Farming as a Latinx: Analyzing how ethnic and gender identities shape Latino/a participation in sustainable agriculture in Pennsylvania

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2021: $14,923.00
Projected End Date: 07/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Penn State University
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Kathleen Sexsmith
Penn State University


Not commodity specific


  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities, local and regional food systems, quality of life, social capital, social networks

    Proposal abstract:

    The purpose of this research project is to understand aspirations, opportunities, and barriers faced by Latino/a and Hispanic farmers in Pennsylvania engaged in sustainable agriculture, and how they are shaped by ethnic and gender identities. The number of Latino/a and Hispanic farmer-owners, mostly of Mexican origin, is increasing, and currently, they account for 3.3 percent of the country's total producers. As white male farmers, the dominant farming demographic, retire from the sector, immigrant farmers play increasingly significant roles in the sustainable agriculture movement. Latino/a immigrant farms present key elements of sustainable agriculture, including diversified crops, close producer-consumer relations, organic or near-organic farming practices, and small-scale production. Nonetheless, these farmers face several limitations, including lack of access to start-up capital, land, labor, and markets. Through qualitative research methods this project will seek to answer: (1) What obstacles do Latino/a and Hispanic farmers face in managing successful sustainable farming operations, and what strategies do they employ to overcome these obstacles? (2) What are their aspirations concerning scaling up and entering commercial markets for sustainable agriculture? (3) How do rural Latin American masculinities become reproduced or reshaped in the U.S. as they establish themselves as sustainable farmers, and how does is it impact the ability of women and men to meet sustainable agriculture goals?  This research will provide a platform for immigrant farmers in rural areas to voice their challenges and experiences and contribute to the nascent literature on immigrant farmers in North America.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Identify the economic, production-related, informational, and educational barriers Latino/a farmer’s face in establishing a profitable, sustainable farming enterprise and the strategies they use to overcome those barriers.
    2. Develop a better understanding of Latino/a farmers' aspirations and desires to enter commercial markets for sustainable agriculture by scaling up and expanding their farm businesses.
    3. Identify the paths that Latino farmers have followed to become sustainable farm owners and the relevance of masculine identities in facilitating and/or constraining the process.
    4. Provide sustainable agriculture organizations supporting Latino/a farmers in Pennsylvania, specifically Penn State Extension and PASA, with evidence-based recommendations designed to support successful farming production to improve quality of life for Latino/a farmers in the sustainable agriculture sector.
    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.