Indiana NRCS Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and the Importance of Inclusivity
Celebrated annually from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to honor the cultures, histories and contributions of Hispanics and Latino Americans to America.
Friday, Sept. 15, marked the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month. Celebrated annually from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to honor the cultures, histories and contributions of Hispanics and Latino Americans to America.
The observance started as a week-long celebration in 1968 to coincide with the independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua on Sept. 15, Mexico on Sept. 16, and Chile on Sept. 18. It was expanded to a month-long celebration of Hispanic and Latin American history and culture starting in 1989.
The theme for this year’s heritage month celebration, as chosen by the National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, is “Todos somos, somos uno: We are all, we are one.” The theme was chosen to highlight and celebrate not only the contributions and achievements of Hispanic and Latino Americans in our Nation, but also the influence and impact the culture has had and continues to have in shaping the America of current and future.
The positive impact of including Hispanic and Latino Americans and giving them a seat at the table can be found in all facets of America including a lasting and important impact on the agriculture industry throughout the country.
“Hispanics and Latino Americans play an important role in producing the food, fiber and fuel that are the lifeblood of American agriculture,” said Indiana Natural Resources Conservation Service Acting State Conservationist Curtis Knueven. “Whether it is a producer who farms their own land, a farm hand tending to fields or an NRCS employee helping people to help the land, the impact of Hispanics and Latino Americans can be felt in every part of the agriculture industry. Please join us throughout Hispanic Heritage Month as we celebrate their past and future contributions.”
Nationwide, about 4% of farms are operated by Hispanic or Latino American producers. In Indiana, though, just 1% of producers are of Hispanic or Latino origin and while their average farm size is 240 acres, more than 50% of them farm less than 50 acres.
To help increase the number of farms owned or operated by Hispanic and Latino producers, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has designated them as historically underserved producers. This designation enables them to receive priority consideration on their financial assistance applications. They are also eligible for a higher payment rate and advanced payments to help with the installation of conservation practices.
NRCS’ financial and technical assistance programs enable farmers and forestland owners to implement conservation practices that promote soil health and water quality on their land. Among many others, practices may include the installation of high tunnels on urban farms and helping to transition to no-till farming and the adoption of cover crops.
“Diversity in crops production is vital for healthy soils and the conservation of natural resources. The same principle applies with our population and agricultural producers,” said Kellyam Valle Cancel, Indiana NRCS district conservationist and Hispanic program manager. “Working together we can create a better future for the generations to come. We are committed to help and assist Hispanic producers achieve their goal.
“We want our participants to feel comfortable and reach out to their local office and make an appointment to discuss all our programs. If you will like assistance in Spanish, please let us know and we will make the arrangements to make this possible,” said Valle Cancel. “We have nine employees across the state that are fluent speaking Spanish, and we are here to help you.”
Indiana NRCS recently developed a resource website for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Participants. This tool will allow participants to locate NRCS’ Spanish speaking employees, get their contact information and access USDA-NRCS publications in Spanish. The website also includes the Limited English Proficiency Policy, including the steps to get phone interpretation and document translation. The website can be accessed in the following link https://experience.arcgis.com/experience/54db3a6036cd48ff98857c81e824cd2e/page/Espa%C3%B1ol/.
If you are a Hispanic or Latino producer and think your operation could benefit from NRCS assistance, find your local USDA service center at https://www.farmers.gov/working-with-us/service-center-locator and reach out to learn more. For additional information about Hispanic Heritage Month visit https://www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov/.