Community CROPS (Combing Resources, Opportunities and People for Sustainability) helps people work together to grow healthy food and live sustainably. I’m honored to share with you this guest post written by Warren Kittler, farm program manager at Community CROPS. Please consider backing their Kickstarter campaign so they can build a bigger and better training farm right here in Lincoln, Nebraska.
How are you creating a more sustainable Lincoln? At Community CROPS, we believe that the foundation of a sustainable community is a strong local food system. Local food production creates jobs, reduces carbon emissions, keeps dollars in the local economy, and forges relationships in the community. If you’ve ever tasted an heirloom tomato at a farmers’ market stand in August, you know that local food trumps anything that can be shipped in.
At the core of this food system, we need two groups of people: farmers and eaters. Interest in local food has risen sharply in the past decade – farmers’ markets, CSAs, and food hubs are sprouting up all over the nation. However, the growth of small farms, especially in Nebraska, is not keeping pace. Beginning farmers often struggle to find the land and money they need to start their businesses. Those who do have resources often burn out from the sharp learning curve and the intense physical labor required to start a small farm. We need a place where these new farmers can go to train, find resources, and connect to consistent markets for their products.
That’s why we created the Growing Farmers Training Program. Beginning farmers come to our winter workshop series with a vision and graduate with a plan to carry it out. Through the workshops, growers learn marketing techniques, business skills, sustainable production practices, and food safety. More importantly, they build relationships with each other and with experienced local farmers, building a strong network of support. Our graduates range from 26th Street Farm in Hastings to Quail Acres Farm in Falls City, to Fox Run Farms in Brainard.
However, not every person who attends the workshop series has access to land like these three farms. Many aspiring farmers don’t even have a backyard to grow food for their own families. For these growers, we have created an incubator farm – a temporary home for beginning farms. Graduates of our workshop series can apply for small plots on the farm, where they learn to grow alongside other farmers and staff. Our incubator farm has served us well for the past seven years, but we have outgrown it. We do not have space to admit everyone who wants to grow, so we are moving our farm this fall.
Our new site is terrific: close to the city (112th and Adams), spacious (we can triple our current production capacity), and beautiful (part of the statewide arboretum). It is also managed by the University of Nebraska, which means that we will have access to current research, student volunteers, and many possibilities for collaboration. We’re excited for this move, and we can use your help.
If you’re working to create a more sustainable Lincoln, we hope that you’ll take a moment to check out our Kickstarter project. There’s a short video to watch and a narrative sharing what we need to make this project a reality. Not only will your pledge help beginning farmers for years to come, but you also get to choose from some sweet rewards. Please take a moment to check out our project today!