Community leaders receive Bob Steffen Pioneer Award

Hilda Moreno and Carlos Alvarado, of Fremont, Nebraska, provide a model for innovation, stewardship, and community development.

Because the couple has gone above and beyond to become leaders in the Latino farming community, they have been chosen as the recipients of the 2017 Bob Steffen Pioneer Award. They were recognized at an award ceremony on March 9 in Red Cloud, Nebraska.

The Bob Steffen Pioneer Award is bestowed by the Center for Rural Affairs each year to a person or persons who work with the Center to make extraordinary contributions in building community engagement within their own communities.

“Within their own community, Hilda and Carlos are well known by both Anglo and Latino community members, and they continue to connect farmers with resources, as well as raise up the concerns of Latino farmers in the state,” said Kathie Starkweather, Center for Rural Affairs farm and community program director. “Any chance they get, they share their farm with others in the area.”

The couple took beginning farmer classes with the Center, and grew their farm business as a result. They hosted a “Know Your Rights” meeting for fellow Latinos, shared their personal immigrant stories as part of a panel on farmer immigrants, and hosted several classes and learning circles, which brought together experienced and aspiring Latino farmers for farm trainings.

Together, Hilda and Carlos have fostered a strong relationship with several U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies over the past few years.

They’ve welcomed Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service agents to their farm where they discussed their experiences with agriculture in their area. They have also been involved in a USDA-hosted workshop, “Working with Hispanics.”

Currently, Hilda is collaborating with the Center for Rural Affairs and her local University of Nebraska Extension specialist to create 4-H entrepreneurial youth classes for young Latinos. Theses classes are designed to help young entrepreneurs qualify for youth loans with USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

The couple has two sons, ages 10 and 12, who are involved with the farm, and who have started their own egg business. Hilda says raising livestock and growing their own food is an important part of the farming process for their family.

“For us, the meaning of agriculture is knowing where our food comes from, especially because we don’t use chemicals,” she said.

In addition, Hilda is working with a local Natural Resources Conservation Service agent to plant flower beds to attract pollinators, and she plans to buy bees to eventually harvest her own honey. She’s also applying for a loan through the Farm Service Agency for a storage unit to house their farm machinery.

“They are farmer leaders within our program’s learning circles, and are very vocal supporters of the Center and our programming,” Starkweather said. “They believe in the dream of a family farm, and encourage everyone, even children, to start farming. Then, they show them a successful path to reach that dream.”

Since receiving the Bob Steffen Pioneer Award, the couple continues to stay engaged in their projects.

“Receiving this award reflects all our hard work,” said Hilda. “Being recognized motivates us to continue in whichever project we might be working on, whether it’s raising purebred goats, sweet corn, geese, etc. We want to thank the Center for supporting us and for honoring us with the award.”