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

2006 Annual Report for GNC05-049

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

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


More than 80 percent of respondents in our (non-representative) survey has grown vegetables, grains and livestock in the past, and want to farm today in Iowa. Most want to farm both for income and home consumption –- Sudanese prefer the latter, while Latino respondents are more inclined to farm for income. The largest challenge to starting farming as perceived by Latinos is gaining access to capital and markets -– by Sudanese, gaining technical expertise. Established immigrant farmers interviewed owned less than 20 acres, and most raised livestock for a niche market of local Latinos.

Objectives/Performance Targets

The overall goal of this project is to foster opportunities for immigrants to participate as producers in Iowa’s local food system. Marshalltown, as the focus of this project, will serve as a model for other Iowa towns with similar demographic, economic and natural resource conditions.

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
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


Convened community advisory committee twice to advise us on survey development and accessing survey respondents. Committee members included two local farmers with experience with immigrant communities, a Latino teacher/administrator at the local community education center, director of Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture (EDA) program at Marshalltown Community College (MCC), a Sudanese community organizer, and the outreach director of Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)

Goal 3 addressed
Completed survey of 12 Latino-owned food businesses in Marshalltown to assess knowledge about and experience and interest in buying organic, and/or locally produced foods

Goals 2 and 5 addressed
Completed survey of 62 Latino and Sudanese immigrants in Marshalltown regarding their previous experiences in agriculture and interest in farming in Iowa, and perceptions of barriers to starting farming

Goals 1, 2 and 5 addressed
Completed two bilingual focus group sessions which addressed potential barriers to farming, as well as resources available within the immigrant communities and from agricultural organizations. Focus groups were held with aspiring farmers and outreach-oriented representatives from ISU Extension, EDA-MCC, NRCS, and Iowa Network for Community Agriculture

Goals 1, 2, 3 and 4 addressed
Conducted five in-depth interviews with established immigrant farmers to learn how and why they started farming in Iowa

Goals 1 and 2 addressed
Reported results of the survey and interviews to community in a public forum in Marshalltown

Goal 5 addressed
To be completed in April and May of 2007 (below):
Hold stakeholder workshop in which participants draft proposal for state or regional immigrant farming program. Submit proposal to NRCS and other relevant organizations

Draft and distribute written summary of research findings and recommendations to beginning farmers. These will be printed in Spanish, English and Arabic

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This project cemented relationships in the Marshalltown area between farmers, aspiring farmers, community activists, and MCC staff interested in supporting beginning farmers. Focus group participants have been informed of land available through the community college, and have inquired about participating in beginning farmer training with EDA. As a result of relationships formed through the project, aspiring and established farmers gathered socially at a Slow Foods picnic. Beyond Marshalltown, the survey developed through this SARE project is being used to conduct a similar study in Denison, Iowa, in spring of 2007. A proposal for a statewide approach to supporting immigrant farmers will include Denison results; the proposal should serve as a foundation for ensuing initiatives. A written summary (in English, Spanish and Arabic) of research findings, distributed to aspiring farmers in Marshalltown and elsewhere in Iowa through churches and other community access points, should raise awareness among immigrants of opportunities to farm.


Dr. Jan Flora

[email protected]
Professor of Sociology
Iowa State University
317D East Hall
Ames, IA 50011
Office Phone: 5152944295