Breaking Ground at the Incubator Farm

By Devon Van Noble

Groundswell is excited to announce that the first 2 applicants have been accepted to the Farm Enterprise Incubator for the 2013 season!  Damon Brangman, co-owner of the mobile vending stand Fruits & Roots Juice, and Surik Mehrabyan, a Physics Research Associate, will be among the first “Incubees” to put seeds in the ground at the Incubator Farm.  As Staff, we are excited to work alongside both of them as they hone in their business- and production- plans over the next 3 years.  Unlike farm training, incubation is a collaborative dialog between the Incubee, staff and mentors, and in the end these Incubees will make their own decisions about how to run their farm business.  We encourage you to be a part of helping these beginning farmers to grow!

Both of Damon and Surik have a background with growing food from their countries of origin as well as here in the Finger Lakes region.  Their past experience will be critical as they begin to implement their production plans.

Damon, originally from Bermuda, grew up working on organic mixed vegetable farms, and has worked on similar mixed vegetable farms here in the Ithaca area for several years.  Surik grew up on his family’s small homestead farm in the highlands in Armenia, and has managed a large garden plot at Cornell University for the past 3 years.  He says that in his youth, the two crops he grew up tending in his father’s garden every year were cabbage and potatoes, and in the past few years he has experimented with onions, chard, okra, cilantro, kohlrabi, and tomatoes.

Damon will be growing root crops to supply the Fruits & Roots Juice stand, including beets and carrots, which will substitute for the vegetables they would otherwise have to purchase for juicing.  His goals are to trial a few varieties of beets and carrots that he thinks will be good “juicers”, as well as try to expand sales through the mobile stand to include some fresh crops like salad greens.  For this season, Surik plans to focus on a few staple crops that he knows he can do well based on his experience.  His biggest priorities are increasing his scale from a “large garden” (~ 2000 ft.2) to a “small farm” (~10,000 ft.2), and determining the optimal market for his product.

It is truly exciting to be breaking ground with these two Incubees and we are looking forward to a busy- but productive- inaugural year at the Incubator Farm!

Interested in helping out?
Please come out to encourage these two beginning farmers as they get started into their first farming season at the Groundswell Incubator Farm.   There will be 3 Work Parties happening on April 27th and 28th, as well as May 4th from 11am to 3pm.  The main goal of these Spring Work Parties is to complete the “Fence-Raising” for the Incubator Farm’s 8’ Deer Fence.

There are many ways you can help these new enterprises to get off the ground successfully.

– Come to a Farm Work Party
– Offer your professional services to the Groundswell Incubees!
– Tell a beginning farmer (or a mentor) about the Incubator!
– Have old tools or farm equipment?  The Groundswell Incubator Farm is a wonderful way to put those rusting treasures to good use!  We are accepting donations of reasonably-used tools or equipment—please contact Devon Van Noble (727)410-4073, if you have a donation or questions!

Donate to the Incubator

Online donation system by ClickandPledge

There is still room for 1 more “Incubee” in the Program, and we encourage you to contact Groundswell Staff directly if you or someone you know is considering applying to the Program. (607)319-5095 or