Center uses USDA program to assist Latino farmers and ranchers

Farm and Food

Para la versión en español, oprima aquí. 

Navigating the path to becoming a farmer is challenging. This is true for any beginner, however, starting a successful agricultural business is especially difficult for historically underserved producers, who often face additional barriers to resources.

Since 2011, the Center for Rural Affairs has been working with Latino farmers and ranchers in Nebraska and Iowa to help address the challenges they face. This education and technical assistance is made possible, in part, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farming, Opportunities, Training, and Outreach (FOTO) program.

Through FOTO, grants are distributed to organizations via the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development and Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers programs.

Lucia Schulz, a community organizing associate, has led the Center’s outreach efforts to Latino producers since 2018. Currently, she’s focusing her attention on a series of classes created in partnership with Lincoln University in Missouri. 

The series “Curso de Comercializacion” consists of 12 online videos—produced in Spanish—covering topics relevant to marketing agricultural products, from writing a business plan to developing value-added products. The topics were selected based on feedback from Latino producers about their interests and needs.

“This series helps Latino farmers have the confidence that, if they implement the tools presented, they can succeed,” Schulz said.

In addition to marketing, the videos cover timely agricultural topics, such as sustainable farming methods and how to work with cooperatives. The videos are hosted by Center staff and feature farmers and other guests sharing their knowledge. Participants are also given handouts to supplement what they learned during the presentation.

Justino Borja, co-owner and co-operator of Las Gemelas farm near Columbus, Nebraska, has used the videos to gain expertise he can apply to his vegetable operation. In addition, he’s taken an interest in livestock production as a result of what he’s learned.

“This is valuable information for me,” he said, noting the diverse topics covered through the series. 

Kirstin Bailey, senior project associate at the Center, has been working on similar efforts to engage Latino farmers in Nebraska and Iowa, focusing on topics related to farm startup and diversification. By featuring a variety of agricultural enterprises, producers are introduced to a number of ways to make small operations more sustainable.

“The topics covered in this course would help any farmer getting started,” Bailey said. “However, offering it in Spanish helps the information be understood, absorbed, and applied in a way that is relevant to our Latino constituents.”

In addition to online classes and farm tours, the program will feature an in-depth look at beekeeping and pork, beef, and goat production, as well ase opportunities for Latino producers to network and receive individual technical assistance.

“Networking is important to underserved communities because it creates an opportunity for similar backgrounds and experiences to be collectively shared and built upon,” Bailey said.

Hilda Moreno, who co-owns Los Dos Potrillos Farm near Fremont, Nebraska, where she and her sons raise eggs, corn, and other vegetables, has participated in several educational events hosted by the Center and encourages other Latino farmers to get involved.

“I personally recommend the advice of such a rural organization,” she said. “The Center has helped me continue to reach my goals.”

Click here to learn more about the Center’s work with Latino farmers and ranchers.

Grants awarded through FOTO are available to a variety of entities, including non-profit organizations, to conduct programming that benefits beginning and socially-disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. The next request for applications for BFRDP will be announced in November 2022, with OASD to follow in early 2023.