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

2008 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 second year of this project continued to target professional educators and technical service providers in Iowa and Kansas within Cooperative Extension, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRSC), Farm Services Agency (FSA) and other agencies. Workshops offering multicultural training and sessions in local food systems continued in year two. The project provided an immersion experience for participants through site visits that included meeting local people from the immigrant, business and agricultural community. These activities provided participants an opportunity to improve their skills in engaging Latino audiences, identifying 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.


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. In order to allow enough time to complete all of the planned activities, the project applied for and was given an extension by SARE through June 30, 2009. Results from the complete project will be presented in the final report which will be submitted in June, 2009.

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

Continuing the work from year 1, four workshops were held in Iowa during the second year of the project. Participants at the workshops came from Iowa State University Extension, NRCS, Resource Conservation and Development councils, and the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture. The workshops focused on topics such as entrepreneurial farm business, value chains, market gardening, and working with Latino producers and consumers. These sessions included:

Land, Credit, and Entrepreneurial Farm Business Development; February 13, 9:00 am to 3:30 pm; Attendance: 13

The learning objectives for this workshop included: examining what resources are available statewide for helping beginning farmers to gain access to land and credit; identifying challenges Latino farmers face in gaining access to land and credit; and identifying opportunities for Extension and NRCS offices to support Latino farmers looking for farmsteads (through programs and partnerships). The first presentation of the day focused on how business networks create a local entrepreneurial environment and how this relates to local food system development. The next presenter talked about how to help a beginning farmer write a business plan and prepare for a visit to the bank. The morning wrapped up with an overview of the special programs for beginning farmers, small-scale farmers, and “socially disadvantaged” farmers available through the FSA. Outreach strategies to Latino/Hispanic farmers, partnering with Extension, other institutional partners were also discussed. The afternoon session began with a presentation from the Beginning Farm Center at Iowa State University, which focused on the Center’s programs for beginning farmers, outreach strategies and approaches to working with Latino farmers, partnering with county Extension offices, other institutional partners. The last session presented a county-based comprehensive approach to launching beginning farmers, targeted at getting them on the land and creating local markets. The workshop wrapped up with time for reflection and discussion by all the participants.

Value chains – the case of goat meat in SE Iowa; March 13, 9 am to 1 pm followed by farm tour; Attendance: 8 plus 9 guests, including guest presenters

The learning objectives for this workshop included: illuminating current activities/trends among meat goat producers, processors, distributors, and buyers in south east Iowa, and how these parts fit together in a local/regional value (supply) chain; exploring the role of Latino producers, processors, and restaurant or tienda (store) owners in the value chain, and the characteristics and extent of demand for goat meat in the Latino market; and identifying opportunities for new links and partnerships in south east Iowa. The workshop began with an overview of Columbus Junction and Louis County, Iowa. Speakers then discussed issues related to establishing a successful small-scale processing facility and the logistics of distributing to a local/regional market. The panel included a representative from the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at Iowa State University, a Latino meat goat farmer, and a butcher from Ottumwa. After a local foods lunch and discussion, participants were able to see the Latino goat farmer and on-farm processor’s operation.

Training, Education, and Service Provision to Latino Farmers and Consumers; May 15, 9 am-4 pm; Attendance: 8 plus 7 guest participants and presenters

This workshop was an opportunity for participants to learn more about providing training, education and services to Latino farmers and consumers. The morning session highlighted activities in Marshalltown, Iowa, describing how organizations in that community are investing in the social and human capital of the Latino community. The examples provided by local organizations and community members focused on leadership/entrepreneurship, skills, and networks. The afternoon session gave participants time to reflect on the Marshalltown examples and think more broadly about working with the Latino community. Through a facilitated discussion, participants talked about what has been done by ISU Extension and partner organizations in reaching and serving Latino communities, as well as how to improve upon these efforts. The results from this discussion were compiled to share with ISU Extension Vice-Provost Dr. Jack Payne at a later meeting (described further under intermediate-term outcomes).

From Community Gardening to Market Gardening: Soon you will be a real farmer!
June 23, 2:30 pm to 7:00 pm; Attendance: 4

This workshop took place at the Osceola Community Gardens. This was the final grant sponsored workshop for the Iowa participants. The presentation focused on the topic of community gardens. A panel from the Osceola Community Gardens talked about the purpose of the garden and how it was established. Other presenters discussed how gardens can be a stepping stone for gardeners to become market gardeners, and how community gardens can serve as a link between Extension and Latino communities. The session wrapped up with a salsa tasting and a tour of the garden’s demonstration salsa plots.

Participants in the Building Capacity to Engage Latinos in Local Food Systems project were also invited to participate in the USDA-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension New American Farm Conference 2008 in Kansas City, Missouri as part of the project’s activities. Nine Kansas participants, with representatives from both Extension and NRCS, attended the conference. Program leaders reviewed the list of conference sessions and highlighted the ones that contributed to the project’s professional development goals for gaining knowledge and understanding of local food systems. The conference also offered a variety of tours to local farms and businesses. The leaders identified three tours for project participants to provide experiential learning opportunities related to local food systems and/or working with minority farmers. As a wrap-up session for these activities, the grant participants met after the tours for discussion to synthesize learning and plan the next steps for a local level engagement project with Latino community members/farm families.

As part of the grant, project personnel also gave a presentation to the USDA Farm Services Agency State Leadership meeting in Manhattan, Kansas in May. The session provided an overview of the project, including a description of the planned activities and outcomes. The intent of the presentation was not only to disseminate results of project activities and outcomes, but also encourage broader participation in the state.

Intermediate-Term Outcomes focusing on behaviors, practices and policies

Activities offered in the second year of the Building Capacity to Engage Latinos in Local Food Systems project were designed to support the intended intermediate-term outcomes focusing on behaviors, practices and policies. Two key events were held during the summer.

The first was a meeting in Iowa with Extension Vice-Provost Dr. Jack Payne. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss and propose strategies for strengthening Extension outreach to Latino communities. Feedback collected at a workshop in May was used to develop a proposal for how to move forward with strengthening outreach efforts. This proposal provided the foundation for the meeting with Dr. Payne. To provide background for the meeting, Dr. Payne talked about his longtime interest in Mexico and experiences/relationships with Mexican leaders, including former President Vicente Fox and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs (equivalent of Secretary of State) Luis Derbez. He also talked about his interest in a proposal supported by Senator Grassley to link 15 U.S. and 15 Mexican universities to develop an Extension program in rural Mexico. Dr. Payne is generally enthusiastic about an international Extension program as well as opportunities to support immigrants locally.

Dr. Payne was supportive of key points in the proposal. These include encouraging recruitment of Latinos to Extension Council positions, offering to co-sponsor a conference (Cambio de Colores), and supporting inter-agency networking around Latino programming. Based on this response, project leaders in Iowa followed up with Dr. Payne in a memo requesting his support for these actionable items: 1) Encourage him to remind County Extension Education Directors (CEEDs) to consider diversity when recruiting candidates for their county extension councils; 2) Find out what would be involved in co-sponsoring Cambio de Colores; and 3) Establish a periodic conference call program involving individuals from a broad range of organizations to discuss issues and ideas related to Latino programming. Dr. Payne was skeptical about Extension’s ability in the near term to fund a fulltime Latino community specialist, although believed this might be a worthy future pursuit.

The second key event from summer 2008 was a two-day immersion event. Based on discussions at the SARE conference in Kansas City, participants indicated it would be useful to organize an experiential visit to a community in which such work was already under way. The visit would provide an opportunity for educators to meet others interested in similar work, see how connections to multicultural communities and organizations were made and developed, to see how projects have been developed, and perhaps most importantly to see how cross-cultural understanding is being fostered. As a result, plans were made to visit Garden City, a diverse community of 26,000 in southwest Kansas.

The community visit took place June 27-29. The overarching goal of the event was to provide an immersion experience that included meeting local people from the immigrant community, the business community, and the agricultural community (educators and others interested in agriculture). Thirteen participants attended the event. Specific objectives for the visit included: developing a greater awareness of characteristics, needs and cultural norms of Latino farmers, families and communities; increasing knowledge of effective methods to reach Latino farmers, youth, families, communities; and improving skills to assist Latino farm families and agricultural workers to identify their needs and access solutions via programs offered by Extension, NRCS, and other organizations. Specific activities during the two-day event included: cultural presentations; panel discussion of farm life in Mexico and the US; ethnic grocery store visits, farm visits, a visit to a Latino neighborhood community center, stories from immigrants and their families, and presentations by local leaders, including the current Garden City mayor and the former mayor, who is now on the Kansas Board of Regents.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Project impact continues to be monitored by collecting feedback from participants over the course of the project. After attending the USDA-Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension New American Farm Conference 2008, project participants were asked to reflect on what they learned in these sessions and how this information relates back to their needs in engaging Latinos in their professional work setting. One of the participants reported, “The information shared at this conference got to the heart of food systems for a healthier way of living, eating, and leaving a legacy. I thought it would only be about farming, but the social messages incorporated into all the sessions made the conference very well-rounded.” Other participants also talked about the how they plan to use the information they learned. One extension professional stated, “These resources will be used in my daily life and as I work with the diversity team.” Another had specific ideas, commenting, “[I want to] link Spanish publications to K-State listserv…find local CSA's and their membership needs- if any. Contact local food pantries to determine what produce their Latino clientele want/need. Encourage community gardens to plant a row for the hungry of this produce to donate.” One of the participants summed up the experience by saying, “I am very happy that I got to attend the conference and was shocked at how much I thought I knew. It was very educational and made me see a much larger picture.”

While the two-day immersion event provided participants with additional awareness, knowledge and skills in working with Latino communities, the experiential learning also helped participants plan for activities in their local communities. Several participants discussed the possibility of having or developing a directory of people/agencies currently working with Latinos in communities such as Garden City that could serve as conduits for information regarding farm loans for new producers. Expanding on this idea, participants went on to suggest that those contacts could be a starting point for outreach and dissemination of information. In general, the participants reported that seeing what was being done in other locations helped them think about projects that could be done in their own communities.

As the various activities have come to a close, participants have provided feedback about their experiences in the project. One individual commented, “Participating became an ongoing, high priority. I felt that each day's training/experiences provided valuable, relevant learning. I found that I was looking forward to seeing the cohort - to see what had taken place in each county since the previous meeting - and to share new insights as they would come.” Final reflections from the project participants will be collected in spring 2009 and shared in the final project report. In addition to final comments, participants will also provide an action plan outlining how they plan to use what they’ve learned during the Building Capacity to Engage Latinos in Local Food Systems project. These plans will be summarized in the final project report.