The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

Community CROPS - Lincoln, NE

"Foundation giving is literally planting the seeds of change in Lincoln," says Chris Buetler, Mayor of Lincoln, NE. "Without foundation support, initiatives like Community CROPS that create meaningful change would not develop and grow. Lincoln's philanthropic community is a critical component to our high quality of life."

Community CROPS began in 2003 as a program offering classes and low-cost garden space for people who wanted to grow their own vegetables. Community CROPS offered hands-on help for those just learning how to garden, so they could better provide for themselves and their families. In 2005, Community CROPS expanded by starting their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, selling farm shares and providing training to approximately 50 families.

Demand for Community CROPS' programs has expanded dramatically, fueled by immigrants and refugees, who make up roughly 60 percent of the program's participants. Local farmers also fill the ranks of program participants; learning ways to ensure their farms either become or remain sustainable businesses. The program offers a nine-week course including beginning farmers' workshops, classes with experienced growers and business experts, and plenty of one-on-one help for participants.

The program director, Ingrid Kirst, started as a Community CROPS volunteer in 2003: "Foundations were instrumental in the beginning of Community CROPS," said Kirst. "Our community garden programs were initially funded by local foundations. Without foundation support, there is no way we could have started the training farm program."

"The Lincoln Community Foundation (LCF) was pleased to support Community Crops with a grant to support training, mentoring and education for individuals in Lincoln, Nebraska, especially our new immigrants and refugees," said Barbara Bartle, President of LCF. "This LCF interest, along with micro-lending, program related investments and a military initiative, illustrates the importance of philanthropy in helping with the economic recovery and jobs programs."

Kirst is ready to grow the program - she'd like to see Community CROPS sites all over Nebraska - but knows it needs to be done carefully. "It takes a long time to get our program participants ready to grow on their own. We want to expand, but the most important thing to us is being able to grow responsibly."

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