According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the total number of farms in the U.S. declined 3.2 % from the Census of 2012. Latino farm owner-operators increased 16% going from 67,000 farms in 2012 to 77,416 farms in 2017. Latino farmers are the only ethnic minority group with a significant and consistent increase in number since the Census of Agriculture 2007. In Missouri, the number of Latino producers significantly increased (100%) from 548 to 1097 farm owner-principal operators. The Latino farmer's profile matches the predominant demographic profile of Missouri farmers. In general, in Missouri, 78% of farmers averaged had farm sales of $49,999 or less per year, and 65% of farms are of less than 179 acres.
This program builds on a recent NCR-SARE program (SARE project LNC15-368) among Latino producers in Missouri. In that program, a sample of 100 Latinx producers helped to document factors constraining them to practice sustainable agriculture. The study suggests that four challenges keep Latino producers in Missouri from practicing sustainable agriculture. Including; a) farm households incomes depend on off-farm sources, b) the existence of a socio-economic farm framework system influencing farmers to opt for conventional production methods, c) lack of knowledge and skills in agro-ecological practices, and d) poor understandings of financial and managerial skills needed to follow agribusiness plans.
The program Entrepreneurial Sustainable Agriculture for Latinx and Limited Resource Producers in Missouri aims to expand those findings with an additional approach to evaluate current sustainable production methods among Latino producers. It will use a convenient sample of 50 Latino producers and document the current levels of skills, knowledge, and attitudes toward partially and fully transitioning into sustainable and organic production methods supported by a mixed- methods analysis. Then, an enhanced Entrepreneurial Sustainable Education curriculum (ESA) https://projects.sare.org/information-product/entrepreneurial-sustainable-agriculture-esa/ will directly increase engagement, skills, attitudes, and knowledge of 30 Latino producers in sustainable agriculture and organic production methods. This program will create a Latino-producer advisory group to enhance farmer's participation and communication with program activities.
New skills, knowledge, and implementation of innovative and good agricultural practices will eventually reduce farm inputs, enhance the farm's natural resources, and increase the diversity of fresh produce food into local community markets.
Project objectives from proposal:
- To increase the entrepreneurial, production and community capacities of Latino producers by educating producers and creating an advisory/mentor group of Latino producers.
- To implement sustainable production activities on Latino producers’ farms. Successful sustainable producer mentors will join in on gatherings that implement sustainable practices on farms.
- To train 30 Latino producers and we expect 20 to implement sustainable practices, including greenhouses, geothermal systems, and regenerative soil practices.
- To evaluate gains in knowledge, attitudes, skills and on-ground activities of 50 producers transitioning into organic and agro-ecological systems use.