In mid-September, SFC staff had the opportunity to attend the Hispanic Farmer and Rancher Conference: Growing Together/Creciendo Juntos held in McAllen, Texas. NCAT (National Center for Appropriate Technology) and NRCS (USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service) organized this first-ever conference in Texas, specifically for Hispanic agricultural producers. The conference workshops were divided into four main tracks: Urban Farming, Ranching, Farming, and On-Farm Research and Education. Topics included how to sell at farmers’ markets, grass-fed beef best practices, food safety regulations and NCRS financing among many others. Here are five reasons why this conference in McAllen significant:
- Over 92% of America’s 2.1 million farmers are non-Hispanic whites.
- Between 2007 and 2012, the number of farmers of Spanish, Hispanic or Latino origin rose by 20%. There are a total of 67,000 Hispanic farmers—23,000 of whom live in Texas, the most of any state.
- UT Rio Grande Valley has the only Agroecology program in Texas. Currently, there is a master’s degree offered, and a bachelor’s degree will be available within a year.
- The Rio Grande Valley is the most important citrus and vegetable producing area in Texas.
- Sustainable, organic and small-scale farms are growing in number and popularity. Check out Yahweh’s All Natural Farm and Garden, Terra Preta Farm and PPC Farms as examples.
What does this mean for SFC’s work? A few things. We want to operate inclusive farmers’ markets where both Hispanic producers and shoppers feel welcome. Additionally, there will be intra-state opportunities for collaboration and sharing of best practices. For example, Brownsville Wellness Coalition is licensed to operate SFC’s The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre® Program. Lastly, it’s exciting to be plugged into a network of sustainable agricultural practices and policies that can benefit all of Texas.
¡Esperamos la próxima conferencia! / We look forward to the next conference!