Marketing & Business Skills for Beginning, Refugee, & Immigrant Farmers in Lincoln, Nebraska

Progress report for LNC22-461

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2022: $72,446.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Community Crops
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Amy Gerdes
Community Crops
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Project Information


Successful operation of small-scale specialty crop farms requires knowledge in production as well as business and marketing. Without foundational business skills, an otherwise successful farmer will not maximize their sales and growth potential. Community Crops works primarily with refugee and immigrant farmers who are often highly skilled in production, but need more support on the business and marketing aspects of their operations. Barriers in culture and language can make these challenges more pronounced. Access to technology and knowledge on how to use technological tools has also been a limitation. This project, titled “Marketing & Business Skills for Beginning, Refugee, & Immigrant Farmers in Lincoln, Nebraska,” will focus on providing a series of educational workshops which will connect beginning farmers, with an emphasis on immigrant and refugee farmers, in the Lincoln, Nebraska area to a network of qualified instructors. Farmer education will focus on marketing, making small farms profitable, and developing sustainable business models. Project objectives include 1) 12 educational workshops (6 classes each year for 2 years) on business planning and marketing for small-scale specialty crop farmers in the Lincoln, Nebraska region and 2) increasing the confidence and knowledge of small-scale specialty crop farmers in Lincoln, Nebraska region on business planning and marketing for their farm businesses. There is a lot of opportunity for beginning, refugee, and immigrant farmers to build successful operations throughout the North Central Region. This project will focus on developing an educational curriculum that can be shared with other organizations serving these communities in our region, ensuring farmers have access to the full toolbox of skills they need to build sustainable farm operations. Our educational model includes partnering with successful local farmers to co-teach so that farmers are learning from their peers and building a long-term network of relationships that can be sustained beyond the project.

Project Objectives:


  1. Offer 12 workshops ( 2 years with 6 classes each) on business planning & marketing for small-scale speciality crop farmers in the Lincoln, Nebraska region.
  2. Increase confidence and knowledge of small-scale specialty crop farmers in Lincoln, Nebraska region on business planning & marketing for their farm businesses.

Pre- and post-surveys and/or focus groups will be utilized to understand the baseline knowledge, confidence, and educational needs of the farmers our project will reach. The curriculum developed, including translated materials and lessons learned, will be made available to other farmers and programs in the North Central Region at the project conclusion.



This project coordinates learning targeted toward New American and Beginning Farmers on business and marketing topics for small scale specialty crop farmers. We are currently working on this project and have hosted 10 workshops thus far. We currently have 17 core students, intending to complete the series in full. 


Involves research:
Participation Summary


Educational approach:

For this project, we have mainly utilized lecture style classes to present on all class topics. Due to having mixed audiences (New American & born in US) with varying language skills and primary languages, we have primarily worked with instructors who are well versed in working with New American and ELL audiences, who are experts in their field. 2 of our 9 classes thus far have been targeted to new American audiences specifically, Computer Fundamentals, which was a 3 session course focused on foundational computer skills like searching the internet and online ordering, sending emails, making invoices, and an introduction to using spreadsheets, as well as Produce Safety, which introduced FSMA and produce safety training in a modified way, and focused on teaching participants best practices and standards for consumer safety and to meet buyer expectations. Current produce safety courses are generally not set up to teach non-English speakers, especially in languages that are not Spanish. 

Project Activities

Marketing & Business Skills for Beginning, Refugee, & Immigrant Farmers in Lincoln, Nebraska

Educational & Outreach Activities

9 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
10 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

26 Farmers participated
2 Ag professionals participated
Education/outreach description:

We have hosted 10 workshops, described in detail in the ‘Project Activities section’. Our outreach has included heavy recruiting for farmers who grow at our two farm sites to participate in the classes, in monthly newsletter and social media promotion, and with individuals working in local food and sustainable agriculture who are serving on the leadership team as part of a UAIP grant we have active. Additionally, we presented on this project as part of the recent Nebraska Healthy Farms Local Food conference in January 2024.  

Learning Outcomes

Key areas taught:
  • Computer Fundamentals for ELL Farmers
  • Produce Safety Standards and Practices for Small Scale Growers
  • NRCS Cooperative Agreements, EQIP Program, and other local funding resources
  • Finance Management and Accounting
  • Principles of Marketing
  • Brand Identity
  • Business Planning
  • US Tax Structure and Preparation for small Farm Businesses
  • Becoming a Business: LLC's and Sole Proprietorships
  • Production Planning for Market and Wholesale Sales Avenues

Project Outcomes

Key practices changed:
  • We are still collecting and processing the data to help us provide an accurate answer to this question.

5 New working collaborations
Success stories:

Attached are several photos from our classes.

A pie chart on a whiteboard is displayed; with sections describing how to market beets and cress.
'Marketing Fundamentals' Class exercise on how to market products, using the examples of beets and cress.
Students in a classroom are seated at tables with laptops, receiving assistance from instructors on basic computer skills.
Arabic and Kurdish speaking students practice sending email to buyers and use Google Sheets to easily create invoices during 'Computer Fundamentals' class.
Students in a classroom view a presentation and lecture on Brand Identity.
Learning about the importance of brand identity from instructor Kelly Ross.
Students sit around tables in a classroom learning about Finance Management & Accounting.
Farmer students sit around tables in a classroom learning about Finance Management & Accounting from instructor, Kelly Ross.
A whiteboard displays different marketing considerations and approaches for small scale farmers.
Whiteboard brainstorm during 'Marketing Fundamentals' class about different marketing considerations and approaches for small scale farm businesses.

Information Products

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.