Assessing the Feasibility of Entry into Entrepreneurial Agriculture for Recent Immigrants in Marshalltown, Iowa

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2005: $6,891.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Grant Recipient: Iowa State University
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Jan Flora
Iowa State University

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: focus group, participatory research, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community services, employment opportunities, infrastructure analysis, new business opportunities, partnerships, quality of life, social networks, social psychological indicators, urban agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Across the country, new immigrants are participating in agriculture — increasingly as farm owners, not just farm workers. Projects and organizations are emerging to facilitate this trend, by providing training and assistance in farm business development, production and accessing farmland. Support specifically geared toward immigrant farmers is lacking in Iowa, a state with ample farmland, dwindling numbers of farmers, and a Latino population that increased 152 percent in the 1990s. The Latino population of Marshalltown, a town of 26,000 in northeast central Iowa, is 12.6 percent. Many of these new residents were subsistence farmers in rural Mexico and a handful is keeping the tradition alive by raising vegetables in Marshalltown’s community gardens. There is also a small population of Southern Sudanese who were farmers before immigrating to the United States. Led by a community advisory committee and other local partnerships, this project will gather survey data on the experience and interest in farming among Latino and Sudanese immigrants. We will also conduct individual and group interviews with immigrants who are currently farming and those who are actively planning to start farming to learn about the process of transitioning to agricultural entrepreneurship. These results will be communicated back to the community in through a public event and written material. The findings will be presented to Extension and other relevant organizations in the form of a proposal on how to provide support to immigrant farmers and aspiring farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall goal of this project is to foster opportunities for immigrants to participate as producers in Iowa’s local food system.

    The short-term goals are:

    1.) To assess the interest in farming among Latino immigrants in Marshalltown,

    2.) To assess immigrant farmer needs such as access to land, credit and markets and language issues, and

    3.) To recommend strategies for connecting new immigrant farmers to land

    The intermediate goals are:

    1.) To foster long-term relationships between stakeholders by linking them around a common interest in immigrant participation in entrepreneurial agriculture, and

    2.) To create awareness and generate interest in farming among recent immigrants in Marshalltown. The long-range vision embedded in these goals is to spur rural economic development through strengthening agricultural entrepreneurship, and to sustain the natural resource base upon which agriculture depends by keeping land in farming.

    It is also to strengthen intercultural communication and interdependence in communities with significant immigrant populations through direct marketing relationships and collaboration on projects.

    Marshalltown is the focus of this project, but it could serve as a model for other Iowa towns with similar demographic, economic and natural resource conditions.

    The research findings will be reported back to the Marshalltown community in a public presentation, and in printed material, which we will make widely available. Another output of the project will be a proposal to establish a state or county-wide program to support entry of immigrant farmers into agriculture. This will be generated through a final workshop, where stakeholders (members of the advisory committee and others identified by the advisory committee) will use the research findings to draft such a proposal.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.