Incubator Farm

Groundswell Farm Business Incubator Program

 

The Groundswell Incubator Farm is the first of its kind in New York State, creating pathways to farm business ownership for aspiring producers, especially refugees, immigrants, people of color and women. It is important to us to prioritize opportunities to people who have been underrepresented in the farming community, as diverse farm ownership and business creation benefits all.

The Incubator Farm overlooks the city of Ithaca to the west, at Ecovillage Ithaca (EVI).  Groundswell leases ten acres from EVI, approximately 7 of which are protected behind a sturdy deer fence.  We have approximately 5 acres in production currently, with 2 more cleared and ready to offer to farmers in 2018.

With affordable access to land, equipment [like irrigation line, right], training and mentoring, Incubator Program participants can launch their farm businesses with minimal investment and risk.

Start-up costs are one of the biggest obstacles for beginning farmers. The expense of buying land, buildings, and equipment— combined with the risk of an untested farming strategy — prevents many people from even considering farming as a business. Groundswell’s Incubator Farm significantly reduces the barriers to starting a farm business by giving new farmers a place to develop their organic production techniques and business skills without having to make a major investment.

Through the Incubator Program, beginning farmers can develop the three-year track record needed to secure a low-interest loan from USDA Farm Service Agency or another lender, which may enable them to expand their enterprise when the time is right.

This program reflects our commitment to creating opportunities for farmers from economically, socially, or systemically disadvantaged groups. People of color, immigrants, and refugees, are groups of potential farmers that often face added barriers to starting up a farm, despite having the skills or experience to start a successful farm business. Although we consider all applicants to the program, in order to build a more diverse farming community we prioritize admission to the Incubator Program for these farmers. We’re proud that in 2017, 70% of the growers at the incubator are refugees who re-settled in Upstate NY, majority of whom came from agricultural backgrounds.

In 2016, we proudly bid farewell to our first incubator farm graduate, Surik [left].  Surik spent three years growing and selling vegetables at the incubator farm, and has launched his farm enterprise, growing at several sites in the area, and looking for land to buy or lease for his long-term farm business.

Learn more about the benefits and requirements of the Incubator Farm Program and apply to be an Incubator Farmer.

Click here to meet the farmers at the incubator


Incubator Farm Committee

A team of dedicated volunteers – ranging from ESL teachers to skilled farmers – with a variety of skills related to the farm and participants, that make decisions that guide the incubator farm toward impact and success. This Committee meet bi-monthly as an advisory team for the program, to support the farmers, and to build community relationships.

Brian Caldwell – Research Support Specialist – Soil & Crop Sciences, Cornell University
Brian is an organic farming educator and orchardist with 30 years’ experience as co-owner of Hemlock Grove Farm in West Danby, NY.  He works on organic cropping research at Cornell University.  He is a former Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator and also worked as Education coordinator for the Northeast Organic Farming association of NY (NOFA-NY).  Brian wants to see more local, organic food production and consumption.

 

Barb Neal – Horticulture Educator- Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tioga County
Barb is a graduate of the first Beginning Farmers’ class that Groundswell held, and has a small farm in Danby.  She has been a volunteer for Groundswell ever since.  She loves that Groundswell has been able to make the Incubator Farm a reality and hopes to help many new farmers gain the skills they need to succeed.  Barb has a master’s degree in urban horticulture from Cornell University.

 

Sally Wessels -Adult ESL Program Coordinator – TST BOCES, retired
Sally is a long-time Ithacan with a background in teaching English to immigrants. Now retired, she has time to help smooth the culture and language bumps that arise in the Incubator Farm project.   Her biggest challenge is teaching the English speakers about their own language and how to modify it for the Burmese farmers.   And her greatest pleasure is watching her former students successfully grow the food they know in a very challenging climate.

 

Stuart Friedman – EcoVillage resident, Gardener
Stuart arrived in Ithaca in August, 2016 after 40 years in Vermont. Professionally he was a mental health and substance abuse clinician but was an avid home gardener throughout that time. Upon retiring in 2007 he managed to work at several small fruit/vegetable farms in Vermont and Pennsylvannia. He lives at EcoVillage, Ithaca and is getting accustomed to gardening in the relative warmth of the Finger Lakes.