Growing Profitable, Sustainable Farming Businesses with Beginning Refugee Farmers in Central Iowa

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2016: $200,000.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2019
Grant Recipient: Lutheran Services in Iowa
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Nicholas Wuertz
Lutheran Services in Iowa


  • Agronomic: corn, potatoes, sorghum (milo)
  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, onions, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts
  • Additional Plants: herbs


  • Crop Production: cover crops, crop rotation, irrigation, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: technical assistance, demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, marketing management
  • Pest Management: row covers (for pests)
  • Soil Management: organic matter
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, urban agriculture, analysis of personal/family life, community services, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks, social psychological indicators, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    This proposal seeks to address the barriers that former refugee farmers in Iowa, specifically in Central Iowa, face in utilizing their farming skills and experiences to start or improve the profitability of their farming enterprises. LSI will help these farmers overcome these barriers by providing access to land at a training farm and will provide culturally and linguistically appropriate education, training, and technical assistance on developing a sustainable farming business. Farmers will be supported for multiple years in developing their business on the training farm and then will be assisted in transitioning their business to another piece of land where they will operate their business independently. The outcomes of the proposal are to help 34 beginning refugee farmers gain knowledge and skills that they will put into practice in order to increase the profitability of their farming business. Another outcome of the project is to assist 8 of the farmers in transitioning their businesses to independent land and operation. The outcomes will help to improve the profitability of these farmers, ensure that their farm land is being cared for in a sustainable manner, and improve the quality of life for the farmers and their communities through increased profits, fulfilling their desires to use existing skills, and through an increase in locally, sustainably grown produce. Project outcomes will also benefit other Iowa communities and refugee beginning farmers in the state and North Central Region (NCR) with whom the project participants and investigators will be sharing the results.  

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Expected Learning Outcomes
    • Thirty-Four beginning farmers will increase knowledge and skills necessary to start and/or expand their
    sustainable vegetable farming enterprises.

    Expected Action Outcomes
    • Thirty-Four beginning farmers will use their new knowledge and skills to increase profits earned from a new or
    existing farm business.
    • Eight beginning farmers will transition from the training farm and continue to operate their farming enterprise

    Primary beneficiaries are beginning refugee farmers in Central Iowa. Secondary beneficiaries are other Iowa and
    NCR refugee beginning farmers and the organizations assisting them. The tertiary beneficiary is the local food
    system in Central Iowa.

    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.