Best Hispanic Farmer’s Management and Marketing Strategies in Michigan
A survey of best marketing and management practices among Hispanic farmers in Michigan is conducted to determine the opportunities and barriers to access retail and food services markets in the Midwest. Michigan accounts for a growing number of Hispanic farmers. Supporting the growing number of Hispanic farmers will only benefit the thriving Michigan agriculture.
During this year, the main objective was to identify and recruit farmers for this research. Farmers started to participate since the end of July 2009.
Two techniques were used to identify participants for this research: homogeneous case and snowball sampling.
Homogeneous case selects key elements from a group to study.
The main element in this research was the Hispanic background of farmers. Hispanic is a label used to group individuals living in the U.S. who have some influence or are from Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America (Dana 2007). The US census considers Hispanics all those people who indicate their origin as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or some other Hispanic origin. Hispanics can be of any race (Census 2009).
The second element was farmer’s control over production and marketing activities. The Census of Agriculture identifies 615 principal operators of Hispanic background in Michigan. However, the Census definition of principal operator includes all those who run a farm and make daily management decisions who might be owners or be hired managers. In some cases, Hispanics farmers will manage the production and labor, but they have no decision-making power with regards to marketing products. In situations where that was the case, farmers will not be interviewed because the objective of the research is to know more about how they dealt with marketing issues.
The third element considered is production of fruit and vegetables. It is important to clarify that while Hispanic farmers are currently producing an array of different products, there are different marketing channels utilized by producers of other crops (e.g., corn or soybean) or other products (e.g., milk). In addition, producers of fruits and vegetables are more likely to sell directly to supermarkets and restaurants which is an important aspect investigated in this research. Finally, previous research showed that Hispanic farmers tend to specialize in fruit and and vegetable production (Dismukes et al. 1997; Lopez Ariza 2007).
According to the Census of Agriculture, 146 Hispanic farmers produce fruits and 18 farmers produce vegetables in Michigan.
Snowball sampling uses key informants to identify cases with the elements mentioned above that can be included in the research.
One of the most difficult parts of this research was finding key informants with the necessary knowledge about Hispanic farmers who would qualify for this research. First, there are few organizations currently working with Hispanic farmers in Michigan.
By the end of 2009, 39 Hispanic farmers were identified and agreed to participate of this research. These participants were asked to answer individual structured questionnaires in which they rated and explain their answers about their marketing experience and transaction costs face in their markets. This structured questionnaire ensured that each person followed a similar line of inquiry (Patton 2002).
However, the main purpose of these interviews was be to obtain a more in-depth understanding of their marketing issues; thus, the questionnaire also allowed for an open-ended conversation.
Interviews and group meetings were audio recorded when farmers agreed to it. Relevant segments of the interviews and group meetings were transcribed, including the researcher’s personal observations that were directly relevant to the research questions (Natasi 1999). The transcribed material was coded using N-Vivo software. Drawing upon the interview questionnaire, a coding scheme was developed for analyzing the transcribed interviews and group discussions (Rubin and Rubin 2005). Based on these codes, emerging themes were also identified as the basis for answering the research questions. The categorical data collected from the survey was analyzed using SPSS/PAWS and STATA software. This analysis provided important information to identify and assess the relationships that influence marketing choices
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The participatory-research nature of this project allowed for outreach outcomes from its beginning. Two presentations were delivered:
-“Michigan Hispanic Farmers Marketing Practices: Preliminary Results” Annual Great Lakes Expo, December 6 – 8, 2009, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
-“To sell or not to sell” Small-Scale Farmers Access to Supermarkets” at Michigan State University Environmental Studies and Agriscience – Community Food and Agricultural Systems, Spring 2009.
The researcher distributed information to participants about Farm Service Agency programs which support small-scale and Hispanic farmers in Michigan.