Building Capacity to Engage Latinos in Local Food Systems

Jan L. Flora, Faculty, Sociology Department


Many new immigrants from Mexico and Central America have small-scale diversified farming experience, and would like to farm in Iowa, according to research conducted by Hannah Lewis, a recent graduate student in the Department of Sociology (see J. Flora’s last year’s Success Story).  J. Flora and Lewis coordinated the professional development program, funded by Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) and ISU’s Sustainable Agriculture Extension Program. We are partnering with a Kansas State University team, which is conducting a twin program for agricultural professionals in Kansas.


The program is designed so that in the short-term participants gain: a) increased awareness of Latinos as valued community members and current/future farmers, and awareness of opportunities in local food systems, b) improved skills in engaging Latino audiences, and in analyzing and developing local food systems, c) ability to integrate knowledge and skills gained to develop strategies for sustained support programs. 


Organized and conducted 8 workshops for Extension, NRCS, RC&D, FSA, New Iowans Center, and NGO personnel during period September 2007 to June 2008.  Workshops had the following foci:

Ø       Multiculturalism Workshop A.  Consultants from University of Iowa and Michigan State University Extension facilitated program to build participants’ understanding of how to communicate and build trust across cultural and language difference. Provide an overview of the need for outreach through Extension, NRCS, FSA, farmer organizations, and NGOs to Latino farmers, and effective converse with a Latino individual or family and bring observations back to following workshop.

Ø       Multiculturalism Workshop B. Workshop was to build confidence, enthusiasm and insight about doing cross-cultural outreach through sharing experiences from the field.  Juan Marinez, Michigan State Extension, facilitated discussion of the interviews each participant had completed in his/her own community with a Latino individual or family. Then Paul Brown then led a discussion about how to make use of the Plan of Work logic model to think strategically about building long-term partnerships between community and agricultural organizations and Latino community members. (Attendance = 24)

Ø       Local Food Systems Workshop. This workshop was to make participants aware of what defines a local or regional food system, how these food system alternatives are being developed in communities throughout Iowa, and discussion of steps to take to create a local food system. The session included a panel of three local food system practitioners with three distinct approaches to developing local marketing linkages in their respective communities. (Attendance = 13).

Ø       Ottumwa Latino Business Network Visit. This session was to learn about and discuss the goals, challenges, and opportunities for Latino business owners in Iowa. Included presentations from the president of the Ottumwa Chamber of Commerce on the contributions and importance of supporting immigrant entrepreneurs, from a Latino business network member and restaurant owner hoping to start a goat meat butcher shop, joined by Byron Leu, Extension Livestock Field Specialist, who discussed efforts to develop a meat goat cooperative and processing facility in Ottumwa. We visited a Mexican bakery, restaurant and grocery store, and talked to the owners about their goals, how they started their businesses, and challenges they had. Attendance: 15 

Ø       Land, Credit, and Entrepreneurial Farm Business Development.  Learning objectives were  to learn what resources are available statewide for helping beginning farmers to gain access to land and credit, identify challenges Latino farmers face in gaining access to land and credit, and to identify opportunities for Extension and NRCS offices to support Latino farmers looking for farmsteads.  Presenters included Dr. Terry Besser, ISU Sociology; Madeline Schultz, Value Added Agriculture Program, ISUE; Paula Volesky, Farm Services Agency; John Baker, Beginning Farmer Center, ISUE; and Rob Marqusee, Economic Development, Woodbury County. Attendance = 13.

Ø       Value chains – the case of goat meat in SE Iowa, Columbus Junction, Iowa. Followed by farm tour.  Learning objectives:  what’s going on with meat goat producers, processors, distributors, and buyers in SE Iowa, and how these parts fit together in a local/regional value (supply) chain; to explore the role of Latino producers, processors, and restaurant or grocery store owners in the value chain, and the characteristics and extent of demand for goat meat in the Latino market; and to identify opportunities for new links and partnerships in SE Iowa.  Presenters included Arion Thiboumery, NCRCRD (What makes a successful small-scale processing facility); responses from Byron Leu and a Latino butcher from Ottumwa, and a tour of the farm of a Latino goat farmer and on-farm processor.

Ø       Training, Education, and Service Provision to Latino Farmers and Consumers, Marshalltown.  Purposes:  How are organizations investing in the social and human capital of the Latino community? Speakers included Dr. Linda Barnes, Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture Program, Marshalltown Community College; discussion of adult Spanish H.S. equivalency, called Plazas Comunitarias by  Himar Hernandez, Communities Field Specialist, Katie Bruna, Curriculum and Instruction, ISU, and Kathy Vance, Louisa Co. CEED;  Sister Christine Feagin, St. Mary’s Catholic  Church on Hispanic Ministries; Gloria DeBower, Iowa Workforce Development, and Angie Nelson, Marshall County Extension, on organizing a Latino 4-H club; and Jon Nuñez, Education and Training Center (ETC), Marshalltown Community College, the ETC and the Raices community organizing project. Lastly, we examined the question, What is needed to ensure permanent presence of interest group on Latino communities in ISU Extension and partner organizations: Developing a proposal to Vice Provost Jack Payne using the Appreciative Inquiry process – Mary Emery, Assoc. Director, NCRCRD, facilitator. Attendance = 11.

Ø       From Community Gardening to Market Gardening:  Soon you will be a real farmer!  Osceola.  A panel consisting of the Osceola Community Gardens coordinator, a Farm Bureau representative (as garden partner/landowner), and a Latino couple who gardens at the community garden discussed about how the garden was created, its purpose, and how it functions.  Glen Easter, Clarke County CEED, and Eldon Everhart, Horticulture Field Specialist, led a discussion on 1) how community gardens can be a stepping stone to becoming market gardeners, and 2) community garden programs as a link between Extension and Latino communities. The group also reviewed a proposal draft and prioritized objectives in preparation for meeting with Jack Payne, Vice President and Vice Provost for Outreach, which occurred on June 26, 2008.  We wrapped up by viewing the Osceola Community Gardens and attending their annual early harvest gathering. Attendance = 6.

Outcome Statement (one or more of the following):   

Short-term results measure awareness and knowledge.


Medium-term results measure behavior change. 

Ø       Only four persons wrote proposals for specific projects with Latinos.  We plan to follow up with them and to provide encouragement in implementing the plans.

Ø       We are in communication with Jack Payne about ISU Extension being a co-sponsor with the University of Missouri of the Cambio de Colores conference in Spring 2009.  The conference highlights research and extension activities with respect to Latinos throughout the North Central region

Ø       We also proposed to Jack that we establish a community of practice consisting of representatives from institutions in the state that are working with Latinos, expanding out from those that participated in our Building Capacity to Engage Latinos in Local Food Systems group.


Long-term results measure condition (i.e., new standard).




130  Horticulture: Commercial and Consumer

180 Other ANR Programs

Page last updated: August 25, 2008
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