Online Educational "Hub" for Migrant Farmworkers

Progress report for LNE22-438

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2022: $261,372.00
Projected End Date: 11/30/2025
Grant Recipient: University of Vermont Extension
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Sarah Kleinman
University of Vermont Extension
Expand All

Project Information


Opportunity and Justification: The future success of the dairy industry in Vermont and beyond depends in part on farms' ability to both attract and retain a skilled workforce. 

Although Latinx labor has been the backbone of Vermont dairy farms for over 20 years, farmers have limited options for providing employees comprehensive educational trainings that cover on-farm communication and technical skills required for the modern dairy. Of the resources that are available, many do not account for the limitations of a “migratory lifestyle” including high mobility, language and cultural barriers, irregular and long work hours, geographic isolation, limited access to transportation, legal issues related to documentation status, and inaccessible or unreliable technology and internet access. In addition, cost is a barrier for farmworkers that often are committed to working 7 days a week to maximize their earning potential and are often unable to access financial aid or scholarships due to their documentation status in the United States. Farmworkers educational experience varies greatly and often includes gaps, which often translates to limited basic literacy and applied mathematics skills, which many available programs do not account for. 

One of few programs providing educational services to Latinx farmworkers in the state, the University of Vermont Extension's Migrant Education Program (VMEP) “bridges the gap” through providing online instruction and necessary technology. Due to federal eligibility requirements, however, VMEP is only able to provide services to +/-150 farmworkers annually. VMEP estimates that there are an additional +/-650 Latinx farmworkers in Vermont working on 150 farms that would benefit from expanded offerings and participation.

Solution and Approach: Through establishing an online educational platform, investing in the development of new curriculum and instructional materials, expanding capacity, and broadening the target audience, this project will establish and maintain the Farmworker Educational "Hub". The results serve to benefit the local and regional agricultural economies as well as farmworkers by enhancing quality of life, work-based communication, and farm safety.

Reflective of needs identified by both farmers and their Spanish speaking employees, 150 Latinx dairy farmworkers participating in Vermont and beyond will engage in online content over the course of three years. Educational content will be accessible through Brightspace, a Learning Management System (LMS) made available to online Extension educational programs through the national Extension Foundation. Initial course content will include: 1) English for workplace communication; 2) safety and technical skills required for the modern dairy farm; 3) basic computer skills in order to facilitate access and capacity; and 4) foundational educational skills (math and literacy). Of the 150 farmworkers tracked through this project, 50+ will create accounts independently and 100 will receive individual support including technology and access to synchronous classes. 

Performance Target:

This project will establish and facilitate access to an opensource, online educational "hub" for 150+ Latinx dairy farmworkers in Vermont and neighboring states. Of the 150 participating farmworkers, 2/3 (100) will demonstrate proficiency through a score of at least 80% after completion of a module by the end of the project. In addition, 2/3 (67) of farmworkers receiving direct services will report improved farm stability through measurements of farmworker quality of life, job satisfaction, workplace communication and safety through survey results. 


The Farmworker Educational Hub project aims to establish a place where migrant farmworkers can access necessary and desired educational experiences that will support their employment and future endeavors. Although there are some online educational resources available to farmworkers currently, they do not recognize the barriers unique to this population: Lack of appropriate technology and access on geographically isolated farms, limited transport, irregular and demanding work schedules, and language and cultural barriers. In addition, farmworkers do not always know of available opportunities and lack familiarity with the technology required to access those that do exist. Those that are undocumented have limited access to financial aid and scholarships that would support the pursuit of enhanced technical skills and further education. Farm managers and English speaking employees often do not have sufficient time or language skills to adequately train new Spanish speaking staff. The hub and resources placed there, allow for farmworkers to access education without cost, without the need for transportation and with technology provided.



Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Rebecca Heine (Educator)


Involves research:
Participation Summary


Educational approach:


Over three years, 150 farmworkers will engage with the Farmworker Educational “Hub” designed specifically to suit their educational needs. Of the 150 farmworkers, 50 participants will create accounts and have the opportunity to access asynchronous, self-guided content through their own means (typically cellphones). 100 farmworkers will be provided more intensive support including a Chromebook and the opportunity to participate in online classes facilitated by an instructor.

 Throughout the project, the "Hub" Coordinator will continuously collect referrals from service providers from farmers and service providers that work with migrant farmworkers including UVM Extension’s Migrant Education and Health Programs. In addition, an online self-referral form will be shared with existing contacts through WhatsApp message blasts and social media. To ensure farmers are aware of the program and encourage their employees’ participation, the "Hub" Coordinator will plan in-person or phone meetings with farmers focusing initially on the 60 largest farms that hire the largest amount of Latinx farmworkers. The additional 90 farms that outsource labor to Latinx farmworkers will be shared materials through email (when available). Phone calls and follow up visits will be done with farmers as recruitment needs for participants and program staff availability permits.

Every 3 months, 8 to 10 farmworkers will be enrolled starting in June 2023 with the goal of 25 in year one, 38 in year two, and 37 in year three. The model itself is intended to address some of the historical challenges migrant farmworkers have faced when attempting to access educational and technical trainings. The "Hub" Coordinator will help to facilitate internet access through working with farmers to see if internet access can be made accessible in farmworker housing or another location on farm. Participants will be required complete a 4 part series teaching basic computer skills. This series, in part, is meant to build a relationship with farmworkers, address questions related to the platform, and troubleshoot issues related to engagement. Participation will be facilitated through providing necessary technology including laptop Chromebooks.  


Once referred, the "Hub" Coordinator will reach out to the farmworker and set up a time for an in-person or online “counseling visit”. During this visit, the program and participant expectations will be described to see if it is an appropriate fit. If they decide to move forward, the Coordinator will complete the Farmworker Profile and Survey outlining educational interests, background, availability, and needs. During a second in-person visit done by the Program Coordinator, the participant will be provided a Chromebook and complete the laptop participant agreement. They will then receive assistance creating an account.

All participants will begin with four basic computer modules followed by brief assessments: 1) Chromebooks 101: Account and keyboard/mouse basics; 2) Websites and apps: Browsers, searches, and downloads; 3) Privacy and Security: Information literacy and internet safety basics; and 4) Navigating Learning Management Systems. The Program Instructor will organize classes and provide additional training as needed.

After completing the 4 computer modules, the participant will develop an educational plan in collaboration with staff and their employer (if available). They will select coursework from the following topic areas that reflect their educational goals and farm needs: 1) English for workplace communication; 2) safety and technical skills required for the modern dairy farm; and 3) foundational educational skills (math and literacy). This plan will be revisited on an annual basis or as needed. Additional content will be added as the program receives feedback and farm needs evolve. 


After every course module, farmworkers will be assessed to demonstrate proficiency within a content area. At the end of the project, 2/3 of participants (100) will demonstrate proficiency through a post assessment on at least one course module. The format of assessments will include content focused quizzes. After completing all course modules within a program area, participants will receive an emailed “Certificate of Achievement” (printed for those 100 farmworkers receiving direct services) that can be shown to future and/or current employers. For example, after successfully completing all four computer training modules, a certificate will be awarded.

In addition to a profile, the 100 farmworkers receiving direct services will complete a survey upon enrollment and every 6 months facilitated by the "Hub" Coordinator. This will provide information related to farm viability: 1) Workplace communication; 2) technical and safety skills; and 3) job satisfaction and quality of life. 2/3 of surveyed farmworkers will report an improvement in job satisfaction and quality of life related to participation. 2/3 will also report improved English and/or technical skills reflective of the course modules they select.

Update Year 1 - A project coordinator who has expertise in online education and speaks Spanish fluently was hired in December of 2023. This coordinator has since started learning a new learning management system supported by UVM called Brightspace, begun building the structure for courses, and initiated the process of creating a website that will serve as a conduit to the Brightspace platform for learners. Brightspace will not be fully operational at UVM until the summer or fall of 2023, thus attention is also being given to establishing the website and offering synchronous English courses via Zoom in the time before Brightspace is available. The coordinator did make contact with all named advisory board members and consulted with three of them to help gain understanding into needs and priority for direction.

Prior to the hire of the Coordinator, both the PI and Migrant Education Assistant Director  met often with UVM PACE (professional and continuing education) to learn more about the LMS transition and make decisions about the best course of action for this project.

Update Year 2 – 

With the hiring of the project coordinator at the end of2022, much progress has been made during 2023. A landing page on UVM Extension’s website has been created and houses a link to sign up for Hub classes ( the first round of 25 Chromebooks were purchased for use. Three 8-week English modules were created, one focused on basic conversation, one focused on shopping and running errands, and one focused on communication of health issues and related needs. In addition, a 3-week short course on technology and how to engage virtually was created and offered in December 2023  in anticipation of the transition to the Brightspace learning platform in January 2024. These courses were offered synchronously via weekly Zoom classes, with a total of 75 students participating and a total of 354 instructional hours delivered in 2023. The courses are currently in the process of being converted to asynchronous versions. An evaluation tool was created as well to assess learning and impact as well as a database to keep track of survey data, grades and enrollment information, and was administered to all students in fall 2023. 

The ProDairy certification course – developed via a collaboration between Cornell and UVM Extension – was converted into a Brightspace course, to be made available to Hub students beginning in January 2024. Additionally, the Coordinator discussed further collaboration with Cornell Cooperative Extension, specifically via referring Hub students to Cornell’s Spanish language Agricultural Supervisory Leadership Course, which was being offered for the first time beginning in November 2023.  

As mentioned previously, UVM’s launch of Brightspace, its new learning management system, was more delayed than originally thought, forcing this project to change gears a bit. Synchronous classes were the focus initially while Brightspace was being built.  Much time this year was spent learning the system, advocating for language and access needs, and creating the course. The first asynchronous courses have now been built and will be delivered in January, 2024.  

In addition to curriculum development and teaching, the program coordinator held enrollment calls (approximately 30 minutes ) with each of the 75 students, to tell them about the program and fill out their “profile” as well as conducted 9 farm visits to deliver Chromebooks and talk with students in-person. 



Efforts and outreach for the creation and continued success for the Farmworker Educational "Hub" will be ongoing over a three year basis. The following outline benchmarks associated with farmworker and farmer outreach, development of materials, enrollment, gathering feedback, and demonstrating proficiency. 

  1. Consultation with Project Advisory Committee: The "Hub" Coordinator will conduct biannual semi-structured interviews by phone or in-person with the Advisory Committee including 2 farmers, 2 agricultural/educational professionals and 1 farmworker regarding suggested content for instructional modules and the program's impact on farm viability related to safety and labor. First interviews completed by February 2023 and on a biannual basis through the end of the project in November 2025. Year 1, six months into the project, a Hub Coordinator was hired in December, 2022 and made contact  with all named advisory members, implementing three consultations to learn about needs of members to help inform priority for content. Year 2, two meetings were held with the advisory committee, the first in late winter to introduce the new coordinator and begin to inform direction, and the second meeting in November to provide for updates and gain feedback on effort so far. The Hub Coordinator asked advisors and received valuable feedback on three primary questions: 1) What are the barriers (if any) to farmworkers accessing managerial skills? Do you see the Hub playing a role in that? 2) Would familiarity with computers, keyboards, basic comp skills, be useful for dairy farms? Or are laptops, tablets, and keyboards too far removed from what farms are using to monitor cow health, irrigation, etc.?  3) What general educational needs/desires you’re hearing from dairy farmworkers?In response, advisors shared about specific dairy management software and technologies (PC Dart and Dairy Comp) for which it’d be useful to dairy farms to have Spanish language trainings. Advisors shared ideas for specific people who would be well-equipped to develop such trainings (fluent in Spanish and in dairy farm technologies). The group also had a robust discussion about managerial skills training; Cornell-based advisors shared about the launch of the Spanish version of their Agricultural Supervisory Leadership course in fall 2023 and ideas for referring Hub students to this program were discussed. Regarding general education needs, advisors emphasized the need for a “Workplace 101” training in Spanish, which would serve to support farmworker onboarding on dairy farms where owners do not speak Spanish.  
  2. Creating platform and content: Updated - The "Hub" Instructor will create and upload instructional content into the LMS (Learning Management System), Brightspace. Initial content will include 4 basic computer skills modules, 10 language modules based on workplace communication, 5 modules that cover technical skills required for the modern dairy farm, 4 modules covering literacy, and 4 modules on applied mathematics. Initial upload and LMS configuration completed by September 2023. In addition to the Brightspace platform, a website will be created to serve as a conduit to the Brightspace course content. Initial launch of the website will be completed by March 2023. Year 1 - much of this year was spent learning Brightspace and playing around in the "sandbox", becoming familiar with the platform and exploring its functions. We are at the mercy of UVM to determine when Brightspace will go live, so did decide to pivot towards the end of December to start with synchronous English classes while designing the courses, readying for the Fall go live date. The Hub Coordinator also met with UVM web team to sketch out a splash page and the look of where the hub will be housed online. Year 2, a splash page was created and went live ( ) This page has a link to register/learn more for farmworkers. Three  8-week  English modules were developed by the Hub Coordinator and two part-time English instructors, including development of learning objectives, creation of course material (interactive slides), practice activities (using learning applications like Quizlet, Word Wall, and Quizzizz), and quizzes. One technology orientation was developed to help participants learn how to navigate and use the computers and virtual programs. Finally, the ProDairy course was converted into a Brightspace course (from Cornell’s Moodle version) and represents the first of 5 dairy technical skills modules. Throughout the year, once Brightspace became available to staff to explore, learn, and create courses, the Coordinator invested a lot of time into building course content and improving platform accessibility features (i.e. advocating for language accessibility and providing missing translations to the Brightspace transition team). At the end of 2023, she finalized our first asynchronous course, to be offered beginning in January, 2024. In addition, assessment tools and a tracking system were created to monitor enrollments and performance. Two additional temporary employees were hired, to teach English classes and  to help with curriculum development.  
  3. Farm outreach: Using contact information and data available from VMEP’s Farm Database, the "Hub" Coordinator will compile a list of the +/- 150 farms that actively hire and employ Latinx farmworkers. All with available email will receive promotional materials via email. The 60 farms identified as the largest in size (+500 milkers) will receive personal phone calls and/or in-person visits to describe the program’s purpose and potential benefits. Data will be entered into Salesforce using the Farm Profile (see in “Draft Verification Tool”).The Hub Coordinator will contact 15 farms per month between January - April, 2023. Outreach to farmers will be ongoing after that according to recruitment needs, direct inquiries, and staff availability. Year 2, a partnership with UVM Extension’s Migrant Education Program was established, training the 4 Regional Coordinators who handle identification and recruitment as well as other program staff, on the work of the Hub and referrals to our program. This staff is out on farms daily and has the most contact with farmworkers and farm owners. Additionally, the Hub Coordinator called 32 dairy farms in late winter and spring 2023, using contact information from the UVM Migrant Education Program’s Farm Database, to share news and information about the Hub and its offerings for workers.
  4. Participant recruitment: Using an online Teams form, The "Hub" Coordinator will collect a minimum of 100 participant referrals from service providers, farm owners and managers, as well as self-referrals by farmworkers collected on an ongoing basis. All referrals will be reviewed and followed up on by October 2025. Year 2, two primary channels for receiving referrals are in use as of December 2023: 1) an online referral form and 2) direct contact from farmworkers to the Hub Coordinator via WhatsApp messenger. Aa referral form was created in January 2023 in both English and Spanish and is in use. A total of 83 referrals have been received as of December 31, 2023 via the referral form. An additional 35 referrals were received via direct WhatsApp message to the Coordinator. All have been followed up on.
  5. Identifying interests and needs: The "Hub" Coordinator will assist 100 farmworkers with the completion of the Farmworker Profile, which will gather information on their academic experiences, contact information, and interests. 25 farmworkers will complete the profile by December 2023 (end of year 1), an additional 38 farmworkers will complete by December 2024 (year two), and an additional 37 farmworkers will complete the profile by September 2025 (year three). Year 2a total of 75 farmworkers have completed the profile. 
  6. Surveying farmworkers: The "Hub" Coordinator will assist the 100 farmworkers receiving intensive supports with completing a self-assessment survey covering the following: 1) workplace English; 2) technical and safety skills; and 3) job satisfaction and quality of life. This will be completed upon enrollment and every 6 months thereafter while a farmworker actively participates in the program. 2/3 of surveyed farmworkers will report an improvement in job satisfaction and quality of life related to participation in this program. 2/3 will also report improved English and/or technical skills reflective of the course modules they select (i.e. farmworkers will only complete self-assessments in English or technical skills if they completed course content on that subject within the last 6 months). Initiating in March 2023 and completed by September 2025. Year 2 – The survey was created by the Hub Coordinator using Qualtrics in July 2023 and was administered to Hub students in September 2023. 22 students completed the survey. The survey will be administered to students again in March 2024, and every six months thereafter, to evaluate their progress and understand program efficacy and areas for improvement.
  7. Creating online accounts: The "Hub" Coordinator will assist 25 farmworkers with creating accounts in the LMS platform by December 2023 (year one), 38 additional accounts by December 2024 (year two), and 37 additional accounts by October 2025 (year three). We anticipate an additional 50 farmworkers will create accounts independently and access asynchronous course content by the end of the project (November 2025). Year 2, with the LMS just launching, the groundwork has been laid for Hub students to successfully utilize the LMS platform, including ensuring accurate translation of the interface to Spanish. The Hub Coordinator gained understanding of the system for noncredit user account generation and resolved issues in that process with the Brightspace technical support staff. The Coordinator projects to have at least 30 student accounts created and in use by the end of January 2024. 
  8. Disseminating Chromebooks: The "Hub" Coordinator will provide 25 students with Chromebooks by December 2023 (year one), 38 by December 2024, and 37 by October 2025. All students will review and sign the laptop agreement (see English version in “Curriculum/Supporting Document”). Year 2, 25 Chromebooks were purchased. 9 have been placed in the field are in use. With the change to Brightspace from the previous LMS, the interface for phones has greatly improved and thus, the use of more Chromebooks (beyond the 25 currently purchased) may not be warranted. The project team communicated with NESARE to share this and asked for a rebudget. For now, only the 25 Chromebooks will be purchased and distributed to students.
  9. Synchronous Instruction Hours: The Instructor will begin to provide synchronous instruction in March 2023 focusing on English, applied mathematics, and literacy. In total, farmworkers will collectively receive 500 hours of synchronous instruction per year (1500 in total over the course of the project ending in September  2025). Year 1 - given the decision to pivot to launching synchronous English classes first, given the delay in transition from Blackboard to Brightspace, time has been spent reaching out to English Instructors to build lesson plans, curriculum and resources. Year 2 – Beginning in April 2023, three English courses and one computer course were offered reaching 75 students. A total of 354 instructional hours were delivered. 
  10. Demonstration of knowledge: The "Hub" Instructor will create the assessments to demonstrate proficiency on the initial modules by the end of September 2023. Farmworkers will complete an assessment at the end of every module to demonstrate proficiency. Of the 150 farmworkers with accounts, 2/3 (100 at minimum) will demonstrate proficiency through a score of at least 80% after completion of a module by the end of the project in November 2025. Year 2 Assessments were created for each of the 3 English modules. A total of 16 students demonstrated proficiency through a test score of at least 80% after completion of a module (5 of these 16 students successfully completed more than one module). Each of these students received a digital Certification of Completion (pdf) from the Hub Coordinator upon completion of the module.

Milestone Activities and Participation Summary

Educational activities:

9 Consultations
4 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

110 Farmers participated

Learning Outcomes

16 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation

Additional Project Outcomes

1 Grant applied for that built upon this project
Success stories:

Below are students’ answers to the question “Do you think the classes you are taking with the Farmworker Education Hub will serve you in your job? If so, why?”: 


Me urge el inglés porque los patrones no me entienden muy bien. 

It is urgent for me to learn English because my bosses don’t understand me very well. - farmworker student, Franklin County VT, August 2023 


Si, mucho. No solamente en el trabajo sino también en la vida social y sentirme parte de la comunidad, poder saludar a la gente en la calle y cosas así. 

Yes, a lot. Not only at work but also in my social life and to feel like I’m part of the community... to be able to greet people in the street and things like that. - farmworker student, Franklin County VT, August 2023 


Sí, porque aquí todos hablan inglés y a pesar de que entiendo mucho no me puedo comunicar bien. 

Yes, because everyone speaks English here and although I understand a lot, I can’t speak very well. - farmworker student, Lamoille County VT, October 2023 


Si lo ocupo sí, me va a servir mucho, porque yo me dirijo solo con los patrones y esta complicado y difícil a veces... es difícil la comunicación, si les quiero contar de algo que ha pasado en el trabajo, esta difícil porque ellos tampoco no hablan español. Cuando entre a trabajar no tenía que comunicarme tanto en el trabajo, pero ahora que me subieron a otro tipo de trabajo con más responsabilidad, tengo que comunicarme más con ellos. ¡Necesito mucho hablar más ingles! Estoy muy motivado de aprender.  

If I use it, yes, it’s going to serve me a lot, because I engage directly with the farm owners here and sometimes it’s complicated and challenging... the communication is difficult – if I want to tell them something that happened on the farm, it’s hard, because I don’t speak English and they don’t speak Spanish either. When I started to work here [three years ago], I didn’t have to talk with them very much. But now that they promoted me to a different position with more responsibility, I have to communicate with them much more. I really need to speak more English! I am very motivated to learn. -- farmworker student, Addison County, VT, November 2023 


Si porque mis patrones todos hablan inglés y muchas veces no comprendo lo que me dicen. Dependo de otros compañeros que me traducen lo que dicen o el usa el internet para buscar la traducción. También cuando uno va a hacer la dispensa, se hace muy difícil la comunicación y sería mucho mejor poder comunicarme en inglés.  

Yes, because all of my bosses speak English and a lot of the time, I can’t understand what they’re saying to me. I depend on other farmworkers to translate for me or on the internet to find the translation. Also, sometimes communication is really hard when I go to the store in town, and it’d be a lot better if I could communicate in English. - farmworker student, Addison County VT, June 2023 


Below are students text messages to the Hub Coordinator upon successful completion of a module: 


Muchas gracias a ustedes por apoyarnos. Ha sido siempre de gran ayuda y deseo seguir aprendiendo.  

Thank you for supporting us. The program has been a great help and I want to keep learning. - text message from farmworker student, Addison County VT, November 2023 


Hola, muchas gracias por pensar en todos nosotros y tomarse el tiempo para enseñarnos. 

Hi, thank you so much for thinking of all of us and for taking the time to teach us. - text message from farmworker student, Lamoille County, VT, September 2023 

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.