|Digging a test hole at the Incubator Farm.
By Devon Van Noble
Finding or creating the right tool for the job. Using what you have in front of you. Self-sufficiency. Ingenuity.
These are parts of farming that are really exciting to many farmers. It’s an inspiring time to be part of the sustainable farming community, because there is a movement of innovative thinkers that are developing new techniques for producing and processing food that are cost-effective and accessible. All types of farmers are utilizing these kinds of innovations to save money and labor, improve the function of their tools and farm, and most importantly, to create quality products without high-risk investments in capital.
Groundswell has been gearing up for the launch of the Farm Enterprise Incubator Program in early 2013, and began prepping fields at EcoVillage over this summer. At the Incubator Farm, beginning farmers will be able to get access not only to land, but also to infrastructure, equipment, and tools. These things are essential to start growing food, but they’re things that many new producers can’t afford before they are making sales of their own. Once enrolled, Incubees will be able to lease land for up to 3 years before they graduate from the Program and are expected to transition to a new property. This allows for new groups of beginning farmers to continue entering the program and benefit from the same infrastructure and resources.
Through a partnership between the Groundswell Center, beginning farmers, and support from the broader community, the “Incubees” will benefit from a three-year window to create enough revenue to capitalize their enterprise and transition to new land. The community, in turn, will be supporting an enduring framework for new farmers to learn the skills and access the resources necessary to operate sustainable farm businesses that can feed local people. The Incubator Program could play a significant role in the food and farming system in this region.
On October 21st, as part of the Groundswell Local Food & Farm Festival, we’ll launch the 2012 Incubator Farm Infrastructure Campaign through Kickstarter, which will help fund the construction of farm infrastructure and purchase of cost-effective equipment. This infrastructure will be utilized by diverse beginning producers, making it possible for many to get started who would not be able to do so otherwise. We believe this framework is critical to healthy local food and farms, and we invite you to be a part of supporting it. Supporters will receive various benefits for participating, such as having your name engraved or painted on one of the fence posts, t-shirts, or a tour of the Farm. Donations will be accepted at the Local Food & Farm Festival hosted at EcoVillage, and on the web into December.
With the help of farmer-consultants and others, Groundswell has assessed many options for farm infrastructure and equipment. Current design plans include expanding the current West Haven Farm pond, purchasing a lightly-used deer fence from a Brooktondale farmer, and constructing a walk-in Cool Bot Cooler at the Farm Hack-Ithaca event. There are many things that the community could help us find or purchase during the next few months. We are not sure whether we will be able to purchase a new or a used tractor for the Farm, but if someone out there has a working tractor that they would like to see used by new farmers—we would love to hear about it! Soon there will be a list of items that Groundswell is seeking for the Incubator, but please contact us as soon as possible if you have something you are considering donating. Any items donated to the Incubator Farm would be tax-deductible as an in-kind donation. (607-319-5095, or firstname.lastname@example.org)
Devon Van Noble, Incubator Coordinator and Groundswell Staff