Community CROPS provides training, technical assistance and land access to beginning, immigrant and limited-resource farmers. Our goal is to help people create sustainable farm businesses to feed their families and their community.
The Growing Farmers Winter Workshops from January-April are the first step in our program. Each year, twenty-five beginning famers learn the basics of starting a sustainable farm business, with an emphasis on direct marketing. Register for the Workshops.
Graduates of the Growing Farmers Winter Workshops are eligible to join the 3-year, land-based training program at our farm site, Prairie Pines Training Farm.
CROPS graduates need farm land! Click here for details.
All farm classes will be held at Prairie Pines, 3110 N. 112th Street, Lincoln. Below are the classes we're offering this spring. Click here for more details and to register.
Building and Maintaining Healthy Soils, 5/18, 9:00AM-12:00PM
The Wonderful World of Cover Crops, 5/18 1:00PM-4:00PM
The Buzz on Bees, 5/25, 9:00AM-12:00PM
Water Conservation 101, 5/25, 1:00PM-4:00PM
Organic Pest Management, 6/15, 9:00AM-12:00PM
Pruning, Trellising and Mounding, 6/15, 1:00PM-4:00PM
"We were able to get our ideas off the ground by attending the classes, and it helped us put steps in motion to save the family farm," said one participant from the 2010 workshops. A 2012 participant said, "Do it! You will never regret spending the money, if you are serious about farming."
Do you dream of starting your own small farm? The Growing Farmers workshops will help you learn the planning and production skills you need to start a market farm business. Learn from experienced growers, Extension Educators and business experts. To see a tentative schedule of classes for the 2013 series, click here.
If you want to attend the workshop series, you can register online here. If you prefer to complete a paper application, stop by our office or give us a call at (402) 474-9802 and we can mail you an application. You can also download the application here. If you would like to apply for a scholarship, the form is here.
Registration is just $350 -- for a course valued at $1000! Scholarships are available.
Comments from past participants:
- "It was encouraging to be around other people who still have a lot to learn about the process of starting a farm, and know I'm not alone. Thank you!"
- "I feel I know more about CSAs, farmers' markets, organic practices and business information for farming."
- "The speakers and farm tours were all very helpful. This is practical, useful knowledge for my farm."
- "This course helped me be able to plan and get organized."
- "It gave me lots of good, common sense knowledge for future farming."
- "Awesome series."
- 2012 Winter Workshop graduates Hannah and Will were featured in June 2012 in the Hastings Tribune and the Grand Island Independent.
- Jamie Yoachim, 2012 Winter Workshop graduate, was featured with her husband Jon by the National Young Farmer's Coalition.
- Efrain Hernandez (and family), 2010 graduates of Growing Farmers Training Program, were featured in a documentary on Nebraska's Hispanic farming community.
- The Banner-Press and NewsNetNebraska have both featured Kirstin and Yola from Fox Run Farms, who attended the 2010 Growing Farmers workshops.
Please contact Kirstin at 402-474-9802 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Funding for the 2013 Winter Workshops is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture's North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (project #LNC11-333).
The workshop will include:
- an overview of the resources you will need to start a small farm
- information about local farm training programs, including the CROPS Growing Farmers Training Program
- networking with other future farmers
- roundtable discussion with beginning and experienced farmers
Watch our videos on YouTube on hoeing, sharpening hoes, planting and more!
Prairie Pines is at 3130 N. 112th, just east of Lincoln.
Directions: Take Adams east of 84th to 112th. Turn left and turn in at the second driveway (3130).
Beginning farmers at Prairie Pines begin producing on 1/8 acre, where they receive access to water, tools and equipment, and other supplies. Participants receive ongoing technical assistance as well as marketing support. The site, in northeast Lincoln, is a collaboration between Community CROPS and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources.
Participants grow a wide range of vegetables. These beginning farmers sell at the CROPS stall at the Old Cheney Road Farmers' Market each Sunday, through the CROPS CROPS Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, through the on-line Nebraska Food Cooperative, and to many local grocery stores and restaurants.
- graduates Rogaciano and Enriqueta, Rancho el Milagro, at the Old Cheney Road Farmers' Market
For an overview of all the expectations of the farm training program, take a look at the Farm Training Program Diagram.
We are also members of Buy Fresh, Buy Local Nebraska.
If you have any questions, please contact Kirstin, the Farm Program Manager, at 402-474-9802 or email@example.com.
Are you or your friends interested in supporting the next generation of farmers by leasing or selling your land in or near Lincoln? Most graduates are looking for one to two acres of flat land with access to water.
Contact the CROPS office at 402-474-9802 or email Kirstin if you have any
information on land that would meet our graduates' needs.
Q: How much land do I need to start a farm business?
A: You can start out small. Even a standard city lot at 50' X 100' (5000 sq.ft.) can produce a surprising amount of produce. For example, you could grow several hundred pounds of spinach and lettuce in the spring, over 1000 pounds of tomatoes in the summer, and several hundred bunches of radishes and a few hundred pounds of baby spinach in the fall.
Q: What if I don't have any land?
A: You can find land a few ways. CROPS has a training farm site just northeast of Lincoln where you can rent an eighth acre plot to start out. You can also just start asking around to find someone with space in town or in the country. An average backyard is 1500 sq.ft., and many people in the country have an acre or two to spare.
Q: My friend has some land I can use, but how do I know if it's good for vegetable production?
A: Here are the questions you need to answer before you start growing vegetables:
- Where will your water come from (and what is the quality)?
- How fertile is the soil (and what amendments will you need to purchase)?
- How does the land drain (to avoid erosion and flooding)?
- Are there windbreaks (to prevent wind damage)?
- Where will you store your harvested veggies?
- Where will you sell your veggies? (and will you be able to sell enough to justify the drive if the land is far from a city)
Q: How much money does it take to get started?
A: This obviously depends on your scale of production. For a 50' x 100' plot, expect to invest at least $500-$1000. Bigger purchases like tractors or greenhouses may not get used enough on a small scale to justify the expense. Plus, you can rent equipment or hire a neighbor to come with a tractor, and avoid the headache of machinery repairs. Over an acre or two, you may want to purchase some of these larger items.
Q: How much money can I make in small-scale direct-market production?
A: Profits depend on how intensively you farm, what crops you grow, and where you sell your products. Crops like cut flowers, berries, or salad mix are higher value than sweet corn, melons or potatoes. Farmers can get higher prices for their produce through farmers' markets and CSAs, but they can sell higher volumes through grocery stores and other wholesale accounts. Most new growers in our program earn $1,000-$2,000 in their first season. With experience and a LOT of hard work, you can gross in the range of $5000-$8000 per season on a 100' x 100' plot of diverse vegetables. On an acre, you can make between $10,000-$25,000.
Q: How much time does farming take?
A: Starting any new business takes time. Soil with low organic matter added will take a few years to reach optimum fertility and structure. Also, establishing your customer base takes time. Plan to spend at least 15-20 hours per week on planning, production, marketing and record keeping.
Q: Can my kids participate?
A: Definitely! Helping run a farm business is a great way for kids to learn how to handle money, communicate with customers, manage responsibility, and enjoy the outdoors.
Q: What if I don't have much experience growing things?
A: Production is one part of starting a direct-market farm business, but many other skills are needed as well. For example, customer relations, financial planning, marketing and bookkeeping are all essential skills to running a successful direct-market farm enterprise. To gain skills in production, as well as other important skills for running your farm business, sign up for our Growing Farmers Winter Workshop series.