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Land for Food


Although by many measures Dane County is a thriving community, not everyone in our community shares in its advantages. Many immigrant and minority farmers in Dane County face obstacles to securing land.

As a land-protection organization that has a long track record of assisting conventional farmers with land tenure and meeting community conservation needs, Groundswell is well positioned to use our land protection tools to address land tenure issues for more people in our communities.

In 2018 we secured land at two different locations and have begun to develop two new partnerships to address land security for immigrant and minority growers.

Pasley’s Swan Creek Farm 
On the north side of Fitchburg, Groundswell purchased a 35-acre tract of land that includes 12 acres of work land that will provide the home for the innovative agricultural programming offered by Neighborhood Food Solutions.

The FAIR program engages formerly incarcerated individuals in urban agriculture to create economic opportunity for themselves, families, and neighbors. Not only does it provide a way for a successful reentry process, but also it involves them in cultivating just local food systems in their own communities. 

The PEAT program is a summer employment program that provides an opportunity for low-income and at-risk teens to learn new skills. Through mentorship and job training courses teens are able to gain hands-on experience of running a farm and selling their crops at a market. Students are able to apply through their schools and once accepted get an introduction to farming and start to get their hands dirty right away. 

Pasley’s Swan Creek Farm includes about 20 acres of relatively-high-quality wetland along Swan Creek, which is a tributary to Waubesa Wetlands, one of the highest quality wetlands in Dane County and the state of Wisconsin. Good land use practices are very important to the health of Waubesa Wetlands.  So, this project also seeks to demonstrate that market and subsistence farming can be a compatible land use near valuable conservation areas.

Westport Farm
East of Waunakee on the west side of Cherokee Marsh and next to our Westport Drumlin Preserve, we purchased 10 acres to allow a group of Hmong farmers to continue to grow on the land.

Knowing that minority and immigrant famers often face barriers to long-term land access, the landowner turned to Groundswell to find a way for the Hmong farmers to continue to work the land after she retired from farming. Many have been relying on her land for the past 20 years for subsistance and market growing. Thanks to a grant from the Madison Community Foundation, we have partnered with Rooted to develop a system of leases with the Hmong farmers, embracing the principles of community food-sovereignty that are important to local food production.

Both farm sites lacked necessary infrastructure such as water, electricity, and sheds, but we're making progress on overcoming those barriers to success. 

Thanks to these current farm sponsors, activities are underway at both farms: Madison Community Foundation, High Wind Association, Willy Street Co-op Community Reinvestment Fund, Blooming Prairie Foundation, Nimick Forbesway Foundation, Schlecht Family FoundationStafford Rosenbaum LLP, Richard McCoy, Groundswell's Founders' Fund, and an anonymous donor.

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