Last Friday, PRI’s radio show “The World” ran a story about Latino farmers in the Midwest that are breaking through cultural and language barriers to operate their own farms. Reporter Anna Boiko-Weyrauch reports on a new US government project that is also supporting their efforts.
Latino farm owners are not new in places like California and Texas. But not so in Missouri, where immigrant-led farms represent just a tiny slice of farms overall. The operations are mostly small, with many immigrant farmers still working a second job to get by.
But a pilot project launched in January, and funded by the US Department of Agriculture, aims to support aspiring immigrant farmers in Nebraska and Missouri.
“You’re seeing an aging population and a lot of the younger folks in the labor market who are interested in farming tend to be folks from Latin America,” says Stephen Jeanetta, an assistant professor of rural sociology at the University of Missouri Extension and one of the project’s organizers.
The project consists of Saturday workshops at a southern Missouri library, with trainers coaching farmers on making business plans, networking and applying for loans. Hopes are that some farmers will become leaders and pass along what they learn.
The 2007 Census of Agriculture counted a total of 82,462 Hispanic operators on 66,671 farms and ranches across the United States. The number of Hispanic operators grew 14 percent from 2002, significantly outpacing the 7 percent increase in U.S. farm operators overall. A total of 55,570 U.S. farms had a principal operator of Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origin in 2007, up 10 percent from 2002.