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] Abstract 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 contacts. 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. Introduction 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 enterprises. Methods Discussion 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. Conclusions 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. References 1) Wetherill, Andy -Ethnic and Specialty Crops: From Seed to Market Final Report, Northeast Center for Risk Management Education March 2012 http://rme.agrisk.umn.edu/Final/RME-J8L03551.PDF 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 Results Acknowledgements 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 community.