Northeast Network of Immigrant Farming Projects

2005 Annual Report for ENE05-092

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $80,904.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Jennifer Hashley
Trustees of Tufts College / New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

Northeast Network of Immigrant Farming Projects


Immigrant farming projects (IFPs) assist aspiring immigrant farmers in five Northeast states to develop sustainable agricultural enterprises. IFP’s offer services and programs to participating farmers. NNIFP participants are immigrant and refugee farming projects staff, farmers, and partners.

NNIFP members meet three-to-four times a year in addition to sponsoring training events and attending conferences with farmers. They share strategies for program implementation, relate “lessons learned,” plan training activities, policy work, outreach, and resource sharing. They organize site visits to project farms and markets and to other farming operations. A high priority for the NNIFP is joint training activities. This approach increases the cost-effectiveness of such endeavors, and enhances impact by bringing many talented people together to learn and share these training experiences. Training of trainers involves IFP staff and many partners.
IFPs face several challenges in communicating and providing T&TA to immigrant farmers. Barriers include farmers’ limited education and agricultural training, limited English language skills, and low-literacy. Many IFPs encourage farmers to share equipment and farm infrastructure at collaborative training farms; sharing of the “commons” creates a need for IFP staff to engage farmers in participatory community development and organizing strategies. Cultural differences among farmers and between farmers and staff also raise the need to address cultural sensitivity. Many immigrant farmers face discriminatory practices, and blatant or structural racism as it influences how these farmers experience agriculture in the United States.

Participants are primarily staff of immigrant farming projects (IFPs) and their partner organizations. Some have advanced university degrees and significant experience working in agriculture and community development, but more limited experience working directly with immigrant farmers. Others may have less education but have more direct familiarity with participants and their communities. Several are Latino, African or Southeast Asian themselves. Participating farmers (who will benefit from all trainings) are first generation immigrants and refugees from Africa, Asian and Latin America. Their education also varies (from grade school level through to college level); most have limited English language and literacy abilities.

The priorities for professional development were developed mainly through meetings of NNIFP members, and reflected in an NNIFP strategic plan. IFPs have additionally consulted with their participating farmers and with core partners who assist them with T&TA. Projects establish their needs and then establish shared priorities through NNIFP planning.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Performance Target: Of the 30-35 staff and partners of immigrant farming projects who receive training-of-trainers instruction and professional development in five areas, 20 will subsequently develop and share training curricula and materials for immigrant farmers, and 12 representing six projects will incorporate these into their education and training programs. To achieve these outcomes, IFP staff, partner representatives and farmers will complete (a) 3-day low-literacy training (30 participants); (b) a 2-day Exploring the Small Farm Dream Trainers course (12 participants); (c) an 8-12 session NxLevel Training (10 participants); (d) cultural diversity and sensitivity training; (40 participants) and (e) a 2-day Participatory Farmer Organizing and Community Development Trainers course (12 participants). As they complete each of the trainings, 20 staff and partners will collaborate to revise or develop course curricula and presentations for farmers that reflect what is learned, to better address their farmers’ cultural, educational and literacy needs and capacities. Quarterly NNIFP meetings will be held to update and review progress and share experiences. IFPs will incorporate these materials into their own training and technical assistance, reaching approximately 150 farmers during the project period. Materials and training experiences will be shared among the projects and posted on the NNIFP Website. Progress and timetables for achieving all activities will be tracked by the Coordinator.

The impact of revised materials, trainings and communications strategies will be assessed through establishment of pre- and post comparisons of training materials, outreach and technical assistance T&TA materials. Changes in communications strategies will be assessed to determine how staff, partners and farmers in these projects will better understand each other’s cultural and ethnic perspectives; how trainings and educational materials are better suited to immigrants’ capacities; and whether beginning immigrant and refugee farmers are receiving better T&TA to understand and plan their personal and professional aspirations for farming in the Northeast.


Plain Language Course: On October 27th, 28th, and 29th, a total of 22 IFP staff and partner agency representatives (including two farmers) attended a 3-day Plain Language training to improve skills for effective communications with immigrant farmers. The training was geared towards those responsible for writing materials and preparing presentations for immigrant and refugee farmers. Participants have the opportunity to learn how to analyze, choose, and develop plain language materials appropriate for their public audiences. The training was conducted by Sue Stableford, MPH, MSB, the Director of the AHEC Health Literacy Center at the University of New England, Biddeford, Maine. She brings 15 years of experience as a plain language trainer, writer, and consultant, and is the trainer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A foremost challenge to immigrant farming projects and partners is providing information appropriate to the language, literacy, and cultures of immigrant and refugee farmers. Most farming publications are often advanced in their reading level and content for beginning farmers who lack formal agricultural training, and often have limited education. IFPs thus prepare much of their own training and outreach materials, without the benefit of low-literacy (Plain Language) training needed to improve the appropriateness of the written materials and oral presentations for immigrant audiences.

The 3-day Plain Language training course helped users to write clear, simple, and more accessible text for readers, to help reduce misunderstandings, errors, complaints, enquiries, and overall lack of comprehension. Plain language emphasized cultural relevance; i.e., reaching culturally diverse audiences with appropriate messages and materials. The training addressed literacy and reading abilities of typical materials and identified key elements of plain language to apply the knowledge in analyzing materials. Participants learned and practiced using the Fry readability formula and specific techniques to create plain language materials.

Exploring the Small Farm Dream: On September 28th, 14 staff and partner agency representatives (including 3 farmers) completed a 1-day Training of Trainers Explorer course. Attendees consisted of course instructors and course managers, with the following qualifications: experience in operating their own business; experience in teaching adults; regionally appropriate farming knowledge and experience; and/or responsibility for promoting and administering the course. Exploring the Small Farm Dream is a successful curriculum and training program developed by New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI). Its goal is to assist aspiring farmers to decide whether or not farming as a business is right for them. Using whole farm management approaches, the program helps aspiring farmers learn what it takes to start and manage their own commercial agriculture business. The Explorer Program includes a workbook, workshops, courses, and self-guided study.

Explorer is too advanced for most immigrant farmers, yet IFPs see it as an essential decision-making tool to incorporate into their training of new entry immigrant farmers. NNIFP has submitted proposals to modify the Explorer course into a form more suitable for immigrant populations. This one-day course initiated a collaboration between NESFI and partners to develop a new version of Explorer for immigrant and refugee farmers, incorporating Plain Language content and focusing on aspects of farm planning most relevant to these farmers.

NxLevel Training: One NNIFP partner attended the one and one-half day NxLevel course in Baltimore on September 22nd and 23rd, 2005. NxLevel training is offered by each individual State, depending on the demands of the individuals in their service area. NxLevel training is intended to improve knowledge and skills in farm planning and financial management. The goal is to share ideas and promote the efficient use of community resources through the building of effective community networks, while providing cost-effective training materials and helping to develop training teams. The primary mission of NxLevel is to develop and disseminate business-oriented training programs that assist in strengthening an entrepreneurial spirit in communities. NxLeveL’s role is to develop replicable training courses; provide “train the trainer” programs; and assist states or communities in implementing their training programs.

Collaboration: On September 29th, 2005, a quarterly NNIFP meeting was held. A total of 14 IFP members and partners attended. Members collaborated regarding development of a general outline for the NNIFP website, including content and guidelines for sharing information. NNIFP is in the development stage of its website, which will provide participants with an interactive forum to revise, develop, and share training curricula and other materials for immigrant farmers, and incorporate these into their T&TA. The priority will be to adapt farmer planning and financial management training materials. Plain Language skills will influence written materials and related presentations by IFPs.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Plain Language: Attendees were encouraged to submit materials to the trainer, so that the class could analyze the writing and revise the content. The outreach brochure for New Entry Sustainable Farming Project was submitted, and major revisions were made. The brochure is been transformed into a Plain Language document to be used for the 2006-2007 outreach season. In addition, the brochure will be posted on the NNIFP website for other IFP’s to use as a reference.

Committees were formed (consisting of a total of 16 IFP members and partners) to work together to revise content of materials to make it appropriate for their target audiences, in areas as follows: marketing, productions, explorer training, farmland and policy. Groups are in the process of identifying specific areas in which the concepts of Plain Language should be utilized, selecting formats, and outlining the development process. The outline is to include objectives, audience identification, and content. The material will then be shaped into an overall format and structure for the document. Four-to-five such documents are now in preparation.

Exploring the Small Farm Dream: NNIFP members and partners discussed the Training of Trainers Explorer course during the subsequent NNIFP quarterly meeting. Members agreed that the Explorer curriculum was excessive, overly technical, and there was too much reliance on the internet. The course was recast into a short version, usable in a one-session course. The short course was tested by an IFP on a group of farmer trainees, and has now been incorporated as a part of the curriculum. The Plain Language version of Explorer has yet to be developed, but this simplification of course presentation was a major step in the direction of creating a course which is more accessible and understandable.
NxLevel Training: The course materials included general techniques regarding how to teach adults and how to connect with resources available for teaching. One project now is better equipped skill-wise to prepare materials and present this information to their constituents.

Collaboration: NNIFP is working with a website designer, and a mock-up of the NNIFP website is being created with proposed content. The NNIFP website will contain a link to IFP resources (accessible through log-in), to include content such as outreach and promotional materials, training and technical assistance activities, strategic plans, assessments and evaluations, grants, and grant reports. Interactive links include on-line workshopping, training materials for review that are being jointly developed (incorporating Plain Language), and grants in progress for comments.


Maria Moreira

[email protected]
Flats Mentor Farm Project
237 Brockelman Road
Lancaster, MA 01523
Office Phone: 9788152199
Amy Carrington

[email protected]
NASAP Director
New American Sustainable Agriculture Project
Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
2 Portland Fish Pier, Suite 201
Portland, ME 04101
Office Phone: 2077749217
Hector Tejada

[email protected]
Farmers of the World
217 Springtown Rd.
New Paltz, NY 12561
Office Phone: 9173068746
Alison Cohen

[email protected]
NIFI Project Director
Heifer International
516 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Office Phone: 7188750087
Eric Toensmier

[email protected]
Tierra de Opportunidades Director
Nuestras Raices
329 Main Street
Holyoke, MA 01040
Office Phone: 4135351789
Kate Granger

[email protected]
NFDP Director
New Farmer Development Project
c/o Greenmarket, Council on Environment
51 Chambers Street, Suite 1231
New York, NY 10007
Office Phone: 2127887476
Katherine Brown

[email protected]
Southside Community Land Trust
109 Somerset Street
Providence, RI 02907
Office Phone: 4012739419