The Incubator Farm, a ten minute drive from downtown Ithaca, is home to 11 farm businesses. These businesses, run through the efforts of approximately 30 farmers, are owned by majority ethnic Karen (kuh-REN) refugees from Burma growing Southeast Asian vegetables. The farm is also home to a workforce development program called Ability in Bloom and a small apple orchard managed by Mehrabyan Nursery.

This year, COVID-19 posed some distribution and sales issues for farmers. In response, several farmers opted to sell to wholesale distributors that could offer delivery and sell to larger vendors, while some farmers choose to sell to Asian markets and take their products home to share with their family and community.

Groundswell coordinated aggregating Incubator Farm produce to Headwater Food Hub and Full Plate Farm Collective CSA, producing a total of 68 cases of special variety summer squash, 23 cases of cilantro, 28 cases of chard, and 1,600 pounds of leeks. Groundswell also worked with other local farms to aggregate produce to sell to the food hub.

In 2020, Groundswell adopted a new water management plan to help farmers adapt to drought and other effects of climate change. The county-wide advisory to conserve water prompted additional excitement about the new pond at the Groundswell Incubator Farm. Made possible by support from generous donors, digging a pond will help store and manage water for irrigation without having to rely on costly water pumped up the hill from Ithaca. 

If this fall continues to be dry, excavators may be able to break ground on the pond this year!

If not, we look forward to digging when the ground dries in the spring. Groundswell is currently in the process of applying for town permits for this project. This pond will utilize a solar pump to move water from the pond into the drip irrigation system, providing a quiet and fossil-free alternative to a gas-powered pond pump. In addition, drip irrigation conserves water by targeting the base of the plant as opposed to a sprinkler system which soaks the entire plant and loses water to evaporation.  

A Solidarity Garden was planted at the Incubator Farm this year as a resilient response to food insecurity faced during covid-19. This garden was established in partnership with Our Children’s Future DigNity Garden, and TreeGate Farm and grows produce for free distribution at Ithaca’s West Village Apartments.

Read more about Our Children Future and the partnership through an interview with Program Advisor, Jamila Walida Simon, HERE.

photo credit: Headwater Food Hub