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


    An exploration of Latino and Sudanese immigrant perspectives on farming reveals strong interest and a wealth of agricultural experience and skills. Many grew up on small-scale, diversified family farms. Latino respondents see access to financial capital as a major challenge to starting farming in Iowa, although homeowners are less likely to see this as a barrier. Mexican immigrant farmers interviewed own farm of about 15 acres, raise and direct-market livestock to friends and co-workers, and work full time off-farm. Agricultural organizations are not well connected to new immigrant farmers, but could usefully provide bilingual information on marketing, regulations, production, and business organization.


    Latinos are the fastest growing ethnicity of farmers in Iowa and across the U.S. (National Agricultural Statistics Service 2002), and 3.7 percent of Iowa’s total population (State Data Center of Iowa 2007). Across the country, immigrants of all backgrounds are participating in training and business incubation programs geared toward their particular needs as immigrant farmers. Less than 5% of Iowa’s foreign-born population is African-born (U.S. Census 2000), yet a sizeable Sudanese community resides in Des Moines, and a few dozen families live in Marshalltown. This research considers past experience, skills and current interest in starting farming among immigrants in Iowa, as well as potential markets for their products. We also explored the experiences of four established Mexican immigrant farmers to learn how and why they became farm operators in Iowa.

    Project objectives:

    The long-term goal of this project is to develop support for immigrants who want to participate as producers in Iowa’s local food systems.

    Short-term goals:

    1. To assess the interest in farming among Latino immigrants in Marshalltown
    2. To assess potential barriers for immigrant farmers such as access to land, credit and markets, and language issues

    Intermediate-term goals:

    3. To foster long-term relationships between stakeholders by linking them to a common interest in immigrant participation in entrepreneurial agriculture
    4. To recommend strategies for connecting new immigrant farmers to land
    5. To create awareness about sustainable and entrepreneurial farming among Latino immigrants in Marshalltown

    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.