Seeking to explore Latino farmers and ranchers perceptions about sustainable agriculture and enhancing their awareness, skills, and knowledge of sustainable production methods. In this period report, we inform about program activities to meet the goal of exploring and enhancing those producers capacities.
In an initial stage, an interview guide was designed to collect qualitative data through a series of 4 focus groups of 28 Latino producers. During a second stage, survey-questionnaire instruments were designed to collect quantitative data from 100 Latino producers. Also, CITI IRB training courses were completed by investigators, and the research part of this program got approved by the Institute Review Board at the University of Missouri to collect data from Latino producers in Missouri. Survey data were collected from 100 producers at the end of year 1 and the beginning of year 2 of the program. Educational workshops and on-farm demonstrations were conducted during the spring and summer of 2017.
The preliminary findings have been presented at the 2016 Cambio de Colores Conference and the Rural Sociological Society conference in 2017.
In year three of the project, we will continue developing data analysis and curriculum materials that might guide future workshops. Further analysis will be published two working articles on whether Latino producers are biased to practicing conventional farming and ranching and to what extent they acknowledge that native plants can be a potential way to increase their farm’s profitability and sustainability. In year 3, we will replicate the survey used at the beginning of year 2 to the same population sample of 100 Latino farmers. Further evaluation and analysis of the program are underway to determine whether the Latino farmers have gained additional skills and knowledge and whether they have increased their adoption of sustainable practices.
Our program, On-Farm and Ranch Education of New and Beginning Latino Producers in Missouri proposes to educate new and beginning Latino producers on sustainable production methods and to address many of their educational needs. The main goal is to enhance the awareness, skills, and knowledge needed to protect the natural resources such as soil and water while improving their operation’s profitability. In recent years, the 2012 US Census of Agriculture has observed some demographic changes. Foremost, the United States is now more diverse in its population of farmers. Non-Anglo farmers have increased by nearly 15% from the prior Census of Agriculture. This fact is paired with a nearly 5% decrease among Anglo farmers while Latino farmers and ranchers have increased 21% (11,430 new farmers). In Missouri, the increase in Latino farmers from 2007 to 2012 was 26%. In the North Central Region, the number of Latino farmers and ranchers increased in the 12 NCR States by 6641 farms; and in states like Nebraska, the population of Latino farmers has increased by almost 100%.
While Latino farmers are increasingly entering farming and ranching activities other ethnic groups such as Anglo-farmers have decreased by at least 8% over the last 5 years. With many farms going-out-of-business and new Latino farmers entering farming, the turnover is high. This program aims to involve more Latino producers in sustainable production practices; and consequently, improve their skills and knowledge
Year one: Exploring Latino farmers and ranchers sustainable production methods
Objective: To document the Latino producers’ perceptions, views, skills, knowledge and awareness about their current sustainable production methods.
Goal: To develop a research approach to explore and to understand Latino farmers and ranchers views on practicing sustainable agriculture.
We used two methods to validate the data and provide evidence of Latino farmers and ranchers views on sustainable agriculture practices.
Method one: We pursued a qualitative approach consisting of 4 focus group interviews. We had a total of 28 participants.
Method two: We pursued a quantitative approach to analyze data collected from 100 Latino producers to document and measure their knowledge of and practices used concerning sustainable activities.
The survey was designed to collect information regarding the participants’ demographic profiles and skills and knowledge of practicing sustainable production activities in four main areas: holistic farming and financial management, conservation and livestock management practices, agroecology and integrated pest control management.
Objective 2. To develop a curriculum that match the Latino producers’ learning needs in sustainable agriculture.
Exploratory analysis about the needs of Latino producers regarding skills levels and the knowledge to perform sustainable production methods was conducted. Results that show the significant learning needs among producers have been discussed for being incorporated into a sustainable agriculture model, which will be based on other curricula in sustainable agriculture and findings discovered from both data sets; Latino producers’ responses in the focus groups and face-to-face surveys are being used to create a draft curriculum to teach farmers about sustainable agriculture.
Year 2. Educational Approach
Objective 3. To instruct curricula using events that encourage, involve and include Latino producers’ participation such as workshop-panels and on-farm and ranch educational visits.
Educational farmers’ forums and farm visits started in March 2017.
Data from 46 participants in the workshops and farm visits were evaluated to know to what extent Latino farmers and ranchers gained skills and knowledge in sustainable agriculture practices. We use 2 survey instruments; one to evaluate each session of the program and one pre-test and post-test evaluation survey at each workshop.
Objective 4. To create social and work networks that help Latino producers to stay connected with other Latino producers as well as with local production networks that support sustainable agriculture.
A network of Latino farmers and ranchers that support sustainable agriculture has been started. All Latino producers involved up to this stage of the project have been introduced to sustainable agriculture methods and principles. A Facebook group that includes producers that want to follow sustainable production methods has been created. It is named: “New and Beginning Latino Farmers and Ranchers.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/1650513891857603/
Year 3. Impact evaluation and developing group networks based on production activity
Objective 5. To evaluate the impact of the program and to document the levels of awareness, skills, knowledge, and to what extent they have adopted sustainable production practices.
Evaluation of the impact of the program on the production methods performed by Latino farmers will be evaluated in year 3 of the program.
The research part of this project seeks to document Latino producer’s perceptions, views, skills, knowledge, and awareness about their current sustainable production methods and the challenges they need to overcome to transition into sustainable production methods. Two main hypotheses guide this research.
Ho. Latino producers are highly biased to opt for conventional methods of production instead of sustainable methods.
Ho. Latino producers are constrained by their skill levels and knowledge base which keeps them from transitioning becoming fully involved with sustainable practices.
We used two methodologies to collect the data from Latino producers in order to validate and provide evidence of their views on sustainable practices. First, we conducted a qualitative approach consisting of 4 focus groups and open interviews which reached 28 participants. Focus groups were conducted in Spanish and data from the focus groups was transcribed and translated from Spanish into English and analyzed using NVivo 10 Software. The findings were used to design a survey instrument in Spanish.
A quantitative survey was also used to collect data on awareness, skills, and knowledge on sustainable production methods among 100 Latino producers. The survey collected information on the participant’s demographic profiles and skill levels and knowledge base in regards to practicing sustainable production activities in four main areas: business plans and farm management, agro-ecology and livestock management practices, conservation practices as well as pest control and plant pathology management. Survey data was entered in and the aggregated data from all participants is currently being analyzed using SPSS software. We also have used the significant responses from farmers’ surveys to help guide our emphasis during the instructional workshops in both in-class sessions and on-farm demonstrations.
A replication of this survey is being used to collect data from the same sample of 100 Latino producers in Missouri in early 2018.
The expected results of this study are that producers will exhibit positive effects when they adopt sustainable production methods after their involvement with in-class training and on-farm demonstrations. We also have evaluated the significant effects on demographic and sociological factors to know the level of influence a farmer or rancher might have on the kind of production system another farmer might practice. A control group of farmers from this sample; contrarily, suggest negative effects on adopting sustainable production methods and might directly influence new and beginning producers to follow conventional production methods. Our outreach and technical assistance focuses on farm production strategies, each producer’s agro-ecological literacy, and agribusiness strategies that will be needed to continue. The producers are being monitored to document and validate their transition from unsustainable production methods to other production systems such as agro-ecology agriculture and organic agriculture.
- Producers participating in the interviews and data collection have gained knowledge and awareness about sustainable agriculture.
We found that the producers who have participated in focus groups and surveys have shown concerns about their current production methods. Our focus group discussions have shown that Latino farmers have concerns about following specific conventional production practices such as spraying conventional pesticides and fertilizers. Others have argued, for example, that sustainable production methods are only possible with small gardening plots.
- The completed survey also helped to increase the Latino farmer and ranchers’ awareness about the methods they are currently using in relation to following sustainable production systems based on: business plans and farm financial management, conservation and livestock management practices, agro-ecology and integrated pest control management.
- From March to June 2017 we conducted 2 outreach approaches to educate Latino producers in sustainable agriculture production methods. Quantitative data from 2 surveys instruments was collected. We used a “end of session evaluation survey,’ and a pre-test and post-test evaluation survey at each workshop. Impact on 46 participants in the workshops is documented in the link below.
As the project progresses, additional outreach activities will further increase the impact of this project.
- A representative population of Latino producers in Missouri is willing to learn and to produce food using sustainable production practices.
- Preliminary findings are starting to be disseminated in regional and national venues. This means other researchers and educators are able to know more about Latino farmer and rancher perceptions, views on production methods.
- A social network of Latino farmers facilitating and receiving information and discussing their concerns about sustainable production methods has formed. It has been extended to social media such as Facebook under the name: “New and Beginning Latino Farmers and Ranchers.” https://www.facebook.com/groups/1650513891857603/?ref=bookmarks
- Latino farmers and ranchers outreach:
We conducted an intensive recruit approach to locate more than 100 Latino farmers in the state. The last US Census of Agriculture (2012) reported 548 main Latino operators in the state of Missouri. This project has allowed us to reach out to and interact with at least a sample size of 18.3% of the total official US population of Latino farmers in the state.
The demographic profile of the Latino farmer and rancher reached by this program was: most participants were males (98%), a high proportion of them (52%) range in age between 35 and 55 years old, 39% were less than 35 years of age, and 71% of them mentioned only having received 6 or less years of formal education. Our data also shows only 16% have received a high school diploma as well as that 70% were immigrants from Mexico, 20% from Guatemala and 8% were from El Salvador, while 8% were US born. Most of them perform livestock activities on small ranches. Accordingly, 69% own farms of 20 or less acres, 20% own farms between 20 and 50 acres, and only 11% own farms over 50 acres. In terms of years, 73% have been farming for 10 years or less. In terms of loan payments, 40% of them don’t have a mortgage on their farms, while 46% are paying a current mortgage. From the 100 producers interviewed, only 27 have some skill and knowledge about the concept of sustainable agriculture .
- Structured sustainable agriculture survey:
We structured a survey-questionnaire that included demographic, financial, sustainable agriculture, cultural, resilience to farm and social capital variables. From this survey, we were able to create 177 variables which allow us to gain a complete analysis with a large number of variables as factors influencing Latino producers to pursue sustainable production methods.
- Complete data set of a representative sample of Latino farmers in Missouri:
This project is helping outreach to Latino farmers and ranchers in Missouri. There are a large number of Latino farmers and ranchers who were unaware of the US Census of Agriculture. Based on the last US Census of Agriculture, there is a total of 548 Latino farmers main operators which means that we have reached 18.3% of that population. However, when trying to find Latino farmers in counties where the Census reported a determined number of farmers, we were unsuccessful in finding them. But, in other counties, we doubled the number of farmers counted in the US Census of Agriculture.
- A database to continue research and support sustainable agriculture as an educational need in the community of Latino farmers and ranchers:
We were very careful in collecting valid data that allows us to have an accurate prediction about the factors influencing Latino producers to perform sustainable production methods on their farms and ranches.
- We have created a Latino farmer profile for the state of Missouri to understand the producers’ skill levels, knowledge base and the socio-economic settings that relate with sustainable production methods in the following categories:
- Demographic profile
- Latino producers’ approach to financial and business planning
- Latino producers’ approach to livestock production and conservation practices
- Latino producers’ approach to growing specialty crops with agroecological practices.
- Latino producers’ approach to integration in the US agricultural industry.
- Finding Latino farmers who are developing farming activities, but are not connected to social networks.
- To follow a long-term path of gaining the trust of farmers who hesitate to participate in the program.
As part of objective 3 of this program, we instructed a draft curriculum using 2 educational approaches to encourage, involve and include the Latino producers’ participation. We incorporated workshop-panels and on-farm and ranch demonstrations to make it more interesting for the participants.
The instruction of the curriculum was organized into four workshop-panels consisting of producers and community resource agents as well as four on-site farm visit workshops conducted at farms performing sustainable practices as models. The length of each event was planned to meet the participants’ disposition to attending events and to learning new skills and knowledge.
We instructed producers in four different communities in Missouri as follows:
- A workshop-panel on sustainable agriculture. This event mixed two activities, the instruction of the curriculum and a panel discussion.
- A 2-hour learning workshop that instructed on sustainable agricultural production methods (See attached presentations). We had a short intermission after each hour.
- A 1-hour panel discussion with agents and leaders in the community who provide resources for sustainable agriculture. The panel discussion led producers on how to access resources related to conservation practices. Four Latino producers applied for NRCS programs. Four high tunnels were approved to be installed in 2018
- An on-site farm visit workshop demonstration. This mixed the two activities of an on-site instruction session, and an on-farm visit.
- A 1-hour farm visit showing what a sustainable farm or ranch looks like while learning how to perform sustainable practices.
Powerpoint presentations of the main topics of this program are attached in the links below. A sample of flyers used for inviting producers to workshops and to farm demonstrations is also attached.
After each workshop, evaluation data was collected with the attached survey instruments>
Educational & Outreach Activities
Educational outreach activities began during the focus group interviews. At the focus group, we started with creating working relationships with the Latino producers while obtaining their views on sustainable production methods. The focus group discussions helped to create an awareness of using sustainable production methods. Data collected from the focus groups helped us to build a survey instrument for collecting the personal perceptions and views about the challenges of following sustainable production methods. While we were collecting face-to-face information, it allowed us to grow bonding relationships with producers and to expand their awareness about this project’s objectives.
During the process of designing instructional workshops and developing a network to expose as many producers to farm and ranch demonstrations, we observed a lack of connection with soil and management conservations resources. Consequently, we got the Natural Resources and Conservation Services involved in the outreach and included them in the program. Many Latino ranchers are also gardener producers. The Center for Urban Agriculture in Columbia also helped with outreach and educating producers on specialty crops including using sustainable production methods.
Educational and Outreach activities in this program are as follows:
- A draft curriculum of educational and on-farm demonstration sessions is in progress.
- Four on-farm demonstrations were conducted at four different farms and ranches in Missouri. In the picture below, we show some of the demonstrations and these on-farm activities.
- Four in-class workshops. Each one was instructed at a different location in the Central and Southwest regions of Missouri. (see the Powerpoint presentation attached in the project activities section)
- An online group of Latino farmers was created on Facebook. It is a closed group and currently has 53 members. All members are Latino gardeners, farmers or ranchers. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1650513891857603/
- A total of three conference presentations has resulted from this program which have been presented at major regional conference events. See the Powerpoint presentation attached. Currently, these paper presentations are being developed to be published in journal venues.
- Upcoming Poster Presentation at the 2018 “Our Farms, our Future”
- Upcoming paper Presentation at the RSS in 2018
- Replication of surveys to 100 Latino farmers and ranchers. Data collection. Up to this reporting period, this program has outreached to 110 Latino producers in Missouri. This amount includes 100 participants in face-to-face surveys and focus-group interviews, additional participants who have been added during farm visits and workshops.
- Data Analysis
- Final report
- Business plan and financial instruments
- Livestock and grazing systems
- Soil management
- Gardening and sustainable production methods
Keeping records of business transaction and production activities are increasing
More farmers are considering and doing soil testing in their operations
More Latino producers are aware of soil quality and water quality to farm and ranch. Latino farmers are opting for using high tunnels to have an environment control of their production.
Increased awareness about attracting pollinators in connection with native plants is observed among specialty crops producers
Latino producers are getting involved with conservation practices in their operations.
Sustainable Agriculture and soil and water conservation programs are highly correlated. During workshops and farm demonstrations, Latino producers were connected with farming and ranching resources offered by the Natural Resources and Conservation Service. As a result of bringing NRCS representatives to workshops and farm demonstrations, four Latino producers have been awarded Environmental Quality Incentive programs in the Southwest region of Missouri. In 2018, they will be receiving economic support to install high tunnel panels on their farms.
We conducted a survey evaluation instrument to receive feedback from participants about their gain in skills and knowledge before and after each workshop.
We evaluated 6 practices to introduce producers to farm sustainability and profitability. We observed a significant gain of knowledge just after they receive training. We observed a significant gain of knowledge shortly after they received training. We evaluated the knowledge gained about having a business plan for their farms and ranches, understanding of their farm and ranches assets and liabilities, enhanced knowledge to be able to perform sustainable production methods, gained knowledge about pollinators and native plants, gaining an understanding of soil management and conservation practices in their operations. Connect with the link to see the knowledge gained in those areas. Before-and-After-Evaluation-workshops