RSF Seed Fund Grantee Provides Critical Training for New Farmers

Seed Fund grant supports Community CROPS Growing Common Ground Program for refugee farmers.
Oct 3, 2011 11:12 AM ET

RSF Social Finance provided a Seed Fund grant to Growing Community CROPS.


by Catherine Covington

What would happen if a community worked together to grow healthy food and live sustainably?  One of the 2011 Seed Fund grantees, Community CROPS, seeks to promote such collaboration, and its mission caught staff members’ attention during the application review process.   The Seed Fund provides small gifts (between $1,000 and $5,000) to launch new, mission-aligned initiatives that fall within one of RSF’s  three focus areas—Food & Agriculture, Education & the Arts, and Ecological Stewardship.

Community CROPS (Combining Resources, Opportunities and People for Sustainability) began with one community garden in 2003 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  CROPS now has 16 garden sites across the city, community workshops on sustainable living and growing, and a beginning farmer training program that combines workshops with land-based instruction at its 14-acre training farm.  Its network of gardens help create a resilient food system by providing the opportunity to share knowledge, educate, experience personal growth, and provide green spaces for mental, spiritual and physical healing while feeding the community and conserving natural resources for future generations.  To accomplish its mission of helping people work together to grow healthy food and live sustainably, CROPS relies on a dedicated staff of nine, more than 300 community volunteers and an extensive network of local partnerships.

Lincoln, Nebraska, is one of the top five cities for refugee resettlement per capita in the U.S. compared with other mid-sized cities. The majority of the people CROPS serves are refugees and immigrants from Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Mexico, Central America, Iraq, Vietnam, Burma, and other countries. Most are English Language Learners (ELL) who face language, cultural, and economic barriers to entering farming.  CROPS was founded to help these families reconnect with their (typically) agrarian backgrounds and grow the foods familiar to them from their home countries.

CROPS has two main programs- the Community Gardens and the Growing Farmers Program- but over the past seven years, a need has developed for a third program, the Growing Common Ground program.   CROPS has witnessed a tremendous need for the prospective ELL farmers it serves to receive greater support and training than the existing programs can provide.  To meet this need, CROPS is beginning to structure the Growing Common Ground program, and with support from the RSF Seed Fund and other donations, the proposed program will provide farming-specific English language instruction and appropriately paced hands-on training in farming and marketing skills. The goal is to equip new ELL refugee and immigrant farmers with the language, farming, and marketing skills they need to grow food for their families and/or graduate into the more rigorous three-year farm training program.

To learn more about the RSF Seed Fund and how you can help support new and inspirational projects like this one, click here.


Catherine Covington is Program Associate, Philanthropic Services at RSF Social Finance.

Jillian McCoy, Communications Associate
RSF Social Finance