- Animals: bovine
- Animal Products: dairy
- Animal Production: animal protection and health, feed/forage, livestock breeding
- Education and Training: extension, technical assistance, youth education
- Farm Business Management: labor/employment
- Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, other, partnerships, quality of life, sustainability measures
Opportunity and Justification: The future success of the dairy industry in Vermont and beyond depends in part on farms' ability to both attract and retain a skilled workforce.
Although Latinx labor has been the backbone of Vermont dairy farms for over 20 years, farmers have limited options for providing employees comprehensive educational trainings that cover on-farm communication and technical skills required for the modern dairy. Of the resources that are available, many do not account for the limitations of a “migratory lifestyle” including high mobility, language and cultural barriers, irregular and long work hours, geographic isolation, limited access to transportation, legal issues related to documentation status, and inaccessible or unreliable technology and internet access. In addition, cost is a barrier for farmworkers that often are committed to working 7 days a week to maximize their earning potential and are often unable to access financial aid or scholarships due to their documentation status in the United States. Farmworkers educational experience varies greatly and often includes gaps, which often translates to limited basic literacy and applied mathematics skills, which many available programs do not account for.
One of few programs providing educational services to Latinx farmworkers in the state, the University of Vermont Extension's Migrant Education Program (VMEP) “bridges the gap” through providing online instruction and necessary technology. Due to federal eligibility requirements, however, VMEP is only able to provide services to +/-150 farmworkers annually. VMEP estimates that there are an additional +/-650 Latinx farmworkers in Vermont working on 150 farms that would benefit from expanded offerings and participation.
Solution and Approach: Through establishing an online educational platform, investing in the development of new curriculum and instructional materials, expanding capacity, and broadening the target audience, this project will establish and maintain the Farmworker Educational "Hub". The results serve to benefit the local and regional agricultural economies as well as farmworkers by enhancing quality of life, work-based communication, and farm safety.
Reflective of needs identified by both farmers and their Spanish speaking employees, 150 Latinx dairy farmworkers participating in Vermont and beyond will engage in online content over the course of three years. Educational content will be accessible through Moodle, a Learning Management System (LMS) made available to online Extension educational programs through the national Extension Foundation. Initial course content will include: 1) English for workplace communication; 2) safety and technical skills required for the modern dairy farm; 3) basic computer skills in order to facilitate access and capacity; and 4) foundational educational skills (math and literacy). Of the 150 farmworkers tracked through this project, 50+ will create accounts independently and 100 will receive individual support including technology and access to synchronous classes.
Performance targets from proposal:
This project will establish and facilitate access to an opensource, online educational "hub" for 150+ Latinx dairy farmworkers in Vermont and neighboring states. Of the 150 participating farmworkers, 2/3 (100) will demonstrate proficiency through a score of at least 80% after completion of a module by the end of the project. In addition, 2/3 (67) of farmworkers receiving direct services will report improved farm stability through measurements of farmworker quality of life, job satisfaction, workplace communication and safety through survey results.