Teamwork Raises Caliber of Latino Farmer Outreach

What a difference a team can make. I’ve been heading up the Center’s Latino Farmer Project for a couple of years. I feel positive about our progress. Dozens of aspiring and beginning Latino farmers in rural Nebraska communities have received training. Relationships have been created or deepened with important agencies, organizations, and individuals.

While I feel positive about the past work, I feel really proud of the current work. And that’s due to the remarkable ability of a TEAM to accomplish more than any of us alone. The addition of Lucia Schulz and Rodrigo Gamboa (pictured below) to the project has raised the caliber of our outreach significantly.

Photo of Rodrigo and LuciaThanks in large part to USDA’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program, we can give crucial follow-through and individualized support to workshop and farm tour attendees.

While before I would take groups of prospective farmers to local Farm Service Association (FSA) offices to meet with loan managers, now Rodrigo (based in the Lexington, NE area) meets one-on-one with beginning farmers. He helps them fill out their FSA microloan applications and provides the time and support to help them feel confident and prepared.

Rodrigo also follows-up to keep things moving, like scheduling on-farm visits for FSA and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) representatives. He says, “I learned from my own experience how hard it is to RESTART in a foreign country and how many barriers you find when you try to improve your life. That’s why I'm so glad to work on this program. It's not  just  a  job. I have  the opportunity  to  help people who are working  hard to improve their lives."

Before the team, I would share resources and bring guest speakers to groups of beginning Latino farmers. Now Lucia bring a greater diversity of speakers, more custom farm visits, and more specialized workshops (way more often!) in the Columbus, NE area. She takes the time to reach out to new folks while staying connected to the previous ones.

Lucia says, “I enjoy learning new things, but especially helping others. I have been in their shoes, coming from a migrant background. I know too well the hardships and obstacles that minorities go through. But on the way there were individuals that took interest in me (us) to help us out. Those people are never forgotten.”

I couldn’t be happier to see the results a team can accomplish together. All the hopes I’d previously held, but hadn’t the time to really do right – I now see carried through because of a solid crew with shared goals, work ethic, and passion. It reinforces the fact that together, we are capable of much more than each of us on our own.

Related: Check out this interview by Anastasia Champ from Nebraska NBC. You'll hear comments from Erin and Rodrigo interpreting for Hugo and Reyna Escamilla. 

Feature image: FSA representative Matthew (left), visits Reyna and Hugo Escamilla, with NRCS representative Teri (right). Photo by Rodrigo Gamboa