Groundswell welcomes 2011 New Farmer Training Program participants!

Trainees will be instructed by experienced farmer mentors like Maryrose Livingston and Donn Hewes of Northland Sheep Dairy, who’ll be teaching about livestock husbandry and farming with draft animals (shown here demonstrating working with draft horses)

It’s hard to believe that after two years of planning, we are about to launch our New Farmer Training Program this Wednesday, April 20. And how gratifying to be able to report that we had 37 applicants to the program, and have confirmed 23 trainees! We are thrilled with the enthusiastic response we’ve received, and are ready to begin the first year of the program with a bang.

So we’d like to say a HUGE WELCOME! to this amazing and inspiring group of trainees. Some of you are probably reading this newsletter for the first time.

Let me tell you a little about yourselves. First, you’re all from New York State, which isn’t surprising since we designed the program for people who live in this region and who already have housing, jobs, or farms. Fifteen of you are from Tompkins County, six from Onondaga County (Syracuse area), one each from Cortland and Madison Counties, and one coming all the way from Brooklyn! We had applicants from as far away as California, Detroit and Arizona, but as you might expect, these folks decided it was not feasible to relocate to Ithaca for the program.

An important part of Groundswell’s mission is to engage a diverse group of trainees to ensure that historically marginalized people have access to our programs. We haven’t collected demographic information from everyone yet, but so far our efforts have been successful insofar as our group includes 5 African-Americans, 2 Latinos, 2 immigrants and 15 women. At least 30% of the applicants identify as people of color. Thanks to our grant from USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, we were also able to provide scholarship support to twelve people who identified as being of “limited resources.”

Every one of you has a unique background that you bring to the program, and unique goals and dreams. We are really looking forward to meeting all of you next Wednesday evening and beginning our journey together!