A Practical Approach to Attracting Immigrants and Other Minority

A Practical Approach to Attracting Immigrants and Other Minority Groups
to Sustainable Agricultural Programs on the Delmarva Peninsula
Andy Wetherill
Delaware State University, Cooperative Extension Programs, Dover, DE 19901
Email: [email protected]
Attracting immigrants and other minority producers to sustainable
agricultural programs is one of the most challenging tasks faced by
extension professionals. However, regular communication between
extension professionals and minority communities may reveal great insight
into how to reach and engage this this emerging clientele.
From 2008 to 2012, the Delaware State University Small Farms Program
stepped up efforts to expand economic opportunity to the minority and
immigrant communities in Delaware. The goal was to bring socially
disadvantaged groups to the farm table through a myriad of extension
events. The objective was to increase the number of minorities who are
growing and marketing agri-business products. Our experience in working
with minority communities has taught us that communicating and
mingling with prospective participants at social events, and locating
extension activities in close proximity to their neighborhoods has resulted
in increased target audience participation in extension events. It allowed
us to develop better working relationships with them. In the early years, it
was more beneficial to work with them face to face than via indirect
Over the past two years, Delaware State University has seen an increase in
agricultural activity among minority groups, resulting in increased
economic activity within the state.
Delaware has 530 small farms that are owned by women, African
Americans, Native Islanders and people of Spanish-speaking origin (2007
USDA- NASS Agricultural Census); immigrant producers make up a
negligible percent of this group.
Through the 2008 Small and Beginning Farm Series and the 2009
Immigrant Producer Series of Workshops, Delaware State University Small
Scale Vegetable and Livestock Program identified the need and concern of
the immigrant clientele who wanted to get involved in agricultural
production and marketing. New immigrant producers wanted to satisfy
three basic needs: (1) to increase the production of agricultural products
that are popular in their homelands; (2) to satisfy market demand for
ethnic and specialty produce in the Delmarva, Mid-Atlantic and
Northeastern regions of the United States; and (3) to generate income
through agricultural production and marketing. Thus, Delaware State
University Cooperative Extension developed and delivered educational
programs to targeted ethnic and minority groups.
One of the major challenges faced by Delaware State University
Cooperative extension was the limited participation by immigrant and
minority groups in agricultural extension events. Inevitably, there were
very few minorities that were either owning or managing agri-business
Two grant projects were developed by Delaware State University Small
Scale Vegetable and Livestock Program and funded by Northeast Center
for Risk Management Education. These projects were designed to expand
knowledge and skills within immigrant and other minority communities in
Delaware and beyond. The goals of the projects were (1) to increase risk
management knowledge and (2) to increase clientele capacity to grow and
sell ethnic and high value agricultural products in order to satisfy a
growing demand for these crops.
Over the past four years, Delaware has experienced an increase in agricultural economic activity due to greater participation in the market by
minority and immigrant producers in the Delmarva region. In 2012, more
than seven acres of high value, ethnic and specialty crops have been
grown and marketed in Delaware.
An immigrant producer series of workshops was held between June 2009
and December 2012 to address the needs and concerns of the underserved
community in general, and the immigrant community in particular. Among
other things, the workshops increased participants’ knowledge in planning
the farm business, agricultural production and marketing, enterprise
diversification, crops and small flock production, food safety and value
added products.
Initially, extension workshop attendees were met through direct contact
at social events such as health fairs, holiday celebrations, church and
community programs. Communicating with potential extension audiences
in those forums allowed extension professionals to promote educational
workshops and other extension programs. Through word of mouth, others
learned of and attended subsequent extension events. These workshops
were tailored to the community’s needs and were held at popular sites
near to immigrant and minority neighborhoods. Translation services were
offered, when necessary, to remove communication barriers between
speakers and participants. Finally, workshops were planned at times
convenient for most participants; this was usually during periods outside
of regular working hours.
Extension events took place in all three counties in Delaware. In addition,
workshop events were reinforced through farm visits, group meetings,
farm demonstrations, field days and farm tours. Projects were evaluated in
3 ways: (1) Post workshop surveys that were completed by workshop
participants; (2) informal surveys that were conducted through farm visits
and one-on-one contacts; and (3) self-evaluation done by Delaware State
University Small Farms on past programs designed to target the immigrant
and other minority communities.
Approximately 30,000 pounds of ethnic product were grown in Delaware
this year. Three immigrant producers are marketing their ethnic produce in
New York City. One producer markets his ethnic crops at restaurants
located at Rehoboth Beach. Ethnic crop acreage in Delaware has increased
by approximately four acres in 2012 over the previous year. Producers are
also producing high value hot sauce grown locally in Delaware and
marketed in the Mid-Atlantic States.
Delaware State University Small Scale Vegetable and Livestock program
will continue to work with the University of Delaware, USDA agencies and
Delaware Department of Agriculture to expand economic opportunities to
the immigrant community in Delaware and beyond.
Attending social events frequented by the minority clientele, is a
promotional means by which minority participants may be attracted to
extension programs. The ability to relate and converse with this clientele
is are key ingredients to increasing minority participation in extension
events and expanding the diversity of producers who are and generation
income in the agricultural industry and contributing to global food security.
1) Wetherill, Andy -Ethnic and Specialty Crops: From Seed to Market Final
Report, Northeast Center for Risk Management Education March 2012
2) Wetherill, Andy Market -Opportunity for Ethnic and Specialty Crops
Producers, Final Report, Northeast Center for Risk Management
Education Jan 2011 http://rme.agrisk.umn.edu/Final/RME-JBG02930.PDF
3) USDA Agricultural Census 2007 publication – USDA National Agricultural
Statistical Service State of Delaware -.Pg. 25, Table 17
The 7 workshops in the series attracted 126 participants and more than 250
participants to extension events related to the projects. Other events
included farm visits, bus tours, and Small Farm conferences. The target
audience also benefited from fact sheets and other information via one-onone contact, telephone calls, e-mails and university websites. Eighty
percent of the participants said that their knowledge increased by
attending these series of workshops and related extension events.
Seventy-six percent of the participants said they are interested in
attending future workshops if they are invited.
Participants said they would prefer to receive agricultural information at
workshops (51%), via one-on-one contact (18%) and via e-mails (18%)
First, we would like to thank the agencies for providing the funding for this
project. Funding for these projects came from Delaware Department of
Agriculture, USDA-NIFA and Northeast Center for Risk Management
Education. Special mention should be given to immigrant organizations
such a La Esperanza and Pastor Israel Figueroa for helping us to reach the
Hispanic community. And finally, I would like to thank my supervisors, Dr.
Albert Essel and Dr. Dyremple Marsh, as well as my student assistants, for
their assistance in delivering sound extension programs in the Hispanic

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