Enhancing the Capacity of Educators and Farm Leaders to work with Socially Disadvantaged Latino Farmers
Even though USDA agencies, NGO’s, and educational institutions have the desire to promote a sustainable food and farming systems among Latino farmers, they lack human resource skills to reach these emerging farming groups. Consequently, the purpose of this Professional Development Program (PDP) is to enhance the capacity of educators and farm leaders to work with socially disadvantaged Latino farmers by means of an educational model that integrates an Experiential Learning Curriculum (ELC) that is focused on Mexican cultural values and sustainable farming systems and a website that has current and reliable information on Latino farmers in the US.
The Professional Development Program’s objectives:
(1) to enhance the capacity of educators and farm leaders to work with socially disadvantaged Latino farmers;
(2) to assist educators and farm leaders to become more capable in conducting sustainable food and farming outreach programs with socially disadvantaged Latino farmers;
(3) to provide a unique reflective learning environment for the participants through a Experiential Learning Curriculum;
(4) to improve access to current and reliable information about Latino farmers by means of a new website
During 2007, the PDP has implemented the following activities:
(i) developed the Experiential Learning Curriculum;
(ii) organized 1, ten-day experiential learning field trip in the states of Morelos and Edo. de Mexico, Mexico;
(iii) designed the prototype of the website on Latino farmer information.
i.-The Experiential Learning Curriculum used a cross-cultural learning model. It covered the following topics: culture, customs, family values and sustainable agriculture systems of Mexico. US and Mexican educational leaders designed the curriculum. Program’s participants were immersed directly in the culture and values of traditional Mexican communities, which many of our new US farmers derive from. Under this learning model, participants increased their consciousness of barriers faced by individuals who belong to this demographic farming group, in an environment where the language, values, and traditions are different from their own. The curriculum helped the participants increase their knowledge of Mexican culture, social structure, social networks, and Mexican sustainable agricultural practices.
ii.- The first eight-day experiential learning field trip in Mexican rural communities was developed during spring 2007 in coordination with Michigan State University Extension, Universidad Autónoma Chapingo, and Cemanahuac school. In this field trip participated 22 people from 4 different states: Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. They come from four institutions: Michigan State University Extension (11), University of Wisconsin Extension (7), Kansas State University (3) and Oklahoma State University (1). The participants received educational materials on demographics, socio-economic, religion, health, education, agriculture, natural resource and environment on Mexican rural communities where the field work take place. They participated in a hands-on field trip in Mexican rural communities in the states of Morelos and Edo. de Mexico.
iii.- The prototype of website with Latino farmer information was designed. The website included information on the following topics: demographics, farming operations, barriers or challenges, and research results on Latino farmers in the US. The information was organized and systematized in a user-friendly and free website that can be accessed by program participants and other agricultural professionals and educators.
In the next year, the following activities will be accomplished:
i.- Plan and organize two, eight-day experiential learning field trips in Mexican rural communities during fall 2008 and spring 2009, in coordination with Universidad Autónoma Chapingo.
ii.- Launch and update the website with Latino farmer information.
iii.- Design a logistic online tool to support the activities before, during and after the experiential learning program in order to:
(1) organize a set of educational materials;
(2) facilitate reading resources on demographics, socio-economic, religion, health, education, agriculture, natural resource and environment on Mexican rural communities where the field work will take place;
(3) provide logistic support for all the necessary aspects of field work (i.e. application to the program, selection of the participants, program schedule, orientation session, health issues, legal issues, documents, etc.);
(4) post participants’ reflective essays and outreach proposals; and
(5) conduct on-line surveys.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The success of this educational program is measured by observing the change of knowledge, skills and attitudes of program’s participants and their willingness to continue and increase outreach to Latino farmers. Right now, The PDP’s impacts could be measure using two successful histories:
A Michigan State University Extension Agent said: “I participated in an educational opportunity for small and beginning blueberry and vegetable farmers. My role was to educate around the topic of drinking water well protection when mixing and loading pesticides. All promotions went out in Spanish and English. We had 25 attendees, 17 were Latino. Three spoke little or no English and were individually assisted by bilingual resource persons. It was great fun. I gave a short slide show of the Mexico trip and there was great interest. I used my limited Spanish as much as possible and was rewarded with encouraging words and smiles. Although by no means an expert on Mexican immigration issues, I feel the trip really increased my insight, understanding and appreciation of where these 17 participants came from and maybe even a little about why. I enjoyed meeting all of you and hope our Mexico experiences contribute to your careers as extension educators.”
A Kansas State Extension agent comments: “KSE has something called Tuesday Letter, which is our weekly communication. I have been putting focusing on various aspects of the trip each week. Our plant pathology department liked my descriptions of the sugar cane factory and tomato farm, they have invited me to speak about the agriculture. It’s been great! I’m ready to go again.” In other email she said: “I recently had opportunity to share a program regarding our experiences in Mexico at a State In-Service. Thanks again for expanding the participation to other states! It was a great Study Seminar.”
Universidad Autónoma Chapingo