Creating a Sense of Belonging for Hispanic Farmers in Extension Programming

2015 Annual Report for ENE15-139

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2015: $54,432.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Elsa Sanchez
Penn State University

Creating a Sense of Belonging for Hispanic Farmers in Extension Programming


Extension has a long history of connecting with traditional farmers. As the US increasingly becomes more multicultural, Extension must expand its ability to serve culturally diverse groups. Due to current demographic changes, US Hispanics will play a larger role in the future of agriculture and the overall workforce and economy. The average age of farmers has increased, and the number of new farmers has decreased. However, the number of Hispanic operated farms has increased 21% between 2007 and 2012 (2012 Census of Ag). Pennsylvania reported 652 Hispanic farmers, representing a 24% increase. We have largely not connected with these farmers. In a recent survey of Pennsylvania growers, 123 of 140 adopted a production practice as a result of attending an extension meeting and 111 of 116 gained information from extension that increased their farm’s profitability. Hispanic farmers would benefit in the same way. However, to successfully engage Hispanic audiences, Extension programs must be culturally responsive. We need a systematic change in how we develop programming to create a sense of belonging for Hispanic farmers.

Commercial vegetable, small fruit, tree fruit and pesticide education educators need a new skill set to reach Hispanic farmers. In a 2014 survey of 24 Pennsylvania extension educators, the majority, 22 (92%), indicated that they want to upgrade their skills for working with Hispanic farmers and would attend a training program with that goal. A 2013 survey of 19 Start Farming educators prioritized cultural sensitivity training as one of the top five resources they needed. We will engage extension educators and specialists in Pennsylvania in three in-person training sessions, facilitate one-on-one visits with Hispanic farmers, provide a comprehensive packet of training materials, use a case study to evaluate and modify existing programming and brainstorm areas of new programming. By addressing barriers that interfere with participation of Hispanic farmers, upgrading skills needed to work with this underserved audience and practicing using this new skill set in program planning, extension educators and specialists will be equipped to reach out to Hispanic farmers and develop programming to meet their needs. Sixty-five Hispanic farmers will be more connected to extension programming through this project. They will benefit from extension programming in the same way as other farmers, by increasing knowledge and skills of science-based sustainable production practices resulting in increased profitability.

Objectives/Performance Targets

15 Extension educators will employ recommended strategies to overcome participation barriers experienced by Hispanic farmers; as a result 65 previously disengaged Hispanic farmers who manage 6,370 acres participate in educational services offered through Extension.


1. 35 extension educators and specialists serving commercial vegetable, small fruit and tree fruit farmers and pesticide education receive email invitations for the Creating a Sense of Belonging for Hispanic Farmers training series. (September 2015)

Tianna DuPont and Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch, two of the principle investigators in this project took positions with other organizations; therefore, time has been devoted to rebuilding the project team. Lee Stivers, extension educator and Héctor Núñez Contreras, extension program associate have joined Elsa Sánchez on the leadership team. Lee has a strong interest in improving/increasing the programming offered to diverse audiences including for Hispanic farmers. Her current efforts include being involved with the Spanish sessions at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention as well as currently learning Spanish through an intensive program in Mexico. Héctor works with different groups of agricultural workers whose first language is Spanish including those in the tree fruit and mushroom industries. He also works with the Migrant Education Program. Héctor will be working on a PhD program and work from this project will help guide his dissertation research. While Tianna and Maria will be missed, the new leadership team is equally proficient and excited to go forward with the project. We will also look for opportunities to involve Tianna and Maria.

Rebuilding the team delayed sending out invitations for the project. This will be completed in January 2016.

On October 19, 2015, at a Starting Farming – Supporting the Next Generation of Farmers Team and Advisory Meeting organized by Tianna DuPont, Maria Rojas from FARMroots Greenmarket, GrowNYC presented approaches for connecting with Hispanic audiences. This was followed by a discussion on the topic including an introduction to this project. Based on interest, the 14 participants from Penn State University will be part of the group to whom invitations to participate in this project will be sent. We will also extend an invitation to Maria Rojas to participate and ask her to be a part of the training session focused on examining agricultural information developed by other organizations for Hispanic farmers.

A project assistant has been identified and will start work on the project beginning in January 2016.

2. 20 extension educators and specialists accept the invitation and participate in a training session to identify barriers that interfere with participation of Hispanic farmers in extension programming; pre- and post-event surveys administered. (April 2016 – corresponding with our annual extension conference).

We will hold the first training session during the week of April 18th 2016 to correspond with our annual extension conference.

 3. 20 extension educators are provided a comprehensive packet of training materials. (April 2016)

4. 20 extension educators and specialists are telephoned by PI Gorgo-Gourovitch to help identify a Hispanic farmer to visit. (May 2016)

5. 15 extension educators and specialists meet individually with a Hispanic farmer (15 farmers) in Pennsylvania to learn their needs from extension including what would facilitate them participating in extension programming (topics to aid in discussion are included in the comprehensive packet of training materials). (June-November 2016)

6. 15 extension educators and specialists attend a training session to upgrade skills needed to work with Hispanic farmers; pre- and post-event surveys administered. (November 2016 – corresponding with our annual roundtable extension meetings)

7. 15 extension educators and specialists are provided a case study extension program and asked to develop a list of ideas to increase Hispanic farmer participation in the program. (November 2016)

8. 15 extension educators and specialists attend a training session to develop extension programming for Hispanic farmers based on the same case study they received in November; pre- and post-event surveys administered. (January 2017 – corresponding with the annual Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention)

9. 15 extension educators and specialists respond to a survey to report on their efforts and successes in reaching 65 Hispanic farmers. (January 2018)


Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch

[email protected]
Extension Educator
Penn State Extension
601 Westtown Rd.
West Chester, Pennsylvania 19380
Lee Stivers

[email protected]
Extension Educator
Penn State Extension
100 W. Beau St.
Washington, Pennsylvania 15301