StrikeForce Farmer Development Project Also Targeting Latino Programs and Resources

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The best way to grow farm businesses and talk about sustainable agriculture is through real-life stories and experiences with farmers who are developing farming systems on their own farms.

That is the focus of the StrikeForce program according to Dr. Amy Patillo, field specialist in workforce development with University of Missouri Extension.

“Our StrikeForce program delivers on-farm education and helps farmers to create a more profitable farm, improve environmental stewardship and provide a stable and successful farm for their families and communities,” said Patillo.

The StrikeForce Project is a partnership with University of Missouri Extension, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the program provides training and education in specialty crop production.

Some of the upcoming workshop topics include food safety, on-farm horticulture tours, growing in high tunnel greenhouses, organic production, agribusiness development, for marketing and promotion of local foods, and blueberry school, organic production, and blackberries.

Dr. Eleazar U. Gonzalez, senior research associate and assistant professor at the University of Missouri, is focused on getting members of the Latino population to StrikeForce events.

“The StrikeForce project workshops seek to help reduce poverty in rural Missouri. It brings a great opportunity to improve production capacities among the different ethnic group in the region,” said Gonzalez. “Limited resources farmers seeking to increase their capacity to produce are a great fit for this project.”

According to the Missouri Economic Research Information Center, the Latino population in Missouri grew 17.3 percent from 2010 to 2015. It represents 3.9 percent of the 6,045,448 people in Missouri. The Strike Force region in Missouri includes 46 counties located in the south region of the state, where the Latino population reached 45,774 people.

Six counties — Greene, Lawrence, Newton, Barry, Jasper, and McDonald — represent 64 percent of the Latino population in the Strike Force region.

This Latino population growth is also being reflected on a demographic shift in the number of farms and ranchers owned by Latinos. Latino farmers and ranchers in Missouri increased 26 percent according to the last US Census of Agriculture of 2012.

“Currently, we are directly working with three research and educational programs seeking to resolve socioeconomic and production limitations among Latino farmers and ranchers,” said Gonzalez.

One program named “On-farm and Ranch Education of New and Beginning Latino Producers in Missouri,” explores Latino producers’ understandings, skills, and perceptions about sustainable farming and ranching production methods.

A second program is named “Developing the Financial and Technical Capacities of Latino Farmers and Ranchers to Access FSA Support Programs.” The Farm Service Agency (FSA) funds this program. The goal is to document Latino producers’ strengths and challenges in pursuing farm or ranch ownership, including obtaining operating loans.

The Cambio Center at University of Missouri is currently conducting personal interviews that take about 45 min (participants get $25 Walmart gift card).

“This survey study, funded by the USDA, will help the needs and interests of Latino farmers so that we can better bridge services and help them expand or improve their farming operations,” said Gonzalez.

To participate in the survey, call the Cambio Center at (573) 882-2978 or email Cambio@missouri.edu and indicate your interest in being surveys.