Communities of Practice and Farmer Led Training for Increased Sustainability of Refugee & Immigrant Farms in the North Central Region

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2021: $250,000.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Lutheran Services in Iowa
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Nicholas Wuertz
Lutheran Services in Iowa

Information Products

The Importance of Cover Crops (Article/Newsletter/Blog)


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: cover crops, irrigation, organic fertilizers, water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: land access, new enterprise development
  • Natural Resources/Environment: conservation practices on small specialty crop farms
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, mulches - general, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: composting, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, local and regional food systems, partnerships, quality of life, social capital, social networks, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Climate variability and land access issues make adoption of sustainable agriculture practices and multi- stakeholder collaboration increasingly important. This is especially true for refugee and immigrant (R&I) farmers who face barriers related to language and supportive networks. Gaining access to culturally relevant virtual training when in person meetings are not possible is also a challenge.

    LSI has successfully graduated seven farmers from its incubator program and has a new cohort of farmers ready to move onto their own land. It has established relationships with other regional farms for R&Is that can serve as a forum for sharing culturally relevant training material, establishing peer farmer mentorship and addressing common issues among farms serving R&Is.

    With a proven path to success for farmers in its program, Global Greens (GG) would now like to implement the “Communities of Practice and Farmer Led Training for Increased Sustainability of Refugee & Immigrant Farms in the North Central Region” program with the following objectives:

    1) Offer continued learning opportunities for R&I farmers on sustainable practices, both virtually and in person, to increase long-term soil health and profitability.

    2) Establish a Community of Practice among regional initiatives working with R&Is to enhance shared goals, find solutions to pressing issues and provide cross learning opportunities among regional farmers.

    3) Incorporate mentorship between graduate and beginning farmers to improve adoption of sustainable practices that will prepare them for successful management of their own farm.

    The approach will include:

    • Partnership with Iowa State University Extension and other research institutions to identify existing research on crop cover and simple water conservation techniques that can be replicated in-field and set up demonstrations on the training farm and graduate farmer plots for experiential learning. Quarterly in-field workshops and monthly visits will then take place to observe, record and discuss results. The workshops will be video recorded for post project sharing with wider networks and visual handouts will be created.  A field day event will be held to showcase the end of project results.
    • Increased availability of appropriate education materials and information sharing through a formal regional community of practice that meets quarterly.
    • Encourage mentorship between graduate and beginning farmers through resources and tools.

    The project will not only enhance opportunities for LSI’s GG program and the next cohort of farmers, but also allow for learning between the GG program, other regional programs, and participants in those programs to build environmental and economic sustainability.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Farmer led training on sustainability to improve land for on-going profitability.
    • 30 farmers use practices that increase production.
    • 30 farmers demonstrate increased knowledge of sustainability practices for greater production.
    1. Regional community of practice (COP) that connects R&I farms and farmers
    • A COP with 5 R&I farms established that increases resources and peer networks among farmers.
    • Resources are shared to strengthen programs that serve R&Is and improve farmer connectivity.
    1. Peer mentorship to accelerate sustainability.
    • 30 farmers utilize learning from peers resulting in greater achievement of farm goals.
    • 30 farmers increase knowledge of practices listed in their goals.
    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.