Demonstrating the Feasibility of Producing Culturally Preferred Vegetable Crops in Underrepresented Urban Areas

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2023: $14,690.00
Projected End Date: 01/31/2025
Grant Recipient: City Sprouts
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Aaron French
City Sprouts


  • Vegetables: cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), peas (culinary)


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, irrigation, postharvest treatment, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: market study
  • Sustainable Communities: community services, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, urban agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    Omaha, like many similar sized cities, continues to face rising levels of food insecurity and an increasing population of immigrant and refugee families. These two issues often intersect, leaving vulnerable populations in need of governmental and nonprofit assistance for basic needs like housing, employment and most acutely, food. From 2010-2019 Nebraska resettled approximately 10,000 refugees, with over half settling in the greater Omaha area. By many estimates, this rate of resettlement has and will continue to increase following escalated conflicts around the world. Food banks are providing these communities with food services that help address base levels of food insecurity but often lack in fresh vegetables and specifically culturally preferred vegetables and herbs. According to a 2020 report from a state agency, over ⅔ of refugees in Nebraska report eating a vegetable less than once per day. Many of these preferred produce items are not available in traditional or culturally specific groceries or farmers markets, leaving new Americans with little to no access to important cultural and culinary resources. Another limiting factor in the availability of produce is the lack of knowledge amongst most urban and peri-urban farmers in the production practices of culturally preferred produce and herbs.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    In this demonstration and education project, City Sprouts will lean heavily on its large network of volunteers, staff, interns, community partners and associated urban farmers to identify and select three preferred crops from each selected culture (Burmese, Afghan, Iraqi, Somali, Sudanese / South Sudanese and Ukrainian) to grow on its seven acre farm. Crops will be identified through in depth interviews with current and former interns who represent these cultures as well as surveys distributed to community partners actively engaged with refugee populations. Once selected, a one-sheet production guide for each crop will be created by City Sprouts for distribution to other urban and peri-urban farmers in its extensive network as an educational resource.

    The production guides will include information on seed sourcing (from organic / sustainable and BIPOC-owned sources, if possible), propagation and transplant management using minimal plastic, minimal and/or no-till field preparation, transplant / direct seeding guidance, irrigation requirements (with a focus on water conservation), integrated weed management, the use of both organic (leaf litter, straw, etc) and biodegradable, MATER-BI based mulch. Proper harvest and post-harvest handling instructions will also be included, as well as any understood pest issues.

    In addition to the production guides, which will be available online and at public outreach events, City Sprouts will host a field day in conjunction with two partner organizations: Refugee Women of Nebraska and the Global Roots Refugee Partnership focused on exposing urban growers of all skill levels to hands-on experiences with planting, management and harvesting of the selected crops. Growers will learn the cultural importance and culinary uses of each selected vegetable crop from members of that culture, as well as production techniques necessary for growing it using sustainable techniques in the Midwest. 

    Through publicly demonstrating the sustainable production of these culturally preferred crops, creating and distributing production guides and hosting a field day with refugee led community partners, City Sprouts will provide an example to other growers in the area that the production of culturally preferred crops is not just possible, but also potentially economically beneficial to their farm operation. Through its partnership with the Food Bank for the Heartland, City Sprouts is actively creating marketing opportunities for small scale farmers to be compensated for growing and distributing culturally preferred produce through the Food Bank’s network of partner pantries. The demonstration and education portions of this program will lead directly to an increase in both availability and accessibility of that produce while also increasing the economic viability of producing it for local growers.


    • Demonstrate the use of five sustainable production techniques in growing culturally preferred vegetables (Ex: integrative pest and weed management, cover cropping, compost applications and sustainable tillage implements (Spring-Fall 2023)
    • Produce 5,000 - 7,000 pounds, annually, of selected culturally preferred vegetables at the City Sprouts Urban Farm for distribution to local food pantries (Fall, 2023)
    • Complete 10 interviews and receive 20 survey responses to identify culturally preferred produce from select populations (Spring, 2023)
    • Create and distribute ten culturally preferred vegetable production guides to the large network of growers in the Omaha area (Spring, 2024)
    • Engage 15 Omaha area farmers through a hands-on, production focused field day (Fall, 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.