Immigrant Sustainable Farming Pilot Project

2008 Annual Report for LNC07-286

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $75,303.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Nebraska
Project Coordinator:
Ingrid Kirst
Community CROPS

Immigrant Sustainable Farming Pilot Project


The Immigrant Sustainable Farming Pilot Project was begun by Community for Combining Resources, Opportunities and People for Sustainability (CROPS) in the spring of 2007. Over these past 2 years, we have learned from many successes and challenges. We have determined that there is substantial interest around Lincoln, Nebraska in sustainable farming both on the parts of beginning immigrant farmers and consumers. During the pilot project, we have found that working with immigrants in farm training is slow work due to factors such as language barriers and cultural differences in business planning and record keeping. As we continue, we are learning to address these barriers to help increase participants’ potential for success.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Short Term Objectives
  1. Eighteen participating farmers with basic knowledge of sustainable farming and farming in Nebraska’s climate and soils.

    Eighteen participating farmers with basic business skills and initial business plan.

    Eighteen participating farmers with the knowledge and skills to market their products.

    Resource providers and technical advisors who are familiar with the needs of the participants.

    Participants meet farmer peers, mentor farmers and resource providers.

Intermediate Term Objectives
  1. Ten new farmers will use their enhanced knowledge of sustainable farming and business skills to begin agriculture enterprises.

    Three new participants will use ‘passing on the gift’ loans for livestock, bees, nursery stock, etc.

    Participants will sell crops to a variety of markets

    Participants will form networks for marketing, purchasing or sharing information.


Short Term Objectives

Over the past year and a half, Community CROPS has worked with eight farm families, for a total of twelve farmers, on growing and marketing fresh farm products. These families all completed a training course on growing in Nebraska, and learned about marketing their products direct to consumers. In the last year, participants completed a basic business plan for their farm enterprise, as well as a planting plan for their plots. With this knowledge, nine of the farmers marketed their products in and around Lincoln. Together, these farmers sold to four different farmers’ markets, four local restaurants, four grocery stores, the CROPS CSA, to several customers through the online Nebraska Food Cooperative, and to various other outlets. From the 2007 growing season to the 2008 growing season, we saw improvement not only in beginning farmer sales, but also in their quality of produce and professionalism. At the end of 2008, one grocery store produce manager told us, “Produce came in clean and ready to put out on the shelves…I think the professionalism of the organization has definitely grown. I was happy with the way things went last year.” We plan to continue working with beginning farmers to establish farming businesses that are sustainable as they consistently produce high-quality products.

We have found that effective resources providers for immigrant and low-income beginning farmers are those who are able to educate through pictures and hands-on demonstrations. Language barriers make classroom lecture settings challenging places to learn. Farmer peers have been most able to provide effective hands-on demonstrations, and relationships have been established with several existing farmers in the area. It has been a challenge to locate extension educators in our area who have this practical, hands-on knowledge, but we will continue to seek collaboration from this group.

Intermediate Term Objectives

This pilot project has shown that 1-2 years is not long enough for an immigrant or low-income beginning farmers to establish an independent agricultural enterprise. The myriad barriers that these producers face have led us to a more realistic goal of independent farms after 3-5 years in the program.

Two participants used 3 ‘passing on the gift’ loans for 2 flocks of laying hens and a planting of gourmet garlic. The hens are producing well and providing a source of extra income for the farmer who is raising them. The garlic has been in the ground over the winter and will be coming up this spring.

The beginning farmers have not yet formed networks for marketing, purchasing or sharing information due to the turnover rate each year. Our hope is that as the total number of participants increases, and as they get to know each other better year to year, they will begin forming these networks.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Over the 2007 and 2008 seasons, the beginning farmers in our program grossed $16,220. In addition to earnings, year-end surveys indicate a savings of $30-$80 per week per family on their grocery bills throughout the summer. Year-end surveys also showed a variety of skills the farmers said they learned this year, including beekeeping, raising chickens, keeping field records, selling at farmers’ markets, improving production skills and using drip tape irrigation. As an outgrowth of this project, CROPS started a new farmers’ market in Lincoln in 2008. This market is located in an underserved area of town, and is the first market in the state to accept food stamps (EBT). Because of initiating this step, 2 other markets in Lincoln have expressed interest in accepting food stamps as well. We hope that our market will serve as a model to other markets in the region in this way.

CROPS also presented to variety of audiences throughout the project, including the Southeast Community College Culinary Program, the national SARE conference, and had exhibits at the Local Foods Conference, Healthy Farms Conference, and others. These presentations have increased the community’s awareness of our project, local food, and sustainable practices.


Leslie Pillen
Farm Manager
Community CROPS
1551 S 2nd Street
Lincoln, NE 68502
Office Phone: 4024749802
George Myers

Farm Consultor
3350 Orchard
Lincoln, NE 68503
Office Phone: 4024642417