Building Capacity to Engage Latinos in Local Food Systems in the Heartland

2007 Annual Report for ENC06-089

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Gerad Middendorf
Kansas State University

Building Capacity to Engage Latinos in Local Food Systems in the Heartland


The first year of this project has targeted professional educators and technical service providers in Iowa and Kansas within Cooperative Extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and other agencies. Workshops offering multicultural training sessions, experiential learning and training in local food systems have provided the participants with an increased awareness of Latinos as valued members of their communities and as current and future farmers. Follow-up activities have been planned for the second year to improve their skills in engaging Latino audiences, analyzing/developing local food systems, identifying/connecting to local markets, and developing strategies for sustained support programs for Latino farm families.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Short-Term Outcomes:
Professionals will gain the following awareness, knowledge, attitudes and skills:

-Increased awareness of Latinos as valued community members and current/future farmers

-Improved skills in engaging Latino audiences
Awareness of economic opportunities in local food systems

-Improved understanding and skills in assessing, analyzing and gaining resources for local food production systems

-Improved understanding and skills in marketing and business development strategies, including value added, appropriate to local food systems

-Ability to integrate knowledge and skills described above to develop a strategy for sustained support programs

Intermediate-Term Outcomes:
As a result of new awareness, knowledge, attitudes and skills, professionals will develop the following new behaviors, practices and policies, in collaboration with Latino farm families and local leaders:

-Identify and respond to the goals of local Latino farm families

-Develop and implement a farmer mentoring system

-Develop and implement production practices that contribute to local food systems

-Identify and connect to local markets

-Develop strategies for maintaining engagement, education and technical services in support of Latino farm families

-Develop and maintain new, multi-stakeholder partnerships engaged in local food system development

Long-Term Outcomes (systemic changes, not within the timeframe of this project):
Changes in educator behavior, practices and policies will, in the long term, lead to the following systemic changes (in the next 3-5 years but not in the timeframe of this project):

-Successful Latino farmers engaged in local food systems

-Sustained institutional engagement in education and technical services in support of Latino farm families


The "Building Capacity to Engage Latinos in Local Food Systems" project was designed to provide Extension educators and other agricultural professionals in Iowa and Kansas with the knowledge and skills to identify and respond to the needs and goals of Latino growers and produces and their families. Through a series of professional development activities over the course of the project, participants will have the opportunity to further develop the knowledge and skills needed to serve their communities.

Short-Term Outcomes focusing on awareness, knowledge, attitudes and skills:

Project activities for the first year aligned with the short-term outcomes for the project and were mostly focused on the Multicultural Workshops that were delivered in both Kansas and Iowa. The purpose of these workshops was to improve participants’ understanding of how to communicate and build trust across cultural and language differences. It also provided an overview of the need for outreach through Extension, NRCS, FSA, farmer organizations, and NGOs to Latino farmers, and effective methods for reaching this audience. The session was conducted by Diane Finnerty, Director of Cultural Competence Initiatives at the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice at University of Iowa’s School of Social Work, and Juan Marinez, Regional Director for Outreach with Cooperative Extension at Michigan State University.

Project personnel outlined the content for the sessions and identified Extension educators and other agricultural professionals in both states to invite to workshops. The Iowa workshop took place at Iowa State University on September 27, 2007. The Kansas workshop was held October 18-19, 2007 at Kansas State University. A total of 69 participants attended the workshops in the two states.

Three other workshops were held in Iowa during the first year. These included:

Multiculturalism Workshop B; October 10, 8-10 a.m.; attendance: 24
The purpose of this workshop was to build confidence, enthusiasm and insight about doing cross-cultural outreach through sharing experiences from the field, airing and addressing concerns and questions, and drawing attention to positive outcomes. Juan Marinez, who led this session, had people break into small groups to discuss the interviews each had completed in his/her own community. Juan then led participants in a discussion of the challenges, surprises, what worked, and new insights. In the second hour of the workshop, Paul Brown joined Juan Marinez in leading a discussion about how to make use of the Plan of Work logic model to think strategically about building long-term partnerships between community and agricultural organizations and Latino community members.

Local Food Systems Workshop; November 9, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; attendance: 13
Summary: The purpose of this workshop was to make participants aware of what defines a local or regional food system, how these food system alternatives are being developed in communities throughout Iowa, and what steps to take to create a local food system. The session began with a panel presentation from three local food system practitioners with three distinct approaches to developing local marketing linkages in their respective communities. Kamyar Enshayan (University of Northern Iowa Local Food Project), Penny Brown Huber (Grow Your Own Small Market Farm Business), and Steven Smith (Iowa Network for Community Agriculture) spoke, and then responded to questions, comments and observations from the audience. In the afternoon session, participants discussed questions relating to possibilities for building or strengthening local food systems in their communities, and how Latinos could be involved in such an effort.

Ottumwa Latino Business Network Visit; December 10, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Attendance: 15
The purpose of this session was to learn about and discuss the goals, challenges, and opportunities for Latino business owners in Iowa. The visit opened with a presentation from the president of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce on the contributions and importance of supporting immigrant entrepreneurs, and the role of business networks in helping businesses step beyond their ethnic niche to market to the whole local community. This was followed by a presentation from a Latino business network member and restaurant owner who wants to start a goat meat butcher shop. He was joined by Byron Leu, Extension Livestock Field Specialist from Jefferson County, who discussed plans to develop a meat goat cooperative and processing facility in Ottumwa. The group visited a Mexican bakery, restaurant and grocery store, and talked to the owners about how they started their businesses, what their challenges have been, and what their goals are.

These activities were designed to provide participants in both Kansas and Iowa with foundational knowledge and resources that will be useful in the next phase of the project. Planned activities for the second year of the project include attending the annual SARE conference, particularly workshops and sessions covering such topics as reaching minority farmers, creating farmer-to-farmer networking and mentoring; product marketing cooperatives adding value to products; and tours highlighting innovations to extend the growing season, end-market opportunities with local chefs, restaurants and grocery stores, and urban agriculture ventures.

In addition, a planned immersion event will reinforce cultural awareness and the skills participants have developed. A two-day cultural immersion event in Garden City is planned for late June 2008. The visit will provide an opportunity for educators to meet others interested in similar work, see how connections to multicultural communities and organizations were made and developed, see how projects have been developed, and perhaps, most importantly, see how cross-cultural understanding is being fostered. The objective is to provide an immersion experience that includes meeting local people from the immigrant community, the business community, and the agricultural community (educators and others interested in agriculture). Results from these events will be reported in the final project (2008) report.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Prior to attending the multicultural workshops, participants in both states were asked to complete a survey to capture baseline information regarding their views, knowledge, and experiences of interacting with members of the Latino community. The Kansas and Iowa participants reported the following benefits of engaging Latinos in work, outreach and/or educational programs:

-Strengthens the community

-Helps build understanding

-Expands the organization (Extension and NCRS)

-Expands agricultural markets and opportunities

-Economic benefits

-Provides awareness of the information resources available

-Improves conservation and agricultural practices

Challenges of engaging Latinos in work, outreach and/or educational programs identified by Kansas and Iowa participants included:


-Cultural Differences

-Building trust and understanding

-Identifying needs of the Latino community

-Immigration status (fear of government

-Lack of experience (on both sides) of working with each other

These data were collected to help document impact, as well as providing the project leaders with information to tailor future events to best meet the needs of the participants. Feedback will continue to be collected from participants over the remainder of the project.

Following the KSU Working with Multicultural Audiences Workshop on October 18 and 19, 2007, participants received a brief follow-up questionnaire to collect their perceptions about the training and suggestions for future events. In general, participants reported that they came to the workshop expecting to get a broad overview of working with multicultural audiences. Several participants noted that they hoped the training would help them collaborate and work effectively with the Latino community by gaining an understanding of the Latino cultures and learning ways in which to bridge the cultural gap. Overall, participants reported that their expectations were met, and in some cases, exceeded. Nearly all of the participants indicated that the historical research presented was helpful in providing a context for the Latino community, and that this information will be useful as the participants work with this audience. One of the participants summarized, “The Hispanic population is growing and will continue to grow. If Extension does what it is supposed to do, we will find their needs and help them in their lives.”