Soil Health and Nutrient Management Training for Immigrant and Minority Farming Communities

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $74,760.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: University of Minnesota
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Julie Grossman
University of Minnesota

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: cover crops, nutrient cycling, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: networking, workshop
  • Soil Management: green manures, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis

    Proposal abstract:

    Immigrant farmers represent a growing population of food producers in Minnesota and elsewhere in the Upper Midwest. Many immigrant populations in our region are farming in urban or peri-urban settings, which often means contending with poor soils that are compacted, low in nutrients, or lacking sufficient organic matter. Feedback from these farmers demonstrates interest in learning how to calculate nutrient rates for organic crops, as well as manage inputs such as cover crops and organic fertilizers. Currently, there is no comprehensive resource for soil management training for either immigrant farming organization educators or farmers. This project will develop hands-on courses and online resources to teach soil and nutrient management to diverse audiences, with an emphasis on immigrant farmers. Soil science topics will include cover crops, nutrient management for small fruit and vegetable crops, signs of nutrient stress, soil test interpretation, irrigation/fertigation system design and operation, season extension, and tillage equipment operation and maintenance.


    We will partner with The Good Acre food hub to deliver experiential, on-site training to 40 agriculture leaders who work with immigrant farmers, including extension educators, NRCS personnel and immigrant farmer leaders. Supplemental resources will be available online as follow-up materials for trainers to adapt to fit their needs. With the knowledge and resources gained through this training, these leaders will deliver culturally-relevant instruction to 200 farmers throughout the North Central SARE region. This peer-to-peer learning will help fill knowledge gaps in soil health and management and increase productivity and profitability of immigrant farms.

    Project objectives from proposal:


      1. We will develop and collaborate with an Advisory Group (AG) to determine needs and inform the developed curiculum. The advisory group will be made up of farmers, agriculture leaders, extension educators, immigrant and minority farmer leaders (Hmong, Karen, Latino). We will draw on our collective background working with immigrant farmer groups to provide examples of topics we feel would be useful for the hands-on workshops. However, the ultimate choice of topics will be driven by the members of the AG. 


      1. We will develop new, and aggregate existing, soil quality and nutrient management curriculum for organic immigrant farmer training programs. 


      1. We will conduct two 2-day hands-on training sessions (one in 2016 and 2017) for individuals involved with providing soil quality and nutrient management information to immigrant farmer groups. Sessions will take place at Good Acre utilizing their new classroom and training space for technical presentations, and adjacent UMN research land for practical hands-on activities, creating a unique public-private partnership that benefits immigrant growers in our region. Trainings will include a number of extension personnel and immigrant farmer leaders from the surrounding regions.  Resources will be delivered to participants through 1) a resource binder of materials and worksheets, 2) recorded webinars of the sessions and accompanying study questions provided through an online UMN Moodle 2.6 learning platform, and 3) a jump drive including all SARE publications as well as the training materials we develop. Of these ‘Building Soils for Better Crops’ and ‘Managing Cover Crops Profitably’ will be drawn from heavily in our trainings.


      1. We will provide follow-up resources and support for material delivered during the trainings. All trainings will be recorded using online course development technologies available through UMN. All materials will be posted to our Moodle learning platform, allowing all participants to access the information well into the future. Participants will be provided with contact information for each other, as well as the Project Coordinators of this grant, to support them in answering any questions they might have. 


      1. We will host two networking events to encourage sharing of information and development of relationships among farming groups into the future. Networking events will be held ‘off-season’ in conjunction with winter farming conferences to leverage valuable time and resources and thus maximize participation.  The intention of the networking events will be twofold: to build a stronger bond between participating educators, as well as (in Y1 only) to recruit new educators to the Y2 summer training event. We will provide a semi-structured event to share experiences, supported by light refreshments.


    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.