From incubators to independence: Providing training and technical assistance to refugee farmers in New Hampshire

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,030.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Andrea Bye
Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success
Charlene Higgins
Organization for Refugee & Immigrant Success

Annual Reports


  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans, beets, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), onions, peas (culinary), peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips


  • Education and Training: technical assistance, decision support system, mentoring, participatory research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, agricultural finance, risk management, whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, social capital, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    The Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS) is asking for $14,030 of NESARE funding to ensure the long-term sustainability of immigrant farmers’ business operations. The primary stakeholders are Congolese, Bhutanese, Somali Bantu and other refugee farmers living in Manchester, NH. ORIS’s Executive Director Mukhtar Idhow and co-PD Andrea Bye will lead the project in cooperation with farmers, consultants, and collaborators.

    ORIS’s New American Sustainable Agriculture Project (NASAP) was initiated in New Hampshire 2008. NASAP assists refugees to build sustainable farm enterprises that are consistent with their culture and lifestyle aspirations and that strengthen regional sustainable food systems. Since 2011 twenty refugee farmers have developed farm businesses accessing individual plots at a seven acre “incubator farm” site in Dunbarton, NH.

    The goal of the proposed project is to increase the long-term sustainability by addressing land access. ORIS has identified the following objectives.

    1. 15- 20 farmers participate in advanced trainings related to: cooperative development, access to credit, and access to farmland

    2. 20 farmers will receive technical assistance with finding and assessing farmland

    3. 8-10 farmers develop plan for long-term land access, including to transition from “incubator farm site” in Dunbarton

    4. 8-10 farmers develop financial plans, including annual cash flow and access to capital/ credit

    5. Conduct evaluation and share resources and best practices with other refugee training programs throughout New England and the country

    Income opportunities that honor the skills and business experiences that refugees bring to this county are vital for their economic integration. Refugees in New Hampshire have unique agricultural knowledge and experience. They have the skills and ambition necessary to be successful farmers and enhance agricultural production in the region. However, while refugees are excellent farmers they face many obstacles in developing viable farm businesses. Some of the NASAP farmers are preliterate, and many are limited English proficient. Current barriers identified by refugee producers in NH include: lack of access to capital, poor or no credit upon arrival to the US, lack of knowledge on how to secure land to buy or lease, a need to develop a brand and expand markets, and affordability of: insurance, annual inputs, organic certification, & equipment/infrastructure. Despite these challenges refugees have been developing their farm businesses, and they continue to demonstrate their strong commitment to farming.

    Currently, there are twenty participants whom are developing businesses at ORIS’ incubator farm site in Dunbarton. Despite the successes of these farmers’ operations, participants understand that they cannot rely on non-profits to support their farms indefinitely. When asked the question, “How do you see your farm business in 2 years, if there is no more help from NASAP,” during individual farmer interviews in January 2013, several farmers responded that they would work together with other participants. In order for these incubator farm businesses to be sustainable into the future, refugee farmers need training on farm business management, focused on financial management and cooperative development.

    Farmers need support in developing plans for long-term land access. Though ORIS’s BFRDP grant that pays the Farm Manager in Dunbarton ends on September 30, 2015, farmers have constructed hoop houses and a well that they would like to continue utilizing into the future. Furthermore, tenure at the seven acres of land that ORIS has been using as its incubator farm site is uncertain, as one of the owners recently passed away. While secure and affordable land tenure is an obstacle for many beginning farmers in America, findings from the Farm Lasts Project (2007-2010), a national research, education and extension project funded by the USDA National Research Initiative indicate that, “Socially disadvantaged populations face additional challenges acquiring farmland. These include persistent discrimination, cultural and language barriers,” (Parsons, Ruhf, et al, 2010).

    It is from the need for advocacy on these socially disadvantaged populations’ behalf that the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS) was formed in early 2004 and has proven its ability to offer appropriate socio-economic and culturally sensitive education, training, resources and outreach to these groups.  


    Project objectives from proposal:

    At the beginning of the project period, staff will interview individual farmers to identify their individual goals, background, skill levels and specific training needs, relative to land access and transitioning their businesses off of the incubator farm.  

    ORIS will hire a consultant for 5 hours of one-on-one technical assistance in the project planning phase. The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s, National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI) provides comprehensive one-on-one consulting, educational resources, and professional development opportunities for dozens of organizations throughout North America. The area of expertise NIFTI will provide in this project is specific to transitioning 2-3 farmers who would like to access land independently. ORIS will utilize lessons learned to avoid replicating ineffective strategies, and to build off of successful methods.

    ORIS’ Agricultural Training Coordinator will collaborate to deliver workshops on cooperative development, access to credit and access to farmland. Guest speakers will complement curriculum by introducing relevant programs and services available to farmers to enhance the success of their operations.

    ORIS will provide one on one support for farmers developing holistic farm business plans. Staff will work with farmers to identify and document long-term land access priorities, create annual cash flow projections, and create an action plan for transitioning businesses towards independence, utilizing SMART goals. Farmers will receive ongoing technical assistance throughout the life of the project in achieving participant identified goals. 

    Staff will assess farmers needs related to capital/credit. ORIS will provide support to participants whom are seeking credit to invest in their businesses by providing assistance with completing the Farm Service Agency “Request for Microloan Assistance” paperwork, and facilitate interviews with interpreters between the applicant and the FSA loan officer.

    *Completed assessments for 15 participants in case files
    *10 farmers complete holistic farm business transition plans
    *Attendance records
    *Documentation of t/a hours and outcomes per farmer
    *Schedule of dates and times for workshops
    *Culturally Appropriate Lease template for use by ORIS and refugee farmers created
    *Identify sites available for independent farm ventures
    *Record of participation in FSA Microloan Program

    Evaluationwill be participatory in that, NASAP farmers will provide constant feedback and information relating to programs; programs will incorporate this feedback back into programs themselves. There will be ongoing evaluation of NASAP’s training and technical assistance resources to determine if all the knowledge and experience gaps are being filled in order to support participants becoming viable farm business owners.

    To determine the effectiveness of the Transitioning Farmer Program, surveys will be completed by farmers to evaluate program workshops and activities. Survey results will be tallied and reported. Additionally, staff will facilitate end of season group farmer evaluation sessions to provide PD and Co-PD with feedback on what worked well and what needs improvement in all areas of the program, including the trainings, farmer transition planning, credit access, and farmland matching.

    Quantitative measures of the project’s success will include:
    *Number of refugee farmers participating in programs.
    *Number of farmers attending training workshops and receiving technical assistance.
    *Number of farmers who develop farm business transition plans.
    *Number of farmers who access lending to implement farm business transition plans.
    *Number of farmers who transition their farm businesses off of the incubator site.

    Qualitative evaluation measurements include refugees families’ increased quality of life documented via farmer testimonials. Since the immigrant cultures are primarily oral, face-to-face feedback is often the most effective evaluation strategy. For this reason project staff will conduct periodic in person evaluations with each farmer, focusing on client satisfaction and the long-term effectiveness of assistance received. The project will directly solicit farmers’ suggestions for improvement of programs.

    ORIS will complete the following tasks:

    Objective 1: 15-20 farmers participate in advanced trainings related to: cooperative development, access to credit, and access to farmland.
    Sub-task: Draft annual training and conference schedule (April 1, 2014)
    Sub-task: Inform producers of training and TA opportunities; coordinate translation (A Bye, Ongoing)
    Sub-task: Collaborate to deliver 4-5 workshops on farmland access, cooperative development, access to credit (A Bye, April 1, 2014-February 15, 2015)

    Objective 2: 20 farmers will receive technical assistance with finding and assessing farmland.
    Sub-task: Compile sample farm land leases, develop lease template for use by ORIS and refugee farmers (A Bye, February 2015)
    Sub-task: Identify long-term land access priorities for 20 participants (A Bye, June 1, 2014)
    Sub-task: Identify potential farm sites within 20 miles of Manchester (A Bye, Ongoing)
    Sub-task: Facilitate farm site visits for participants to assess available farmland (A Bye, Jan 1, 2015)

    Objective 3: 8-10 farmers develop holistic farm business transition plans, including to transition from “incubator farm site” in Dunbarton.
    Sub-task: Conduct multilingual outreach to Business Planning Farmers about Transition Planning Support Services (A Bye, March 30, 2014)
    Sub-task: Conduct interviews with 20 participants to assess farm goals and transition planning needs (A. Bye, May 1, 2014)Sub-task: Provide One-on-One assistance for farmers to develop holistic farm business plans, including a long-term plan for farmland access (A Bye, February 1, 2015)
    Sub-task: Monitor participants progress in achieving goals (A Bye, Ongoing)

    Objective 4: 8-10 farmers develop financial plans, including annual cash flow and access to capital/ credit.
    Sub-Task: Provide One-on-one assistance for farmers to develop annual cash flow projections that are in alignment with their farm business plans (A Bye, February 1, 2015)
    Sub-Task: Inform producers about existing lending opportunities for farm businesses including, Farm Service Agency’s Microloan Program (A Bye, January 1, 2015)
    Sub-task: Informational Meeting at FSA county office with senior loan officer (A Bye May 1, 2014)
    Sub-task: Provide support for completing loan application paperwork on an as needed basis(A Bye, Ongoing)

    Objective 5: Conduct evaluation and share resources and best practices with other refugee training programs throughout New England and the country.
    Sub-Task: Consult New Entry Sustainable Farming Project for guidance on project design and implementation (A Bye, June 1, 2014)
    Sub-Task: Develop and distribute surveys to evaluate program workshops and activities (A Bye and consultant, Ongoing)Sub-Task: Conduct in person evaluations farmers, focusing on client satisfaction and the long-term effectiveness of assistance received (A Bye and consultant, February 28, 2015)
    Sub-Task: Coordinate participatory evaluation via focus groups (A Bye and consultant, February 28, 2015)
    Sub-Task: Curricula posted on ORIS’s website      
    Sub-Task: Document use of farmers’ business transition strategies, such as transition planning, farmland assessment, and accessing capital (A Bye, Ongoing)
    Sub-Task: Farmers’ strategies identified for reports to NESARE (A Bye, February 28, 2015)
    Sub-Task: Share training resources and materials developed with NESARE funding via the National Incubator Farm Training Initiative’s Online resource center and incubator farms list serve (A Bye, February 28, 2015)

    ORIS will coordinate with NESARE to share project results via pictures, stories, and an end of project report. Additionally, ORIS expects to generate farmer training resources as the project gets underway, including curricula for farmland access, cooperative development, and financial planning, developed in Plain Language Format.   The target audience for these materials is other incubator farm programs, and beginning farmer programs serving immigrants and refugees. In order to reach this audience, ORIS will post curricula on the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s website, via the National Incubator Farm Training Initiative’s online resource center. ORIS’ project director will also share NESARE results on the ORIS website, and provide a link to the NESARE project report on the NESARE project page.

    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.