Immigrant Urban Farmer’s Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2022: $249,999.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2024
Grant Recipient: International Rescue Committee
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Brittany O'Neill
International Rescue Committee


Not commodity specific


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cropping systems, irrigation, nutrient management, water management
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training, community-supported agriculture, labor/employment
  • Soil Management: composting, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, community planning, employment opportunities, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, local and regional food systems, partnerships, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Opportunity and Justification 

    Urban farms serve multiple purposes for their surrounding community; they are often a hub of neighborhood vibrancy and, especially in the case of many immigrant communities, a source of healthy and culturally familiar food. The Immigrant Urban Farmer Project located in the South Bronx and Queens, New York, will assist immigrants with agricultural backgrounds to build their farming careers. Immigrants face limited mobility in the sector due to English language level, training costs, prerequisites, business linkages, and unequal access to formal farm technical skills. To get a job with agriculture, farm organizations, or enter a farm business program, farmers need to show proof of skill and experience on a farm. Without a strong network and transferable experience, many aspiring farmers struggle to secure a suitable financial pathway. In this program, aspiring farmers will receive urban farm training that is accessible and allows them to develop and demonstrate their skills. The International Rescue Committee in New York (IRC in NY), a refugee- and immigrant-serving organization, has developed this project in response to almost a decade of experience working with new Americans to successfully build their workforce skills through cultural and linguistically appropriate farm-based training.  


    The Immigrant Urban Farmer project will be run by the Economic Empowerment (EE) unit at IRC in NY, including an EE Manager, the Agriculture Coordinator, and three Agriculture Specialists. The project will use a three-pronged model to empower beginning and aspiring immigrant farmers to enter the urban agriculture workforce with confidence, skills for self-advocacy, and connections that can help them grow their careers. First, the project will engage existing and aspiring farmers in hands-on and linguistically skill appropriate training workshops in relevant areas of sustainable urban agriculture and business development provided by IRC in NY and local partners. Second, participants of the farmer training course will take part in “farm stewardships” on 10 local urban agriculture sites, including Morning Glory, la Finca, and IRC in NY’s two farm sites. The project will continue to support the farm stewards through ongoing training and support in management and leadership topics. Finally, the stewardships will connect participants with urban farming employment and enterprise development opportunities, setting them up for further advancement of their own agricultural careers. 

    Most farm training programs require farm experience to enroll, require intermediate-advanced English, and offer limited scholarships. By contrast, the Immigrant Urban Farmer project training program will account for participants’ linguistic barriers by providing interpretation services in workshops and throughout the steward practicum, in addition to intentional pairing of stewards and mentees according to common language and interests. The elimination of a US-based farming prerequisite to join this program will enable immigrant and refugee participants to engage in this learning. 

    Performance targets from proposal:

    50 beginning and aspiring immigrant farmers will engage in on-farm training, resulting in at least 37 of them (75%) reporting increased financial savings and improved health (via annual survey tool). Of these, 22 (60%) farmers involved in intensive training and stewardships will pursue income-earning or advanced skill training opportunities related to their local food system.

    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.