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Farmers of color share their contributions, concerns in UC SAREP webinar series

USDA’s most recent agricultural census, dating to 2017, counts approximately 25,000 producers of color among 128,535 total producers in California. Photo by Evett Kilmartin

When agricultural advisors came to the Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico during the 1940s, they lined the irrigation ditches with concrete, in the name of boosting efficiency and productivity. But in single-mindedly focusing on water delivery, they neglected to consider how the previously inefficient seepage sustained nearby fruit trees. 

Their actions, as well-intentioned as they might have been, disrupted the local ecosystem and killed the trees that had fed many generations, according to A-dae Romero-Briones, who identifies as Cochiti and as a member of the Kiowa Tribe.

“In my language, we call the extension agents ‘the people who kill the fruit trees,'” said Romero-Briones, director of the Food and Agriculture Program for the First Nations Development Institute, a nonprofit that serves Tribal communities across the mainland, Alaska and Hawaii.

The historically tense relationship between Indigenous peoples and government-affiliated programs is one of the many complex dynamics discussed in a six-part webinar series, “Racial Equity in Extension,” facilitated by UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

During the "Retracing the Roots of Sustainable Agriculture" webinar, A-dae Romero-Briones explains the historical tensions between extension agents and Indigenous peoples.
“As extension professionals, we really need to know about the people we want to work with – what are their worldviews and what's the knowledge base that shapes their decisions,” said Sonja Brodt, associate director of UC SAREP, a program of University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. “And this is especially important to pay attention to when those people are from cultures or segments of society that have a history of being marginalized or oppressed by mainstream society, and because their significant knowledge has often been made invisible.”

Making communities of color in the agricultural sector more visible is a priority for Victor Hernandez, a sociologist and outreach coordinator for the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hernandez, who has organized “Growing Together” conferences for Latino and Black farmers, is trying to get more farmers of color to participate in the upcoming 2022 Agricultural Census.

“If we cannot quantify the demographic, we cannot justify the need,” emphasized Hernandez, explaining that his office uses the data to direct resources that advance equity in service, program delivery and distribution of funds.

A legacy of mistrust

At the same time, however, Hernandez also acknowledged the challenges in registering growers of color for the census, conducted by the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service. (According to Brodt, USDA's most recent agricultural census, dating to 2017, counts approximately 25,000 producers of color among 128,535 total producers in California.)

“Many of us that are considered socially disadvantaged or historically underserved…a lot of times our peoples come from [nations with] oppressive governments,” Hernandez said. “And so when you come to the United States and you begin to build your life here, to go and engage with the federal government is not the first knee-jerk reaction.”

On top of government mistrust and fears of deportation or detention, other immigrant groups have seen mainstream agriculture – borne by the “Green Revolution” wave across the globe – replace deep-rooted cultural practices, said Kristyn Leach of Namu Farm in Winters.

“It just makes these small farmers distrust our own knowledge, the knowledge that's existed for centuries – before the kind of current iteration of agriculture that we're situated within right now,” said Leach, who works to preserve the agricultural heritage of her Korean ancestors, and facilitates a farmers' collaborative called Second Generation that adapts Asian crop varieties to climate change.

According to Romero-Briones, a collective memory of supplanted culture also lingers in Indigenous communities. In the Cochiti Pueblo, “primarily a subsistence agriculture community” with a long history of corn cultivation, their practices are distinct from those in the mainstream – including regenerative and sustainable agriculture.

Clockwise from top-left: Chanowk Yisrael, Kristyn Leach and Victor Hernandez share their perspectives during the "Serving Farmers of Color" webinar, moderated by UC ANR's Stephanie Parreira.
“These practices are not really rooted in Indigenous agriculture,” she explained. “They're actually meant to displace Indigenous agriculture and food systems.”

Building relationships takes commitment

Given that legacy of cultural displacement and appropriation, how do extension professionals and other agricultural advisors slowly rebuild trust with communities of color? For Romero-Briones, it begins with a genuine respect for Indigenous practices, and she urges interested people to contact their local tribal historic preservation officer to begin strengthening those connections and understanding – beyond a couple of phone calls.

“As someone who works with Indigenous people all day, even I need to recognize sometimes I have to meet with people up to 12 times before we actually start talking about the work that I initially wanted to talk to them about,” Romero-Briones said.

In a similar vein, Chanowk Yisrael, chief seed starter of Yisrael Family Farms, encouraged listeners to reach out to members of the California Farmer Justice Collaborative – an organization striving for a fair food system while challenging racism and centering farmers of color.

“To use a farm analogy: we've got this ground, which is the farmers of color who have been neglected for a long period of time,” said Yisrael, who has grown his farm in a historically Black neighborhood of Sacramento into a catalyst for social change. “It's not just going to be as simple as just throwing some seeds and things are going to come up; you're going to have to do more – that means you got to get out and do much more than you would do for any other community.”

Investing time in a community is one thing – and backing it up with tangible resources is another. Technical expertise is only the “tip of the iceberg,” Leach said, as historically marginalized groups are also seeking land access and tenure, more affordable cost of living, and access to capital.

“All of those things are actually much bigger burdens to bear for most communities of color than not having the knowledge of how to grow the crops that we want to grow, and not knowing how to be adaptive and nimble in the face of climate change," Leach explained, highlighting California FarmLink as an essential resource. (“Understanding Disparities in Farmland Ownership” is the next webinar in the SAREP series, set for Nov. 19.)

Bringing diverse voices to the table

Another key is ensuring that farmers and farm workers of color are represented in management and decision-making processes. Samuel Sandoval, a professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in water management, develops outreach programs in English and Spanish for everyone from farm workers to the “boss of the boss of the boss.”

Samuel Sandoval, a professor in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and UC Cooperative Extension specialist in water management, develops outreach programs in English and Spanish.
Sandoval said there are often gaps of communication between the decision makers and the people, most often Spanish speakers, who implement those measures. He remembers, for example, talking with water resource managers about their plans for a water treatment plant or new irrigation system – and then discovering that the irrigators and farm workers had no idea those discussions are happening.

“It has to be changed,” he said, “because at the end, the person who is going to operate the irrigation system and turn on or off the valves, the person who is looking if there's a leak or not – that's the person who's not being informed, or has not been informed on purpose.”

That exclusion of certain groups can lead to a loss of invaluable knowledge. Leach said there is a real danger in ignoring the wisdom of communities that have contributed so much to the foundation of food systems in California and around the globe.

“These really kind of amazing, sophisticated and elegant agroecological systems that we don't often legitimize through the scientific language and perspectives aren't seen as being really technically proficient – but, in many ways, they're more dynamic and more resilient than the things that we're perpetuating right now,” she said.

As a concrete example, Sandoval said that while extension advisors and specialists conduct studies to remedy a plant disease, farm workers might be developing – separately and in parallel – their own solutions by asking for advice from their social networks via WhatsApp, a phone application.

A reimagining of collaboration, Sandoval said, would include (and compensate) people working in the field for sharing their perspectives – bringing together academics and farmers, integrated pest management experts and pesticide applicators, irrigation specialists and those who do the irrigation.

A need to look within

Concerns about inclusion and validating alternate sources of knowledge apply also to the recruitment process in extension. Leach said that she has seen listings for advisor jobs that would require, at a minimum, a master's degree – which would automatically disqualify her, despite her extensive knowledge of Asian heirloom vegetables.

“When you look at a job description and you see ‘Asian crop specialist,' only required qualification is a master's degree, and then somewhere down the long list of sort of secondary desired, recommended things is some knowledge of Asian crops or communities…you know that just says a lot in terms of what  has weight,” Leach explained.

Before organizations can authentically connect with communities of color, they should prioritize diversity in their own ranks, said Romero-Briones. First Nations Development Institute had to ensure that they had adequate representation across the many Tribes that they serve.

“Before we start looking out, we have to start looking in,” she explained, “and that means we have to hire Indigenous people who know these communities.”

For extension professionals and other members of the agricultural community in California, the UC SAREP webinar series has helped spark that introspection and a meaningful reevaluation of institutional processes and assumptions.

“These discussions have been tremendously illuminating and eye-opening,” Brodt said. “But hearing and learning is just the start – it's incumbent on us, as an organization and as individuals, to take action to ensure that farmers of color and their foodways are truly respected and valued.”

Posted on Tuesday, November 23, 2021 at 4:20 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Food

Extending UC ANR information in Spanish

For Hispanic Heritage Month, Susana Matias Medrano, UCCE nutrition specialist at UC Berkeley, gave a public presentation in Spanish about nutrition.

As in previous years, UC ANR organized Hispanic-Latinx Heritage Month events to celebrate and recognize the contributions of Latinos to the United States. This year, three Zoom forums were held to raise awareness of the struggles of the Latino community in the U.S., their contributions and their future. In addition, three other forums offered the Latino community research-based information in Spanish on youth development, gardening and nutrition. The results were nothing short of amazing.  

First, we conducted a survey among News and Information Outreach in Spanish followers on social media. We learned that besides COVID-19, other topics of interest were nutrition, gardening (food sustainability), children's education, finances and employment. After that, we contacted advisors and volunteers of the UC Master Gardener, Nutrition and 4-H Youth Development statewide programs to work together and be our guest speakers at the forums celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month. 

These sessions were held on Oct. 6, 13 and 15 from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Right after the forums ended, we emailed an exit survey. The results revealed that 99% of the attendees responded positively to the session, speaker and topic, and 98% said they were interested in participating in other forums on the same topic or other topics. Only 1% of participants indicated that the topic could be treated differently, and 1% reported no interest in attending another forum.

When asked how they learned about the forums, 90% of attendees said they heard about them through our social networks, while 7% said they found out through a friend, and the remaining 3% did not remember how they heard about the sessions.

Among the attendees, 70% did not know about the relationship between UC ANR, the University of California, and UC Cooperative Extension. About 20% said they had vague knowledge about ANR, but did not know about Cooperative Extension. The other 10% said they knew about ANR and had previously participated in classes offered by UCCE, 4-H and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC.

Based on these results, we believe it is crucial to continue approaching the Spanish-speaking community in this way. Therefore, we will start a monthly online workshop introducing the different programs of UC ANR and UCCE.

We also emailed an exit survey to members of ANR and UC who participated in forums on stereotypes, discrimination against Latinos, and migrant Mexican indigenous communities. Only 0.1% of the attendees were not satisfied with the topics or with the invited speakers. While 1.9% indicated that the speaker was fine, but the issue may have been handled differently, 98% of attendees said they were satisfied with the topics and speakers and would return for similar events.

On average, 75 people attended out of the 155 who registered for each session. Signing up for Zoom may have created a barrier to participation. In the future, we will broadcast on Facebook Live, using the platform that many of the people who registered already use. 

Clockwise from top left: Ricardo Vela, Victor Villegas of Oregon State University, Bertha Felix, Christopher Gomez Wong and Beatriz Nobua-Berhrmann. The panelists, who all identify as Hispanic, discussed their varied ancestry on Sept. 15 for "One size doesn't fit all."

To see the recordings of the Zoom forums, click on the title below:

Sept. 15 - One size doesn't fit all 

Sept. 22 - Indigenous migrant communities – “The forgotten ones in the age of COVID-19”

Sept. 29 - Meet the Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 Honorees

Oct. 6 -  Ser mejores padres, cómo hacer de su hijo un líder

Oct. 13 - Cómo tener un huerto casero exitoso

Oct. 15 - El poder de una comida nutritiva

This story was first published in Notas de Nuestra Comunidad. To receive the newsletter, subscribe at https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/kBFzwZz/Comunidad.

Posted on Thursday, October 28, 2021 at 1:30 PM
  • Author: Ricardo Vela

Hispanic Heritage Month celebrations continue through October 15

UC ANR continues to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) through Oct. 15, with a series of public Zoom events to create awareness of Latinos' struggles and celebrate their contributions to the U.S. and the world. 

Under the slogan “Celebrating Together Hispanic Heritage Month,” we have partnered with volunteers from UC Master Gardeners, 4-H Youth advisors, and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC educators to bring these programs to the Latino community. We have three Zoom forums with topics that we learned are important to Spanish-speaking Latinos. 

October 6 Zoom Community Forum in Spanish

“Be Better Parents, How to Make Your Kid a Leader”

Guest Speaker: Claudia Diaz, 4-H youth development advisor

Recording at https://youtu.be/kDk8yF50nnU

October 13 Zoom Community Forum in Spanish

“How to Have a Successful Vegetable Garden”

Guest Speakers: UC Master Gardener volunteers from UCCE Sonoma County 

October 15 Zoom Community Forum in Spanish

“The Power of a Nutritional Meal”

Guest Speaker: Susana Matias Medrano, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in nutritional science and toxicology, UC Berkeley

To register, visit https://surveys.ucanr.edu/survey.cfm?surveynumber=35503 or email ucnews.spanish@ucr.edu.

More information at https://ucanr.edu/sites/Spanish/Hispanic_Heritage_Month/Mes_de_la_Herencia_Hispana_2021/Calendario_de_charlas_por_Zoom_999.

For Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month this year, UC ANR is recognizing three Latino professionals who serve their communities while upholding UC ANR's public values of academic excellence, honesty, integrity, and community service. This year the honorees are:

Leticia Christian is a CalFresh Healthy Living, UC educator in Alameda County. As a physician in her native Cuba, she helped people stay healthy and here in California as a nutrition educator she strives to do the same. 

Gersain Lopez loves nature and at his job, his passion, commitment and hard work have made him a favorite ag technician at Desert Research and Extension Center.

Liliana Vega is a 4-H youth advisor for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Vega is an avid advocate for the Latinx community and social justice.

Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 at 10:39 AM
  • Author: Ricardo Vela

UC ANR to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 – Oct. 15

It is that time of the year again, to celebrate the contributions of Latinos in the United States.

UC ANR joins the celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM), starting Sept. 15 and ending Oct. 15, with a series of events aimed at creating awareness of the struggles of Latinos, and celebrating their contributions to the U.S. and the world. 

As in previous years, UC ANR will hold several Zoom forums, with topics such as:

  • How to stop the implicit bias towards Latinos and other ethnic groups
  • What we need to know to better understand Latino communities
  • Who are indigenous migrant workers; what are their most pressing needs; why have they been hit especially hard by COVID-19

All the webinar forums will be from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and moderated by Ricardo Vela, manager of News and Information Outreach in Spanish (NOS). On Sept. 29, we will celebrate three UC ANR professionals who were selected as HHM 2021 Honorees. The first three will be conducted in English and the community forums will be conducted in Spanish.

September 15 Zoom Forum

“One Size Does Not Fit All! – Myths, Stereotypes and Discrimination against Latinos”

Guest speaker: Victor Villegas, Oregon State University, Latino advocate

Testimonies from: Christian Gomez Wong, Beatriz Nobua-Behrmann and Bertha Teresa Felix-Simmons

September 22 Zoom Forum

“Indigenous Migrant Communities: The Forgotten Ones in the Age of COVID-19”

Guest speaker: Arcenio López, Executive Director, Mixtec Indígena Organization Project (MICOP) 

September 29 Zoom Forum

“Meet the HHM 2021 Honorees”

Guest speakers: Katherine E. Soule introducing Liliana Vega, 4-H; Tuline Baykal introducing Leticia Christian, CalFresh Healthy Living, UC; Jairo Diaz and Gilberto Magallon introducing Gersain Lopez, Desert REC.

Under the slogan “Celebrating Together Hispanic Heritage Month,” we have partnered with volunteers from UC Master Gardeners, 4-H Youth advisors and CalFresh Healthy Living, UC educators to bring these programs to the Latino community. We have three Zoom forums with topics that we learned are relevant to Spanish-speaking Latinos. 

October 6 Zoom Community Forum in Spanish

“Be Better Parents, How to Make Your Kid a Leader”

Guest speaker: Claudia Diaz, 4-H youth development advisor

October 13 Zoom Community Forum in Spanish

“How to Have a Successful Vegetable Garden”

Guest speakers: UC Master Gardener volunteers from UCCE Sonoma County 

October 15 Zoom Community Forum in Spanish

“The Power of a Nutritional Meal”

Guest speaker: Susana Matias Medrano, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in nutritional science and toxicology, UC Berkeley

Please help us make this year's celebration a success, spread the word about the events.

Those interested in attending the September forums should register here.

For the Spanish community forums, please register here.

For more information, Zoom backgrounds and phone wallpapers

Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 (Main page) http://ucanr.edu/hhm-2021

Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 (Recursos, Resources) http://ucanr.edu/hhm-2021-recursos_resources

Hispanic Heritage Month 2021 (Recetas) http://ucanr.edu/hhm-2021-recetas 

UC ANR Honorees Page https://tinyurl.com/ycpcdufh

If you have any questions, please contact:

Ricardo Vela, rvela@ucanr.edu, (951) 660-9887

 

Posted on Friday, August 27, 2021 at 2:39 AM

UC ANR learns about Latino struggles and achievements during Hispanic Heritage Month

UC ANR is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Each Friday during the celebration, Ricardo Vela, manager of News & Information Outreach in Spanish, is hosting online forums.

“I think this is an excellent opportunity for all of us at UCANR to educate ourselves about ethnic groups,” Vela said. “Learning about the struggles of the Latino community is to learn about the history of our country. The knowledge becomes critical for serving all Californians since Latinos are part of every layer of our society.”

Oct. 2, from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Vela will discuss the Chicano Moratorium of 1970 with Isidro D. Ortiz, Ph.D., professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at San Diego State University, and Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition and human rights director of Alliance San Diego

Oct. 9, from 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m., two journalists from Univision and a farm worker's human rights activist share their experiences with the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 in the Hispanic community, and why they think Latinos have been hit hard by the disease.

During the first group activity, participants discussed the Mexican American deportation that occurred between 1929 and 1936 with San Diego State professor Ortiz. They also discussed the terms Latinx, Hispanic and Chicano.  

During the second session, participants met UC ANR Hispanic Heritage Month honorees Claudia Diaz, 4-H youth development advisor for Riverside and San Bernardino counties; Sonia Ríos, subtropical horticulture advisor for Riverside and San Diego counties; and Javier Miramontes, nutrition program supervisor for Fresno County.

The three spoke candidly about their experiences growing up in Mexico and in the U.S., family support as they pursued higher education and the communities they serve on behalf of UC ANR. Ríos, whose parents were farmworkers, said field workers know agriculture. “We need to listen to them,” she said.

During the uplifting forum, friends and family members of Diaz, Ríos and Miramontes spoke proudly of their accomplishments. A representative of the Mexican consulate congratulated all three honorees.   

For more information about upcoming events and to register, visit https://ucanr.edu/sites/Spanish/Hispanic_Heritage_Month/Hispanic_Heritage_Month_2020/Zoom_Forums_Calendar.

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 10:48 AM

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