Meet the Farmers!

Poe Htoo & Paw Beler

(first year) Burmese & U.S. Vegetables

Poe Htoo learned about the Incubator Farm from his uncle, Paw Pha.  Poe Htoo is new to the farm in 2017, and got an early start.  Poe Htoo’s seedlings, started inside under lights, shared his children’s playroom in the late winter, and he was transplanting greens in his high tunnel bed by April.

Poe Htoo is working a quarter acre plot, and plans to plant gotakola, Thai chili peppers, lemon cucumbers, bitter gourd, Edamame, and peas.  He’s also interested in experimenting with varieties of corn.  Poe Htoo’s wife, Paw Beler, and their two children often accompany him to work at the farm.  They plan to grow food for their own consumption, to sell at the Ecovillage pop-up market, and to send off with Paw Pha to sell in the surrounding region.

Poe Htoo grew up farming with his family in Burma.  He came to Ithaca as a refugee and is ready to adapt his farming skills to this climate.

Taylor Shuler,  Société Lune Noire

(first year)  Herbs, medicinal, niche value-added products

Taylor relocated to Ithaca in the winter of 2017 to start her farm business, , at the Incubator Farm. With a background in biodynamic farming and Permaculture practices, and knowledge gained from traveling to farms and farm communities around the world, Taylor is setting out to grow medicinal and culinary herbs.  She will be selling her products locally and online, both in their raw forms and as value-added products. Taylor’s long-term goals include growing Société Lune Noire to contribute to a community of people living and growing food on shared land.

Alison Smith, Wild Air Flower Farm

(first year) Fresh cut flowers

Wild Air Flower Farm focuses on sustainably grown, specialty cut flowers.  Initially inspired to begin farming by her passion for cultivating local food, owner and grower Alison Smith, decided to narrow her focus to flowers after 3 years of growing vegetables in the Hudson Valley.  Alison appreciates that flowers can bring joy, express peace and show love. She looks forward to building community through a shared love for flowers in the coming season! Wild Air grows designer-quality cut flowers for florists, DIY brides and grooms and lots of flower lovers all over the Finger Lakes region.

Paw Pha 

(returning) Burmese & U.S. Vegetables

Paw Pha is in his third year at the Incubator Farm.  He started with a standard quarter acre plot, and has worked his way up to cultivating a half-acre, as well as a bed in the high tunnel.  Paw grows a variety of Asian produce such as gongura and lemon cucumbers.  He’s learned about weed and pest control in this region since he began farming here, and is ready with mulch and row cover this season.

Paw Pha is marketing his produce regionally through Asian groceries in Utica and Syracuse, where there is demand for these culturally significant crops.  Paw gathers produce from all interested Incubator farmers to drive to these markets.  He is also excited to sell locally this year at the pop-up market planned for Ecovillage.

Paw came to Ithaca as a refugee twelve years ago.  He has worked at the Cornell library for ten years, helping students in the archives. Read more about Paw Pha’s history and experience through this Tompkins Weekly article.


Ability in Bloom

(returning) Fresh Cut Flower

Ability in Bloom is a social enterprise program of Challenge Workforce Solutions whose goal is to provide jobs and work skills training for a dedicated group of adults and students with barriers to employment.  They employ Challenge participants who have had trouble finding work outside of Challenge or who are not ready to find work in the community.  At first they were growing flowers together recreationally, and decided to turn our work into something bigger.

Two years ago, they started growing flowers at the incubator farm in addition to the Ithaca Community Garden, This year, we have formed a business relationship with Take Your Pick Flower Farm in Lansing. Glen Robertson is the Program Coordinator.


Aung Htoo & Eh Say, and Eh Hser & Merry Paw

Sadly, in June 2017 Aung Htoo passed away unexpectedly.  His energy and enthusiasm will be missed at the Incubator Farm and in the community.  His friends have set up a fund to help his wife and three children.  If you’d like to donate to them, click here.  His family intends to continue farming with Groundswell for the foreseeable future.

This extended family quartet works together to grow on a quarter acre plot, and they also share one bed in the high tunnel.   Aung Htoo and Eh Hser are brothers-in-law, and each registered to farm on an eighth of acre in 2016.  It quickly became clear that they cooperate to grow their food, and that their wives come out and work equally hard at the farm.   In their first year with Groundswell, they grew produce for their families including crops familiar to Americans such as garlic, Habanero peppers, and cucumbers, as well as Southeast Asian produce such as gongura and long beans.  They are also interested in growing watercress. So far most of their produce has been for consumption and preservation by their families, but they are interested in selling their vegetables as well, including at the EcoVillage pop-up market.

All four farmers are refugees from Burma from the Karen ethnic group. Besides acclimating to a new life and culture in Ithaca and learning English, Aung Htoo and Eh Hser work full time, and each family has three school-aged children.  The families can be found many weekends and evenings planting and weeding at the farm.

Sea Nee Sow & Gaw Paw

(first year)

Sea Nee Sow is starting his first season at the Incubator Farm in 2017, with a one-eighth acre plot.   Sea Nee Sow and Gaw Paw are working cooperatively with their family, and growing similar crops.  Sea Nee Sow came to the United States three years ago.  He grew up in a farming family, growing rice, beans, vegetables and fruit, and raising cows and chickens.  Since leaving his village for a refugee camp in Thailand, Sea Nee Sow has worked in sawmills, which he continues in the Ithaca area.  Sea Nee Sow and Gaw Paw have three children.