A program run by MU Extension is helping immigrant farmers in southwest Missouri grow their businesses and establish a life for themselves in America.
According to the Center for Rural Affairs website, CRA was awarded $305,263 through USDA’s Outreach Grant Program to aid struggling minority farmers. CRA teamed up with MU Extension in 2011 to create the Beginning Farmers Program.
Stephen Jeanetta, an extension assistant professor in rural sociology, has been with the program since its beginning. He said they first tried to figure out why there was such a decrease in Hispanic farmers, but an increase in Hispanic population.
“We figured out why the Hispanic farmers were going in and out of the business so quickly,” Jeanetta said. “The reason was because they had no support and no access to other resources.”
CRA teamed up with MU Extension with the initial goal of finding challenges facing Hispanic farmers and creating programs to help them, according to the CRA website. Workshops were created to help Latino farmers with federal farm programs, as well as how to decide what farming practices best suit their land and network with other farmers.
Jeanetta said they’ve had two different types of workshops in the past. He said the first was about farm management practices and the production side, and the second dealt with leadership development and learning about other networks.
“They were provided with a lot of information about organizations they could get help from, such as the USDA or MU Extension,” Jeanetta said.
Jeanetta said the program is still doing well.
“We have a fall session coming up,” Jeanetta said. “It will be held in Monett, Mo. that is in the southwest Missouri area. The sessions are just the same as the workshops, supporting and aiding the Hispanic farmers.”
Federico Nunez is just one of many immigrant farmers in the program. After a long day of work, Nunez said he begins his second job raising chickens, cattle, horses, and pigs on his farm in Wheaton. He said farming is not only his passion, but his background.
“I started farming because growing up as a child that’s all my parents did,” Nunez said in an email. “We had our own garden and raised animals, so when I was on my own, I moved to the country and started my own farm so that my own kids could grow up with the same values.”
Nunez said information and resources are limited for immigrant farmers due to the lack of help.
“I didn’t use many services to help me with my farm. I just did it on my own,” Nunez said in an email. “But the workshop gave me information and answers I have been needing.”
There are several factors considered barriers and challenges to Latino farmers, according to the CRA website. Among the many factors are limited access to land, limited financial literacy and limited knowledge of USDA programs.
Nunez said all immigrant farmers need is support and more resources. He said he’s happy to have found work, and that he’s established a life for himself in America.
“(It’s) everyone’s dream, to work for myself, not for somebody else,” Nunez said in an email. “It’s the American dream.”