In the News: Small Farms Team Advocates for Ag Diversity and Food Security

Despite there being over 80,000 Hispanic and Latinx employees in New York state’s agricultural sector, only 1% of farm owners identify as such. Hispanic and Latinx farming employees are the working backbone of New York State agriculture. Cornell University and associates recognize this issue and are working to address diversity inequality within the agricultural sector and beyond.

Recently, members of the Cornell Small Farms Program team, including our director, Anu Rangarajan, gave testimony on this issue in a New York State Senate hearing. The hearing was held by several committees including Agriculture, Labor, and Social Services to address food justice and diversity in agriculture. A recent article by CALS News, highlighted these testimonies and others given by experts from Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Rangarajan was selected to testify as an expert to provide valuable insight into the matters at hand. She started off by acknowledging the state’s first-time support of our program’s Equitable Farm Futures Initiative, which works towards fostering a more diverse community of farmers. Included in this initiative is our Labor Ready project, which aims to strengthen workforce management and leadership skills. This project also supports Hispanic farmers in climbing up the management ladder by providing language guides and curriculums through our Master Class.

In the hearing, Anu noted that Hispanic farm workers are “highly experienced, have managed large farms, have all sorts of skills, and most plan to spend a lifetime in agriculture, yet few have transitioned to farm ownership”. She added that our Labor Ready project’s Master Class is just one opportunity for the state to address the needs of diverse farmers and that being committed to diversity in agriculture requires a systemic approach on how agricultural development is understood.

Testimony was also given by Cornell Small Farms Program team members Dean Koyanagi and Nina Saeli, who spoke about our Farm Ops project which supports veterans, who are becoming a more diverse group by the day, into the agricultural and farming community.

Read more about the hearing, including testimonies given by other Cornell experts, on CALS News.

Claire Norman

Claire is a Senior in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. She chose an interdisciplinary major where she could blend her passions for small-scale agriculture and education. Claire comes from a small dairy farm in Pine Plains, NY, where she grew an appreciation for the natural environment, but it was through FFA that she developed a passion for education. She hopes to one day bring agriculture to her classroom and to support community agriculture.
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