Northeast Network of Immigrant Farming Projects

2006 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 and refugee farmers in five Northeast states to develop sustainable agricultural enterprises. IFP’s offer technical services and training programs to participating farmers. NNIFP participants are immigrant and refugee farming projects’ staff, farmers, and partners.

NNIFP members meet quarterly 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 partner organizations.

IFPs face several challenges in communicating and providing training and technical assistance (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.

The staff of the network’s immigrant farming projects (IFPs) and their partner organizations are also diverse. 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 service providers 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 the 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

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 staff 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.


Cross-Cultural Sensitivity and Diversity Training: Few people have training in working with multiple cultures, and without this knowledge, it can be difficult to appropriately disseminate critical information and effectively encourage farmers to communicate across language and cultural barriers. Cross-cultural sensitivity and diversity trainings better equip staff, farmers and other service providers with the skills to break down barriers and to promote more farmer involvement and leadership in projects. The goal is for farmers with dramatically different agricultural backgrounds, cultures, languages, and learning and communication styles to better understand systemic prejudices and better appreciate diverse cultures.

NNIFP organized a 3-day Anti-racism training, which was held on November 15th – 17th, 2006. The training was given by dRworks, a collaborative of trainers and organizers who have been facilitating Dismantling Racism training work for many years. A total of 24 individuals attended the course, including five farmers. Out of the 24 participants, a total of 17 network members, and 7 non-members (affiliates of member participants) attended.

The training included a two-day workshop designed to help organizations and individuals build on their understanding of racism and the ways in which racism is manifested in the U.S. and our organizations. Trainings focused on civil rights issues, racism, and cross-cultural communications strategies The training also included a one-day organizational development session, in which participants learned about the stages that organizations go through to become anti-racist, learned how to access their organization’s strengths and weaknesses, learned how to access the current stage of the organization along an anti-racist continuum and to plan the next steps. The upcoming NNIFP meeting on January 30th will include discussion of IFP assessment of their status along the anti-racist continuum, and IFP initiation of action plans to address concerns.

Plain Language Course: A 3-day Plain Language training took place on October 27th – 29th, 2005, in Glynwood, New York. A total of 22 IFP staff and partner agency representatives attended the training (including two farmers, representatives from four IFPs, and nine partner organizations). This training 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 will use their skills in translating specific documents, which will be of benefit the entire network. Document selection will take place at the upcoming NNIFP meeting on January 30th.

Exploring the Small Farm Dream: On September 28th, 2005, 14 staff and partner agency representatives (including 3 farmers) completed a 1-day Training of Trainers Explorer course, in Belchertown, MA. 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. The Explorer workbook is currently being considered for translation into Plain Language as part of the Plain Language follow up activity. IFPs will review the workbook during the upcoming meeting on January 30th, and determine timeframe for translation of workbook materials.

NxLevel Training: – NxLevel training is offered by each individual State, depending on the demands of the individuals in their service area. NxLevel’s role is to develop replicable training courses and provide “train the trainer” programs. IFPs will be taking the “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity” training, which will better equip IFP staff to provide clear financial management training and counseling to immigrant and refugee farmers.

Network Activity and Collaboration: The NNIFP has expanded to include a member organization of Hmong farmers in Massachusetts, called the “Flats Mentor Farm”. The organizer of this project, Maria Moreira, is a previous staff person with the NESFP and the farmers she serves are graduates of NESFP’s training programs. We continue to work with another immigrant farmer, Hector Tejada, (formally of New York’s NFDP), who is working on assembling a farming group called “Farmers of the World” in the New York/New Jersey area.

A regular meeting of the network was held on March 3, 2006, at Tufts University, Boston. Attending the meeting was total of 13 participants, representing four IFP’s (including one farmer who is a staff person), one participant from Heifer, and Kathleen Merrigan , Director of the Agriculture, Food and Environment graduate program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

Also, a network meeting was held on September 25, 2006, at the offices of the New American Sustainable Agriculture Project (“NASAP”). The meeting was attended by 10 individuals, representing five IFP’s. In addition, two guests from Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (NASAP’s fiscal sponsor organization) spoke regarding programs they administer to help support the efforts of their client base, which includes NASAP farmers.

NNIFP members attended the Diversity Training in November, 2006 (see above), during which networking activities took place after hours of course material presentation. Informal meetings were held amongst IFP’s where updates regarding NNIFP website status and program activities were shared.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Cross-Cultural Sensitivity and Diversity Training: A Dismantling Racism training was held on November 15th – 17th, 2006. A total of 24 individuals attended the course, including five farmers. Out of the 24 participants, a total of 17 network members, and 7 non-members (affiliates of member participants) attended.

IFP’s are developing processes to work the Cross-cultural sensitivity concepts into their programs and operations. One IFP has developed a written first stage plan, which involves identification of areas where anti-racism concepts should be applied. Each staff member will assess both the organization and individual barriers, which prevent the organization from moving toward a desired level of cross-cultural sensitivity. Also, interviews will be held between growers and staff to further identify areas requiring attention. This information will be compiled and specific goals and plans will be established. The data collected will become part of the organization’s upcoming revised strategic plan. The data will also be shared with other IFP’s to monitor challenges, pitfalls and successes as other IFP’s develop specific plans to address racism in their own organizations. Throughout the process, IFP’s will continue to seek consultation from the Diversity Course trainers to help formulate a direction appropriate for each individual IFP.

Plain Language: As a follow-up to the 3-day Plain Language training which took place in October, 2005, a process was started in which interest group committees formed around specific farming topics to create training materials appropriate for the target audiences. This process proved difficult to implement due to the fact that materials being translated were being generated from “scratch”, and translations were not attempted from actual IFP working documents. As a result, IFP’s were not viewing these documents as relevant or useful to operations and it was determined that the process should be re-evaluated.

IFP’s have since revised the process for document translation to begin in the upcoming quarter (January – March 2007). In order to ensure relevancy, each IFP has agreed to speak with their growers and staff to gather the top five documents most important to receive Plain Language translation. These documents will be presented at the upcoming NNIFP network meeting on January 30th, 2007. The documents will be sorted and distributed to specific IFP members, who have had the benefit of Plain Language training, and who have expressed their interest and time availability for translation of documents. Specific time frames will be established for translation of documents. Finished documents will be posted to the NNIFP website for sharing.

Documents which are being considered for translation include:
FSA Loan Application
Census Data
Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Market farmer application
IFP Farmers Field Manual
“Explorer” training materials
“WIC” vendor application
Soil Testing Instructions and Interpretation of Results

In the meantime, using the skills developed in the 3-day Plain Language training course, IFP’s have so far created two documents, which are currently being used for outreach to clients in communities in which they operate. Specifically, NASAP has developed a four-page brochure with photos and bullet descriptions of their three-step farm process, which is geared specifically toward immigrants in Maine who have limited English language capacity (See Exhibit #1, enclosed). In addition, NESFP also developed a four-page brochure, (See Exhibit #2, enclosed). This document was used as NESFP’s outreach tool for their 2006 recruiting season. Since the brochure was found to be effective in maximizing communications with immigrant farmers in the communities they serve, the brochure will be used again during 2007.

The NESFP document has been posted to the private log-in section of the Network website so that it can be shared amongst the IFPs.

Exploring the Small Farm Dream: NNIFP members and partners discussed the Training of Trainers Explorer course, which took place on September 28, 2005, during subsequent NNIFP quarterly meetings. Members agreed that the Explorer curriculum was too advanced, overly technical, and relied too much 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 an independent Explorer workbook has yet to be developed. Explorer will be considered for Plain Language translation at the upcoming January NNIFP meeting. A more accessible and understandable version of Explorer, to be created through Plain Language translation, will be of key relevance to the IFP’s, since some version of this course material is currently being used for training by all IFP’s.
NxLevel Training: With the exception of the one NNIFP partner who attended the NxLevel course in 2005, NNIFP members who have expressed interest in NxLevel training have been limited by times and dates of available courses offered in their geographic areas. IFP’s are continuing to research options for NxLevel training, which can accommodate their working schedules. It has also been proposed that NxLevel schedule a special training session for the NNIFP members, but this has not yet been formalized.

Network Activity and Collaboration: The NNIFP listserv continues to be used regularly to disseminate valuable resource materials, notify members of training opportunities, plan for NNIFP meetings, distribute strategic plan initiatives for comment from members, notify members of IFP employment opportunities, distribute NNIFP agendas for upcoming meetings and minutes from previous meetings, and notify members of grant application opportunities.

The NNIFP website has been established and includes both a public section and a private (secure log-in only) section. The public section contains background and description of NNIFP, IFP descriptions, news articles, training opportunities, employment openings, and a link to resources (such as books and manuals) frequently referred to by IFP members.

The IFP secure log-in section contains resources relating to both NNIFP topics and IFP topics. The NNIFP resources are organized into categories as follows: budget vs. actual financial reports, grant narratives and budgets, meeting agendas, meeting notes, member training and Technical assistance activities, quarterly reports and year-end grant reports, and schedule of forthcoming meetings. .Individual IFP content is organized into categories as follows: Assessments and evaluations, grant narratives, grant reports, guidelines for farm sites and technical assistance, outreach and promotional materials, strategic plans and internal management documents, job descriptions, and training manuals.

Periodically, content is requested from IFP’s so that the site can continue to expand and reflect current activity. A total of 54 content items have been posted to the site so far. All posting of material is performed through the NNIFP administrative personnel. An interactive calendar has been added, which is accessible to all NNIFP members, allowing for increased efficiency in meeting scheduling. A section has also been added for the posting of draft documents, allowing for material in development stages to be worked on jointly by network members. Passwords for the private access section of the site have been distributed to NNIFP projects and security and intellectual property protocol will be established at an upcoming meeting. Once the private section of the site is activated, it will provide participants with a 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. Updates to the site structure are ongoing as IPF’s continue to offer their input regarding the evolving best uses for the site.


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