- Animals: poultry
- Animal Production: free-range
- Education and Training: demonstration, mentoring
- Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems
This project focused on developing and delivering Spanish-language training to low-income Latino immigrants in the Northfield, Minnesota area. The objective was to provide the knowledge, skills, hands-on farming practices and support needed for aspiring farmers to successfully launch production of natural, free-range poultry as part of an integrated, sustainable farming system. Thirty-five trainees graduated from three training classes offered through the agripreneur training program.
Following the first training class, a new business incubator hands-on training component was launched for interested graduates. Three specially designed year-round poultry buildings and surrounding free-range paddocks were constructed with trainee and community support. Combined with a seasonal building/paddock, four poultry production units were made available to training graduates. The incubator phase includes land/facility access, access to no-collateral/no-interest Grow a Farmer micro-loans to cover the costs of chicks and feed, and production and marketing support. Three new farmers have completed six to twelve-month incubator rotations, with four additional participants scheduled for upcoming months.
The lack of cost-effective, regional poultry processing is among the biggest challenges for new farmers in the incubator phase and beyond, impacting their ability to profit without a training program subsidy. As training and regional system development continues, addressing these barriers is a high priority for the program and all community partners.
Latinos are the fastest growing minority population in the Midwest – up 75 percent since the last decade in rural and urban Minnesota, Iowa, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma alone (U.S. Census, 2010). Nationally, Latinos are 30 percent more likely to become entrepreneurs than established populations of previous immigrants (U.S. Small Business Administration, 2008).
But in Minnesota, more than 24 percent of Latinos live in poverty, compared to less than 12 percent of all Minnesotans (American Community Survey, 2011). From our own experience, we know that many Latino families in rural southeastern Minnesota earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. So despite the potential, aspiring Latino farmers in Southeast Minnesota are faced with multiple structural barriers to participating in such an agricultural system – other than as low-wage laborers. Those barriers include lack of access to land, financing, markets and support infrastructure, and to training and technical assistance.
The agripreneur training program was designed to break down those barriers, building on participants’ assets and experience, and providing a continuum of culturally compatible support and resources for aspiring Latino farmers working to improve their economic situation. Importantly, the training connects to a larger, scalable sustainable agricultural system of symbiotically connected products with free-range, natural poultry at the center.
As this project was being designed, the Partnership for Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Project published research findings that recognized immigrant-led small-scale sustainable food production as an opportunity for future regional economic growth, especially because of it’s proximity to the Twin Cities market of local, sustainable food purchasers/eaters.
The overall objective of the Agripreneur Training Center project was to develop and implement an experiential learning process for aspiring low-income Latino farmers in the Northfield, Minnesota area. Training would allow participants to increase knowledge, skills, experience, and access to the support needed to launch their own free-range poultry production unit – as part of a larger sustainable agriculture system – as well as increase their family’s access to healthier, affordable food.
• Develop classroom and field training curriculum
• Develop production standards and protocols
• Secure physical resources and supplies for training center
• Conduct outreach and Spanish-language training for 14 – 18 participants
• Increase awareness of training program and value within the community
Longer-term goals are focused on supporting training graduates as they launch their own or partnership poultry operations, continuing to improve their economic situation and self-worth, and increasing their participation in family/community life. In addition, community awareness, support and participation in the program, and of program participants, will increase.