Groundswell Highlights of 2009


Thanks to the efforts and talents of so many Groundswell volunteers, we made steady progress in 2009 towards the goal of establishing comprehensive farm-based training and education programs in the Ithaca area.
Building our base. Groundswell depends on a community of supporters who share our ambitious vision for farm-based education. That community came together for the very first Groundswell fundraising event on October 17. It was a terrific success, providing great food, farm tours and entertainment to over 70 supporters and raising nearly $2,000. Half of the proceeds will support Groundswell programs, with the other half going to our “parent” organization, the EcoVillage Center for Sustainability Education.
Reaching out. 2009 also marked the beginning of our outreach efforts, both to potential students and to supporters of the Groundswell vision. We shared our materials and information at many local and regional events this year, including a Local Foods Evening at Ithaca College; the Ithaca Festival Sustainability Fair; Judy’s Day at the Cornell Plantations; the Bioneers Conference at Ithaca College; the national Farm-Based Education Association Conference in Tarrytown, NY; and a “Local Foods Fair” at Cornell.
Going for grants. We developed a strong proposal for a comprehensive suite of training and support programs for new farmers, which we submitted to USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program in May. Although we weren’t selected for funding in 2009, we’re in a good position to update and resubmit our proposal in 2010. We also submitted a small proposal to USDA’s SARE Sustainable Communities Program, and will hear about funding decisions in March.
Community college connection. We’re very excited about the collaboration that Groundswell is embarking on with Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3). We’re working closely with Dr. Kelly Wessell, Chair of the Environmental Studies program, to begin planning several classes for TC3 students including an intensive 8-week Summer Practicum, which will be launched in 2010.
New farmer training. Working with a small group of local farmers and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, we took the first steps in 2009 towards organizing the new Finger Lakes “CRAFT” — Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, which will provide enhanced education and training programs for beginning farmers in the area. Intern Veronica Drake conducted a series of interviews with local farming interns, and confirmed a high level of interest in the CRAFT and other Groundswell programs.
Sustainable Farming Certificate Program. In the fall, the Groundswell Center was selected to work with Community Impact, a student run small business consulting firm operating out of the Johnson School at Cornell University.  We’re delighted to be assisted by with three talented MBA students, Ann Rickley, Dolph Warburton and Amber Steinhilber, who will be conducting a thorough market analysis for our Sustainable Farming Certificate Program.
International attention. Groundswell farmers and organizers are featured in a very cool online video about Ithaca’s vibrant local food system, recorded last summer. The Ithaca video is one of ten international video case studies being developed by the “Agriculture Bridge” project. It will be used in college classrooms in the US and abroad as an online teaching tool in sustainable development Click here to view the video.
Collaboration with Cornell. Groundswell was a key partner in designing and securing funding for a brand-new Cornell Sustainable Food Systems Initiative. We continue to collaborate with this diverse group of Cornell faculty and staff to address key sustainability issues relating to food and farming.
New Roots! Groundswell worked with faculty and staff of the New Roots Charter School to begin designing a farm-based curriculum for high school students.  In early September, the entire New Roots faculty visited West Haven Farm, and by mid September, all 110 New Roots students had spent a day at the farm with farm managers Todd McLane and John Bokaer-Smith, learning some basic principles of CSA farming and getting their hands into the dirt.
Bioneers. Groundswell was featured in the first Finger Lakes Bioneers Conference, held October 16-18 at Ithaca College.  Our session, titled: “Farm to Fork: Tapping into the Groundswell in Farm-Based Education,” was very well attended and sparked some excellent discussion and networking on the topic.
Farm-based education. Groundswell Center Director Joanna Green and Farmer-Teacher Todd McLane participated in the fourth annual Farm-Based Education Association Conference in Tarrytown, NY on November 12-14. We were impressed and inspired by the energy, talent and commitment of the farmers and educators involved in the “FBE” movement… for it truly is an exploding movement all across the US and Canada. We learned a tremendous amount about how to run successful farm-based education programs, and connected with dozens of new colleagues.