

– A printable planning tool and several online self-directed training modules will include enterprise budget worksheets, and cover important topics such as proper mushroom identification, forest management, production safety & sanitation measures, and strategic marketing. Available Spring 2017.

– A series of one-day workshops titled, “Log-Grown Shiitake: Viability for Small Farms” in five counties around New York State. Anyone who is growing commercially, starting up, or considering commercial production is welcome to attend. The workshop content will cover all the aspects of production from harvest to market.

Participants should be versed in the basics of how to produce log-grown mushrooms prior to attending the workshop. Take a class, or view our free online resources.

On the day following the workshop, current and prospective farmers can schedule FREE one-on-one consultations with extension educators to review their farm goals, resources, and discuss challenges and opportunities for their own production.

Sunday, January 29 – Franklin County CCE (Consultations on Jan 30)

Sunday, February 5 – Wyoming County CCE (Consultations on Feb 6)

Sunday, February 26 – Schuyler County CCE (Consultations on Feb 27)

Friday, March 3 – Greene County CCE (Consultations on March 4)

Friday, March 10 – Putnam County CCE (Consultations on March 11)

Cost: $30/person              TO REGISTER CLICK HERE
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
http://blogs.cornell.edu/mushrooms/VIABILITY/

Instant Inspiration: Silas Conroy

Instant Inspiration: Silas Conroy

silas_mugshotSilas Conroy

I’m Silas Conroy, co-founder and owner of the Crooked Carrot–a local foods processor here in Ithaca, NY. I studied Engineering Science at Penn State before falling in love with food and food system issues. I spent the first 5 years of my 20s in a self-styled apprenticeship throughout local food jobs–from restaurant management to truck driving to managing organic vegetable production. In 2011, I founded the Crooked Carrot with Jesse and Johanna Brown with the goal of learning something about business and contributing to the local food system. Today, my job at the Crooked Carrot varies every year, but I spend most of my time talking with local farmers and working on logistics. I actually love making spreadsheets–they are kind of like an adult version of legos for me–truly let my inner nerd shine. At this point, the vision for the Crooked Carrot is not just a pickle business, but as an agent of local food development–we’re now engaged in so many exciting and challenging projects–from fermentation classes to renting our shared use kitchen to produce aggregation from local farms for clients we work with regionally. I feel deeply blessed to get to work on these important problems and with so many wonderful people.

10 Questions

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? 
What turns me on most is a feeling of connectivity through storytelling. I love to see the ways stories weave us together–whether it’s local gossip, natural history,  or the “story” of food along it’s pathway from farm to eater.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?
Great question–I feel like I keep trying new professions every year within our business. But if I was going to do something totally different, maybe I’d like to be an artist or architect!
If you could go back and tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
I would say to relax and find ways to experience life more. I’d  suggest spending less time on school work and more time working or having fun. My 18-year old self would likely not listen, but I believe passion can lead to occupation.
If you had a motto (or a mantra), what would it be?
Breathe deeply. Can you let go of anything you’re holding on to? I stole this one from the amazing local yoga teacher, Illana Berman. Until she asked, I don’t think I realized how many stresses in life were of my own making.
If you could cook a meal for any one person, living or dead, who would they be and what would you cook? 
I would cook for my romantic partner Rachel–she always cooks the most amazing, nourishing food for me!
Name one thing that you have tried to grow, raise, produce or cook that was a surprising success? A total failure?
Last year, we fermented a new sauerkraut made with cabbage, burdock root, nettles, and garlic! It has a unique flavor and it’s incredibly nutrient dense! We’ve had so many failures, it’s difficult to pick one! Obsessed with rainbows, we recently tried to create a fermented “rainbow” kimchi with kale, carrots, watermelon radishes, and purple daikon–it was not enjoyable.
Name 3 things in nature that you find beautiful.
Trees flowering in the spring, foxes, the vastness of the ocean.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?  What time of the day do you feel the most energetic and what do you usually do in those moments?
Maybe right in the middle? I am usually most energetic 9am-10:30am–I try to do the hardest things on my list at that time.
 
What is something you love to make?
Grilled cheese
What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word? 
Favorite: Quixotic
Least Favorite: Delish

Instant Inspiration introduces you to an eclectic array of folks in our area connected with food and farming. We hope you find them and their work inspiring!  Contact us if you’d like to be featured! Read other Instant Inspiration posts by clicking on the “Instant Inspiration” category tag above. 

Instant Inspiration: Shoshana Perrey

Instant Inspiration: Shoshana Perrey

Shoshana Devra Perrey

Owner & Chef, Liberation Supper Club

unnamedI am an artist, chef, gardener and graduate researcher with a focus on food, farming and cuisine. I’m fascinated by peoples’ stories and experiences that connect their daily lives and work to a particular place, especially those who work the land or craft objects from locally-sourced materials.

I’m studying Development Sociology at Cornell University, and my master’s thesis work investigates the transitions of agrobiodiversity, seed conservation and links to traditional culinary knowledge with indigenous farmers and housewives in the Chinantla region of Oaxaca, Mexico.

In Ithaca, NY, I’m the owner and chef of Liberation Supper Club, a farm-to-table and wild foods catering company that cultivates a sense of place by telling the story of where food comes from. In 2013, I helped start an organic blueberry u-pick farm and a friend supported agriculture (FSA) workers group in Van Etten, NY.

Numerous international urban & rural farming experiences have deepened my research interests of food sovereignty, agroecology and cuisine in highly biodiverse conservation areas in California, New York, Southern France, Madagascar, Galápagos Islands and Oaxaca, Mexico. I was trained as a first responder through Community Organized Response to Emergencies (CORE) and collaborated with various grassroots organizations to support residents’ restoration and return efforts in New Orleans, LA following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. New Orleans has been in my heart ever since my first visit in 2000, and I’ve been impassioned to better understand racism and work towards equity in the food system ever since.

In the future, I see myself continuing to grow my catering company as a way to integrate people’s many meanings of the word “liberation” through sharing vitalizing dining experiences, growing healthy food and learning through positive hands-on work.

10 Questions

 

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Recently, an inciteful friend remarked that I’m inspired by “the liminal”, those moments or expressions that are right on the threshhold of a boundary or extreme – like the darkest colors of blue sky before night falls – or, the initial stage of a process – like Spring. Subtle flavor of the sea in dashi (seaweed-based broth) which implies salty and umami, but almost not there. The liminal turns me on because it accentuates our sensory experience, and inspires us to use our senses, interpret and hopefully, express them through words.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?

One that I’d like to do: Meteorological Aircraft Pilot. Having grown up in California and always having had monotonous drought weather year round, I was thrilled by the idea of being a helicopter pilot who flew into the eye of tornadoes and storms for meteorological research. We never had weather like that, so storms have thrilled me my whole life. That profession would allow me to hop around the less-visited, fascinating places I’d like to visit in Alaska, New Zealand, Borneo and Iceland. Another job that I always wanted to do was cartographic and science illustrator. Since I prefer to use good old fashion wax colors though, I was turned off by the requirement to depend on extensive use of computer programs instead of using my hand to illustrate and paint. One that I would not like to do: Art Conservator in a Museum. I did explore this possibility in my early 20s and realized that it was too chemistry-intensive for my tastes, and the pressure to control chemistry while flawlessly recreating another artists work felt like it would be too draining on my artistic motivation. For me, its important that my work allows for creative freedom and liberates my interest in design, aesthetics and color. I’m so happy doing that now with food and flavors on the pallet, and dishes, beverages and menus as the finished art pieces.

If you could go back and tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

Seek happiness, positive motivation and practice daily what helps your skills grow (whether they be for work, relationships or personal health) – you’re likely to get really good at what you practice. Oh, and, pick up an instrument and start playing now! Music is one of the best languages you’ll ever learn.

If you had a motto (or a mantra), what would it be?

When I meditate, I often come back to my center by inhaling “loving kindness” and exhaling “release”, a beautiful way to focus on my breath and relax, that I learned from Pema Chodron. Motto? “The best things in life are moist.” – Shoshiety. To me this means that water is life, and so is having a sense of humor about it. Whenever I’m in a new place, I often look for the source of water and gravitate towards it.

If you could cook a meal for any one person, living or dead, who would they be and what would you cook?

That’s a great question: I’d cook a meal for Lucile Spitz, my grandmother who I never had the opportunity to meet. I’d attempt to make Crepes Suzette for her, which my mother told me was her favorite dish. I’d ask her about the women and mothers in my matrilineal heritage and ask her for a list of all the favorite foods, their meanings and their origins in our family. This would bring me a deep sense of roots, knowing where they spring from, so I can continue growing them forward.

Name one thing that you have tried to grow, raise, produce or cook that was a surprising success? A total failure?

Nothing is a total failure, in my book, so I’ll just say, don’t give up on learning through experimentation! A huge success for growing food in Ithaca occurred upon moving to Ithaca from Oaxaca, Mexico in 2011, when I planted native heirloom corn in the Woodsearth Living Classroom Community Garden. We were delightfully surprised that this corn grew to over 10 ft tall, and produced 1-2 ears each! We were surprised because the corn was a landrace variety – meaning one that had been grown and adapted to the local environment by farmers – for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  The environment in Mexico was very dry year-round and yet the summer of 2012 when we planted it was extremely humid and rainy. Still the resilience of this corn shined! I harvested very little corn for eating, but definitely a nice amount to reseed the corn for a few years after.

 

Name 3 things in nature that you find beautiful.

  • Pelicans and herons flying across the sunsetting sky over the Pacific Ocean, right above the fog line.
  • Furry animals foraging on wild berry plants afruit in high summer.
  • The gurgling echo of a creek running underneath a sheath of ice in early spring.

 

Are you an early bird or a night owl? What time of the day do you feel the most energetic and what do you usually do in those moments?

I’m a night owl, but I feel very energetic about a half-hour after I awake and I like to meditate, make love and do yoga in these moments.

What is something you love to make?

I love to make connections between people, especially through the interpersonal and historical meanings of food and the sensory experience. To that end, I love to nourish people with food that satisfies their souls.

What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word?

  • Least favorite words include: hate, fear, member, body, chalkboard and undergird, parking.
  • Moist, bubble, boing, harmony, cacaphony, clasps are a few of my favorite words. In Spanish, I must include “estacionamiento” which is a beautiful sounding word which means parking! In French, “silloner” which is to roam, to sail back and forth, to traverse.

Instant Inspiration introduces you to an eclectic array of folks in our area connected with food and farming. We hope you find them and their work inspiring!  Contact us if you’d like to be featured! Read other Instant Inspiration posts by clicking on the “Instant Inspiration” category tag above. 

Instant Inspiration: Kate Cardona

Instant Inspiration: Kate Cardona

Kate Cardona

Community Program Coordinator, Groundswell Center

20160711_164109-1Kate is Groundswell’s newest staff member, and will be serving as our Community Program Coordinator. We thought our inaugural edition of this series would give you a bit of an introduction to Kate!

Kate in her own words:

I’m originally from Brooklyn and carry a big piece of it with me wherever I go. I’m fiercely dedicated to my family and friends and to building community. I’ve spent a lot of the past many years working towards initiatives for racial and economic justice and draw lots of inspiration and motivation from people’s social movements around the world. Locally I work as the Community Program Coordinator with Groundswell, serve on the Showing Up for Racial Justice Steering Committee, and am on the board of the Multicultural Resource Center.

I spent the last two years as a preschool teacher in a toddler classroom and really appreciate the joy, curiosity and presence of children. I love learning about growing food and have spent time farming in both cities and in rural towns. Currently I’m really enjoying working in my garden, learning more about herbalism, and spending as much time dancing as possible!

10 Questions

Name one thing that you have tried to grow, raise, produce or cook that was a surprising success? A total failure?

I’ve started growing my own food just in the last three years, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised that I’ve been able to grow anything at all! For a long time I felt really intimidated to grow on my own and it’s been amazing to just dig in and go for it at my downtown Ithaca home. I have a special affinity for my herb garden, for how incredible they smell and how many culinary and medicinal uses they each have. I’ve never had success growing cilantro though, even though I’ve tried multiple times!

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

I get really fired up while talking and learning with other people about how to bring about a community and world with dignity, respect and justice for all of us. I love hearing people’s stories and learning their idiosyncrasies. Singing in groups, lots of dancing, working in my garden, gorge hikes, lake swims, spending time with children, reading books and eating ice cream!

If you could go back and tell your 18-year-old self one thing, what would it be?

Sit with complexity. The answer’s often a both/and rather than an either/or.

If you had a motto (or a mantra), what would it be?

We are unstoppable, another world is possible.

If you could cook a meal for any one person, living or dead, who would they be and what would you cook?

My family on my mother’s side has a homemade pancake recipe that’s been passed down through the years. I have so many memories of Saturday mornings sharing pancakes with fruit and maple syrup with different family members and friends in our apartment in Brooklyn. It’s a lot of fun to think of sitting around a huge table with our big extended family, grandparents who have passed on included, and serving them all up a warm, rich, sweet, delicious breakfast (my favorite meal of the day!). I’m so grateful for them all and don’t get to see them as much as I did in those days of childhood.

Name 3 things in nature that you find beautiful.

I love the beauty and meaning in things that spiral, so in keeping with that theme: fiddlehead ferns, snail shells and romanesco.

What is something you love to make?

Drawings– worlds of spiraling flowers, geometric shapes, moons and eyes.

What is your favorite word? What is your least favorite word?

It’s so hard to choose! When I was in elementary school my two best friends and I collected words that we loved the sound of on post it notes that we kept in altoid tins and other small boxes. There were thousands of post-its! I don’t know if it made the list back then but I really like the word “ampersand”. I’m not a big fan of “gumption”.


Instant Inspiration introduces you to an eclectic array of folks in our area connected with food and farming. We hope you find them and their work inspiring!  Contact us if you’d like to be featured! Read other Instant Inspiration posts by clicking on the “Instant Inspiration” category tag above. 

On the recent events in MN and LA…

Here at Groundswell our hearts are heavy this morning with the pain of the murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minneapolis at the hands of the police. We are saddened, disheartened and angry along with so many in our community near and far. We send love and solidarity to the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and join in the call for justice resonating around the country.
While it is easy to feel helpless in times like these, Ithacans will be coming together in community to express grief, anger, hope, and solidarity tomorrow afternoon. Black Lives Matter Ithaca has organized a rally and march from Southside Community Center (305 S Plain Street) beginning at 4:15PM. We hope to see some of you there.
https://www.facebook.com/events/1092748327437745/
With ongoing commitment to a safe and just world for all,
Groundswell Staff

 

Incubator Update: A new hoop house for the wash station!

Incubator Update: A new hoop house for the wash station!
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Devon and Jaya put the finishing touches on the hoop house that will hold our new wash station.

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We are excited to say that the Incubator Farm now has a fantastic new hoop house that will soon house our farm wash station. Here our farmers will be able to wash all of their produce before it is taken to the Walk-In cooler that will be built later this spring.

Having this new wash station will be a huge time and labor saver for the farmers! Currently they have to take their produce home and wash it before marketing it (and they are also responsible for finding their own storage).  Having a large, efficient wash station at the farm means that it will be easier to quickly clean and process larger volumes of crops.  Incubator Farmers will be better able to raise and plan for perishable crops now that we will have dunk tanks, sprayers, sinks, and packing tables. The wash station is also a very important piece of infrastructure for marketing perishable crops, because is usually necessary to take the “field heat” off of the product right away so that it doesn’t wither or degrade.

In the future, this could enable Farmers to use additional land at the Incubator as they become capable of managing and marketing larger volume of clean, fresh produce.

This new hoop house is a Howard Hoover 20 x 24′ Tunnel with a FarmTek vinyl cover on it. It was generously funded by the USDA BFRDP grant Groundswell received in 2014.

Groundswell Announces a New Director

Elizabeth Gabriel 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.

You can reach Elizabeth at elizabeth@groundswellcenter.org.

Faces of Groundswell: Nicole Scott

Faces of Groundswell: Nicole Scott

How do you get started in farming when you have no background in it?  

If you didn’t grow up in a farming family, how can you learn to tackle the complexity and difficulty of farming?  

IMG_1882These are the questions that inspired , one of Groundswell’s most recent volunteer interns, to work with Groundswell this Fall.  Having worked on a small, biodynamic farm where many of the farmers were greenhorns, Nicole saw how messy farming can be if you don’t have depth in your experience.  She really was excited about what Groundswell is doing because she saw how important it is to have a training and support pathway for new farmers.  As a senior in Animal Science at Cornell, Nicole is part of a course called “Agriculture, Food, Sustainability, & Social Justice”, which examines alternative agriculture and food concepts, and considers, “the historical background to our food and agricultural system, looking at different agriculture and food issues in the Global North and South.”  

As a part of her coursework, Nicole has been interning with Groundswell this semester but recently agreed to serve as the first Groundswell Advisory Board intern into next year!  Her work with us so far has involved helping the Incubator Program Manager, Devon Van Noble, to explore the possibilities for the farmers at the Groundswell Incubator to form a cooperative.  Many other incubator programs offer their farmers some sort of cooperative or collective marketing outlet in order to reduce the growers’ risk in the first few years.  So Nicole has been helping by researching and analyzing the feasibility of the various options, and will be presenting our findings to the Incubator advisory team at our December meeting.  

However Nicole has also had a role in Groundswell’s self-reflection as an organization this year.  We have had many recent opportunities to reflect with our Advisory Board, Staff, farmer educators, and a variety of community members about Groundswell’s value of social justice and mission of engaging diverse learners.  Although food sovereignty & social justice were somewhat new terms to Nicole before starting her course, working with Groundswell has given her insight into the complexities of justice and equity around food and farming.  She has seen the tensions of privilege in local communities, the importance of trust building and authenticity, and the difficulty of unpacking organizational culture and commitment.  Through the Food Justice Summit in September, Advisory Board Meetings, and weekly meetings with Staff, Nicole has been participating in this difficult and crucial conversation with us.  In addition, volunteering with Groundswell has been a wonderful opportunity for her to get a taste of the realities of working on-the-ground within a non-profit.  She has seen how the work really flows, the need for patience, and the passion involved in mission-driven work.

Although Nicole grew up in a suburb of Washington D.C., her family is historically from Jamaica and she has a lot of family who live there.  Her uncle owns pineapple farm that is tucked away from tourists and the city, and Nicole says that it is such a beautiful place with all kinds of fruit growing.  Her father grew up on his parents’ farm, where they had goats, cows, chickens and crops, but when her grandfather died it was too difficult and dangerous for her grandmother to live there alone.  So they had to sell the farm and got her a home in the city.  These days, Nicole’s grandmother is one of the few in her family who really understands and is excited about Nicole’s interest in agriculture, which surprised Nicole.  After she finishes at Cornell in May, Nicole is thinking that she might apply to work with the Peace Corps on agricultural projects in nations in the Global South.

THANKS Nicole!

Written by Devon Van Noble