New American Urban Farm Program

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Omaha Home For Boys - Cooper Farm
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Scott Yahnke
Omaha Home for Boys

Information Products


  • Vegetables: beans, cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), peppers, sweet potatoes, taro, tomatoes


  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, networking
  • Farm Business Management: business planning, risk management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, quality of life, social networks, urban agriculture


    The New American Urban Farmer Program is a program to train refugees and new immigrants in agriculture and farm business best practices. The targeted participants are a part of the 6,038 refugee community living in Omaha, NE since 2011 in one of the largest food deserts in the city. Many of them struggle with barriers to housing, transportation, language, employment, and lack of a social network. The purpose of this initiative is to identify and measure indicators to teach best practices using sustainable farming methods to improve participant production and farm business skills and knowledge with the intent of New Americans learning to grow and increase culturally relevant healthy food choices for their family and community at-large and establishing roots in their new community. An impact analysis of this project will explore new social networks for refugees and potential effects on connecting with their new home community. 

    Throughout this project, circumstances has made achieving all of the planned education goals difficult - from excessive rain, to personal circumstances, to a global pandemic - it has been difficult to develop this program as envisioned.  However, thanks to the development of partnerships with other groups working in the same area of refugee land access and education, producing food for at-risk communities, and entrepreneurship during the pandemic we were able to provide impacts beyond the goals of the project that will improve production and capacity in the target community for years beyond.  

    In 2020, the Refugee Women of Nebraska had lower participation levels due to the pandemic, but were able to still grow around 200 pounds of produce with five participating growers.  The participants sold produce at a local community market, earing roughly $100 and learning how to sell produce to customers at a farmers market.  Additionally, farm production space was made available to three local non-profit organizations working in urban agriculture: City Sprouts (focused on community gardens, youth production internships, and growing produce for low-resource communities), Whispering Roots (focused on growing produce for low-resource communities), and Lutheran Family Service's Global Roots program (farm education for immigrants and refugees, and providing production plots for refugee families).  As a result, in 2020 over 11,000 lbs of produce were grown at Omaha Home For Boys Cooper Farm, all of which went to food pantries or "pay what you can" markets in at-risk neighborhoods, 24 refugee families had access to small individual production spaces, 5 interns received production training throughout the season, and over 20 volunteers were involved in production and sharing of best practices.  

    The project was extended to August 2021 to allow for objectives to be met and funds to be spent due to COVID-19.  Unfortunately, virus levels still made the project difficult to fully implement in 2021 for the Refugee Women of Nebraska.  Six members of the refugee community participated in the communal growing plot maintained by RWON at Cooper Farm.  Thanks to the work of interns through the AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate program assisting partners working at the farm, the small group was able to increase production and the produce washing station was built and utilized.  While the RWON participants did not sell produce at a farmers market, participants grew at least 220 lbs of black eyed peas, 100 lbs of "sour leaf" hibiscus, 100 lbs of tomatoes, 90 lbs of specialty peppers, 75 lbs of okra, 75 lbs of mulikia (jute leaf), and 50 lbs of Akayo (African bitter leaf).  Participants sold at least $150 worth of culturally appropriate produce directly to community members, produce was donated to a local homeless shelter serving refugees, and shared crops amongst themselves and their families, providing access to culturally important foods.  The partnerships started in 2020 continued in 2021, expanding the impact of the project beyond Refugee Women of Nebraska.  At least 24 refugee families grew produce on the farm in individual plots through Lutheran Family Service's Global Roots program and City Sprouts worked with 5 interns and additional volunteers to grow several tons of produce for local low-income neighborhood markets.  

    Project objectives:

    1. Train new Americans on best practices in sustainable urban farming.
    2. Reduce New Americans isolation and loneliness by helping to build connections to new homeland.
    3. Increase access to nutritious and healthy foods in low-income and at-risk populations.
    4. Investigate soil quality improvements with the New American’s native agricultural practices.
    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.