Poe Htoo and Paw Beler
Poe Htoo came from a hill rice farming family in Myanmar (formerly Burma) before re-settling in Ithaca as a refugee. Relying on his background in agriculture, he plants gotakola, Thai chili peppers, lemon cucumbers, bitter gourd, Edamame, corn, peas, basil, and other South East Asian crops. Poe Htoo’s wife, Paw Beler, and their two children often accompany him to work at the farm. They plan to grow food for their own consumption, to sell at the farmers market, and to send off with their uncle Paw Pha to sell in the surrounding region. Fun fact: Poe Htoo starts his seedlings inside under lights in his children’s playroom so he can transplant greens in his high tunnel bed by April.
Taylor Shuler, Société Lune Noire
Taylor relocated to Ithaca in the winter of 2017 to start her farm business at the Incubator Farm. With a background in biodynamic farming and Permaculture practices, and knowledge gained from traveling to farms and farm communities around the world, Taylor is setting out to grow medicinal and culinary herbs. She will be selling her products locally and online, both in their raw forms and as value-added products. Taylor’s long-term goals include growing Société Lune Noire to contribute to a community of people living and growing food on shared land.
Paw Pha, also a refugee from Burma, is in his fourth year at the Incubator Farm. Paw grows a variety of South East Asian produce such as gongura and lemon cucumbers. He aggregates produce from the other refugee farmers and markets it regionally through Asian groceries in Utica and Syracuse, where there is demand for these culturally significant crops. He is also excited to sell locally this year at the East Hill Plaza Farmers Market in Ithaca, NY. When not on the farm, Paw Pha is helping students in the archives through his employment at the Cornell Library Learn more about Paw Pha’s story via Tompkins Weekly article: One of us, putting down roots.
Alison Smith, Flowersmith Farm
Flowersmith Farm focuses on sustainably grown, specialty cut flowers. Initially inspired to begin farming by her passion for cultivating local food, owner and grower Alison Smith, decided to narrow her focus to flowers after 3 years of growing vegetables in the Hudson Valley. Alison appreciates that flowers can bring joy, express peace, and show love. She looks forward to building community through a shared love for flowers in the coming season! Flowersmith grows designer-quality cut flowers for florists, DIY brides and grooms and lots of flower lovers all over the Finger Lakes region.
ABILITY IN BLOOM
Ability in Bloom is a social enterprise program of Challenge Workforce Solutions whose goal is to provide jobs and work skills training for a dedicated group of adults and students with barriers to employment. Ability in Bloom employs Challenge participants who are not ready to find work in the community. In addition to growing flowers at the Incubator Farm, they also farm at the Ithaca Community Gardens and have a business relationship with Take Your Pick Flower Farm in Lansing. Glen Robertson is the Program Coordinator.
Eh Say, Eh Hser & Merry Paw
This extended family of refugees from Burma works together to grow on a shared half acre plot and in the hoop house. Aung Htoo and Eh Hser were brothers-in-law; In their first year with Groundswell, they grew produce for their families including crops familiar to Americans such as garlic, Habanero peppers, and cucumbers, as well as Southeast Asian produce such as gongura and long beans. Most of their produce has been for consumption and preservation by their families, but they are interested in selling their vegetables as well.
Besides acclimating to a new life and culture in Ithaca and learning English, Eh Hser works full time, and each family has three school-aged children. The families can be found many weekends and evenings planting and weeding at the farm.
Sea Nee Sow & Gaw Paw
Sea Nee Sow came to the United States three years ago and is entering his second year farming with Groundswell. He grew up in a farming family growing rice, beans, vegetables, fruit, and raising cows and chickens. Since leaving his village for a refugee camp in Thailand, Sea Nee Sow has worked in sawmills, which he continues in the Ithaca area. Him and his wife, Gaw Paw, have 3 children.
William came from a farming village in Burma, where his family grew rice and vegetables using oxen. He and his wife have lived in Ithaca for ten years, and have three young children. Although William grew up farming, he is aware of the extreme differences between cultivating food in Ithaca versus Burma, and he is interested to learn the farming methods of the Northeast US. He plans to grow food for his family and to sell to his friends and community in Ithaca and Buffalo. William is especially interested in learning to grow vegetables in greenhouses and high tunnels.