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Hispanic Producer Participation on the Rise for South Central Team

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Hispanic Producer Participation on the Rise for South Central Team

Submitted by Amanda Ettestad, Sergio Paredes and Chris Johnson
 

In the Yakima Valley and surrounding area, the Hispanic population is and has been increasing. In fact, according to the Census of Agriculture, operators identifying themselves as Hispanic in Yakima and Benton counties have increased by about 55 percent from 2002 to 2007. Many producers have transitioned from farm workers to farm owners. This trend is especially evident in the tree fruit industry. With this growing population, local NRCS offices have had increasing opportunities to work with Hispanic producers and to provide financial and technical assistance which have been very helpful to the success of their operations.

Sergio Paredes and Shiraz Vira at the Center for Latino Farmers Annual Conference answering questions and distributing information

Sergio Paredes and Shiraz Vira at the Center for Latino Farmers Annual Conference answering questions and distributing information

Knowing this population trend is on the rise, the South Central Team (SCT), which consists of Yakima, Benton, and Klickitat counties, have put together an effective outreach strategy. Our overall goal was to increase awareness about the assistance and programs NRCS has to offer. We hoped that by increasing awareness, we would be able to increase the participation of Hispanic operators. The SCT is fortunate to have three employees who are fluent in the Spanish language. This has been a great asset in overcoming potential language barriers.

Several employees on the SCT have contributed to the success of the outreach strategy in recent years. In particular, Martin Rodriquez, Oscar Tobias, and Sergio Paredes have each spent considerable time translating NRCS documents so they are available in Spanish. These employees have also been helpful in conversing in Spanish when necessary to provide effective one-on-one communication during the planning process.

In 2008, Chris Johnson and Oscar Tobias worked together to facilitate a workshop targeted to Hispanic operators, addressing Integrated Pest Management (IPM). This workshop was attended by 15 Hispanic orchard operators. Oscar was able to present the details of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and specifically the requirements for IPM. This effort contributed to nine EQIP IPM contracts being awarded to Hispanic producers, many of whom had not worked with NRCS in the past.

Sergio Paredes and Oscar Tobias have both worked with local radio stations that broadcast in Spanish. Oscar has presented several public service announcements discussing NRCS programs. Sergio recently participated on a live radio talk called La Voz Campesina (which translates to “The Peasant Voice”). During this talk show Sergio addressed questions about NRCS and our programs, and encouraged Hispanic producers to contact local NRCS offices for technical and financial assistance.

Sergio Paredes presents NRCS information in a workshop for the Center for Latino Farmers Annual Conference

Sergio Paredes presents NRCS information in a workshop for the Center for Latino Farmers Annual Conference

Sergio Paredes has had success in working with the Center for Latino Farmers (CLF). The CLF is a community based organization in the Yakima Valley which provides assistance and advice to Latino farmers. In February, 2008, Sergio participated in the CLF Annual Conference where he staffed an NRCS booth and conducted two workshops. The booth had materials explaining NRCS programs in Spanish. In these sessions, which were also presented in Spanish, Sergio discussed the mission of the NRCS and programs available to all producers, focusing on our most popular program, EQIP.

Several other SCT employees have contributed to the success of our outreach program in many ways. Some employees have made personal contacts with Hispanic growers who are considered leaders in their community. By seeking the support of these leaders, we have been able to reach out to other growers, gain trust and increase program participation. Other employees have spent considerable time analyzing demographic information available, an important part of understanding how best to develop the outreach program.

Overall, we consider the efforts put forth in our outreach program a success. Since 2002, EQIP applications received from Hispanic producers has increased by 12 percent and contracts awarded to Hispanic producers have increased by 16 percent. In 2008, contracts awarded to Hispanic producers accounted for 24 percent of all contracts in Yakima County. We anticipate to continue working with these producers and strengthening our relationships within the Hispanic community.