What is the Incubator Farm Program?
Start-up costs are one of the biggest obstacles for beginning farmers. Through our Incubator Farm program, we provide new farmers with land, farm facilities, technical training, and one-on-one guidance. The Incubator Farm is located on land leased from Ecovillage, a few miles outside Ithaca, NY. Questions about the farm? Check out the Incubator Farm FAQ.
What is provided?
Each farmer is provided a 1/4 acre plot of farmland. The perimeter of the farmed area is mowed by Groundswell staff.
Farm facilities include:
- 8’ tall deer perimeter fencing
- high tunnel growing space
- walk-in vegetable storage cooler
- indoor-outdoor vegetable washing station and packing area
- equipment storage shed with 3x3’ areas for each farmer’s personal supplies
- tool shed well-equipped with hand tools, power tools, and PPE
- BCS (two wheeled walk-behind tractor) and implements
- two port-a-potty toilets
- kitchen station with sink, microwave, and kettle
- outdoor classroom shade structure for rest breaks and meals
- trash collection
Prior farming experience is helpful but not required. Farmers must have a commitment to farming with respect for the land. The farm is not certified organic, but farmers utilize organic, regenerative practices. No chemical pesticide or chemical fertilizer use is permitted on the farm.
While we consider all applicants to the Incubator Farm Program, we prioritize admission for people of color, immigrants, refugees, and women, trans*, and non-binary people. We aim to build a more diverse farming community by supporting farmers who often experience significant systemic barriers to starting their business.
expense sharing and farm fee
Groundswell covers the majority of Incubator Farm expenses. Farmers pay a fee of $130-600 per season to help share the expense of municipal water and farm maintenance. The fee amount depends upon the size of the farmer’s plot and how much water they use during the season as measured by water meters.
For transparency, here are some of the expenses that Groundswell partially or fully funds:
- municipal water for irrigation (farmers pay the majority of this)
- municipal water for the wash station and kitchen
- drip irrigation system components and their maintenance
- gas and diesel for the BCS, lawn mower, and tractor
- small engine repair and maintenance for the above equipment
- wood chips, straw, and compost
- trash disposal and port-a-potty cleanings
- fence maintenance
- hand/power tools and their maintenance
- occasional hiring of contractors for building projects and farm improvement projects
Groundswell employs a full time farm manager and a seasonal assistant farm manager to manage operations, maintain equipment, organize volunteer days, and complete regular mowing and weed control on pathways and the edges of farm plots. The farm manager also acts as a mentor and educator for new farmers. Groundswell additionally connects farmers to consultants with specialized knowledge to help with individual farm business goals.
Moving towards climate resilience is a priority and a continued process at the Incubator Farm. In 2022 Groundswell staff installed a 275 gallon rainwater catchment system on the wash station. Groundswell has been making progress towards an irrigation pond, a project which was interrupted by the pandemic but remains an important goal. To improve water retention and reduce plastic use, Groundswell provides wood chips and straw for mulching beds each season.
MEET THE FARMERS
Paw Pha plays a major role in supporting the other Karen farmers. He grows Southeast Asian veggies which he sells via CSA, wholesale, and at market. He recently completed construction of an NRCS-funded high tunnel.
After several years at the farm, Eh Say has expanded into a new plot and is working closely with family friends. She grows vegetables and also has a love for flowers.
Poe Htoo came from a hill rice farming family in Burma before re-settling in Ithaca with refugee status. He grows gotu kola, Thai chili peppers, lemon cucumbers, bitter gourd, and other Southeast Asian crops.
More profiles of current incubator farmers coming soon!
VISIT THE INCUBATOR FARM
We're taking precautions to ensure the safety of visitors and the farmers during COVID-19. The farm is not open to the public for walk-ins. Contact the Incubator Farm Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or to request a visit.
The Groundswell Incubator Farm is located on land leased from EcoVillage Ithaca, 100 Rachel Carson Way, Ithaca NY. From Ithaca, take route 79 West for 2 miles, turn left on Rachel Carson Way, take a left just before the wooden building Gourdlandia. Turn left at the stop sign, passing solar panels and a greenhouse and following the Groundswell signs. The Incubator Farm is to the left, past the solar panels.