Creating a Sense of Belonging for Hispanic Farmers in Extension Programming

2016 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 U.S. increasingly becomes more multi-cultural, Extension must expand its ability to serve culturally diverse groups. Due to current demographic changes, U.S. 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.

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)

Héctor Núñez Contreras, a member of the leadership in this project, took a position with private industry in early 2016. The remaining members decided to move forward with the project as a two member team. This delayed organizing the first workshop and sending out invitations; however, Lee and Elsa spoke about the workshops at various meetings and one-on-one to Extension educators to alert them to this opportunity.

Invitations were sent by email to Extension educators who focus on horticulture in May 2016. Our goal of having 20 participants was mostly filled by this email request. We reached out individually to other Extension educators and exceeded our goal: 22 Extension educators signed-up for the first workshop.


  1. 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).

The first workshop occurred on July 13, 2016. Our plan had been to hold it back-to-back with the annual extension conference to facilitate attendance. However, the format of the annual extension conference changed from an in-person event to an online one; therefore, we scheduled this workshop to be the day after an in-service event.

Dr. Jonathan Cook, a social psychologist, was the keynote speaker and presented insights from social psychology on the science of inclusion. He then led a guided discussion on the topic. The discussion was focused on these questions:

In what ways might farmers’ concerns about inclusion or psychological safety prevent them from participating in extension programming?

What aspects of extension programming, Penn State University, etc. might signal to Hispanic farmers that they might not belong?

What strategies could be used to help address issues of inclusion if these are barriers to Hispanic farmers participating in extension education?

The discussion was rich and had an ease to it that was welcome and perhaps not expected because of the sensitivity of the topic. This may be because of Dr. Cook’s abilities as a facilitator, the small group size, and/or because in general, everyone knew each other before attending the workshop. These factors and others may have created an environment where participants felt “safe” expressing ideas.

Elsa presented on the demographics of Hispanic and Latino farmers and farmworkers in U.S. and Pennsylvania. This was followed by small group discussions on incorporating information learned from the workshop into extension programming. It became apparent that Hispanic farmers and farmworkers are different groups and we may need different approaches for creating welcoming environments.

Pre- and post-workshop surveys were administered to participants. Survey results are discussed in the outcomes section below.


  1. 20 extension educators are provided a comprehensive packet of training materials. (April 2016)

Participants of the first workshop received a comprehensive packet of materials including the overall goal of the workshop, hard-copies of the PowerPoints used in the workshop, and a list of contact information for participants and speakers.


  1. 20 extension educators and specialists are telephoned by PI Gorgo-Gourovitch to help identify a Hispanic farmer to visit. (May 2016)

Based on the first workshop we modified the visit to include Hispanic farmers and/or farmworkers. For the second workshop we invited Dr. José García-Pabón to lead a discussion on challenges and solutions for increasing Latino participation in programs and services. His workshop was developed to take the entirety of the time allotted. As a result, we determined that we would not have time to discuss the outcomes from visits. Therefore, we decided to introduce and discuss visits during the first workshop and to discuss the outcomes from the visits during the third workshop. We will be contacting participants early next year to gauge progress on identifying a Hispanic farmer or farmworker.


  1. 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)

We altered the timeline to complete this milestone. (Please see the discussion above.) Participants have been provided with a list open-ended questions as a guide for the one-on-one meeting with a Hispanic farmer or farmworker. The questions were written in English, but a translated edition in Spanish was created by Lee at the request of workshop participants.


  1. 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)

A second workshop was held on October 20, 2016. Our original plan was to hold this workshop back-to-back with our annual extension team roundtable meeting; however, through a Doodle pole, the October date allowed more participants to attend. Twenty-one participants attended exceeding our goal of 15.

Dr. José García-Pabón, Community Sustainable Development Specialist at Washington State University, administered his program called “Why Don’t They Come?”. The goals of the workshop were for participants to:

  1. Have a better understanding of their own and their institution’s standing on awareness and outreach of Latinos.
  2. Better understand rural Latinos, including their cultural values and beliefs.
  3. Gain or reinforce best practices and effective methods in working with Latinos in agriculture.
  4. Start or expand partnerships to serve rural Latino families.
  5. Acquire strategies to overcome challenges and pitfalls.
  6. Plan an activity targeting Latino families in rural areas.Goals were accomplished through a very engaging series of events. We individually completed a personal and institutional self-assessment and then discussed results. We discussed best management practices for working with Latinos in agriculture with a panel of agricultural educators who work with Hispanic communities. Dr. García-Pabón presented the culture and values of Latino farmers. We ended the workshop by working in small groups to address dilemmas in reaching out to Latinos in agriculture and planning an educational activity for Latino farmers and farmworkers.

Participants received a comprehensive packet of materials including the overall goals of the workshop, hard-copies of the PowerPoint used in the workshop, and institutional self-assessment surveys.

Pre- and post-surveys were administered to participants. Survey results are discussed in the outcomes section below.

Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch returned to Penn State Extension in October and resumed a role on the leadership team.

  1. 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)

During the second workshop, as a small group activity, we planned an educational activity targeting Latino farmers. Activities developed were then shared with all workshop participants. This led to new ideas for increasing Hispanic farmer and farmworker participation in extension programming. We will continue progress on this milestone during the third workshop which will be held in the first half of 2017.


  1. 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)
  2. 15 extension educators and specialists respond to a survey to report on their efforts and successes in reaching 65 Hispanic farmers. (January 2018)

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Pre- and post-workshop surveys were administered to participants at both workshops. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

Participants rated the usefulness of the first workshop an average of 4.4 (5 point scale with 5 being the best).

At this workshop participants increased their:

Ability to assist Hispanic farmers 0.62 steps from before to after the workshop.

Ability to assist farmworkers 0.84 steps.

Knowledge of social identity threat 1.26 steps.

Knowledge of science of inclusion 1.11 steps.

Participants liked the discussions and the majority did not think that the Hispanic community is well represented at extension meetings.

Based on a pre-and post-workshop survey, attendees of the second workshop increased their knowledge of the cultural values and beliefs of rural Latinos/as an average of 1.3 steps. 100% indicated that they left the workshop with a plan for conducting an educational activity or developing a resource targeting Latinos/as. Eight people indicated that they would be conducting or assisting with on-farm demonstration meetings conducted in Spanish. Twelve people identified strategies, methods, or best practices they learned about, including establishing relationships, building trust, providing transportation, providing childcare, collaborating with other agencies in outreach efforts, and learning even some simple Spanish.




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