Futuro Project Celebrates Latino Community Leadership

The Futuro en Ag Project team and our partners have had a very busy summer.

[Vea este artículo en Español]

Our teamwork with our collaborators, farmers, service providers and the community at large has kept us proudly working toward our goal of supporting Latino farmers through access to information in Spanish and appropriate educational tools to achieve their goals and minimize their risks.

Spanish-First Field Day Celebrates Latino Community Leadership, Spirit and Contribution to WNY Apple Industry

A local community of more than 40 Latino farmers, managers, supervisors, farm owners, crew leaders, and employees from Western New York attended the “Spanish-First Field Day for the Latino Community in Western New York,” on Friday, June 17, 2022. Attendees learned sustainable management practices in integrated pest management and honey-crisp (apple) production, developed sound management practices in their farm business at the  CCE Orleans county office, and were recognized for their leadership and contributions to the Apple Industry. This collaborative event was hosted by the Cornell Small Farms Program (SFP), New York State Integrated Pest Management (NYSIPM), and the Cornell Cooperative Extension Lake Ontario Fruit Program (CCE LOF).

Recognizing the contributions of Latino farmers — the leadership, the skills, and vital role they hold in the agricultural sector — creates opportunities to envision and develop successful agricultural career paths for future Latino producers. Additionally, understanding Latino-led contributions identifies unique and valuable skills, furthering professional and business goals, which in turn improve well-being and family life, inspiring the Latino agricultural community as a whole. For example, year to year, New York State harvests more than 1.2 billion pounds of apples, cares for more than 1.6 million apple trees, and farms more than 55,000 acres that provide fresh, nutritious apples to more than 68 million people around the country. A huge portion of this effort is due to the massive contribution of Latino farmers, employees, and service providers who actively grow, harvest, pack, market, distribute, and export world-famous, NYS grown apples.

Juntos Aprendemos: A Spanish-Language Field Day for the Latino Community

Carlos Aguilera Photo

Carlos Aguilera showing how he works the soil at West Haven Farm on August 6.
Mildred Alvarado / Cornell Small Farms Program

Our first Latino Community Field Day was held at and Lorena Mendoza Perez’s West Haven Farm on August 6. The day was highlighted by the passion for organic agriculture of the Aguilera-Mendoza family and their team, the curiosity and desire to learn from the Latino and Latina farmers who attended the event, the delicious Mexican food combined with a taste of Ithaca, and the support of the broader community that is essential to the success of Latino and Latina farmers in New York State. During this field day, Carlos and Lorena shared their story as a Latino family, their dreams as farmers, and their challenges and successes as they enhanced their organic vegetable production, market model (CSA), and soil health management practices implemented on their farm land.

After walking through the different production stations set up with hands-on demonstrations and visual techniques, field day participants gathered at the Ecovillage community house to learn from Carlos and Lorena about their experience in accessing land, developing accounting record keeping and financial management systems, and complying with New York State farm labor laws necessary to develop a successful farm business. At the end of the field day, Carlos and Lorena, by showing results, answered the question “Is this model profitable (financially, socially, and environmentally)?” The participants discussed the results and together we learned from Carlos and Lorena’s experiences.

We are deeply honored and proud to have collaborated with Carlos and Lorena to develop this one-of-a-kind event, which brought together 35 Latinos and Latinas from Central and Western New York to learn how to produce food using environmentally friendly farming techniques. As a follow-up to this event, the Juntos Aprendemos group of farmers from our Futuro en Ag project will continue to meet monthly virtually to learn from farmers like Carlos and Lorena and others who are Latino and Latina role models in NYS.

Featuring Orchard Management Skills

Fruit Tour Photo

Participants listening at tge Seventh Hispanic Fruit Tour on August 24. Mildred Alvarado / Cornell Small Farms Program

The seventh annual Hispanic fruit tour brought 140 Latino/a farmers the opportunity to develop practical skills through various activities in the Zingler Farm orchard on August 24. The camaraderie, peer-to-peer connection, and the inspiration of the new talent in Bulmaro Solis’ Leadership were instrumental to the success of this tour. Thanks to Zingler Farm, Bulmaro Solís, each of the farms that sent their employees to this training, and the supporting partners and collaborators for making this tour a professional development opportunity for the Latino community in Western New York.

At the first station of the tour, the Lake Ontario Fruit (LOF) team from CCE and Zingler Farms provided training in Spanish on the use of fruit color enhancement technologies in apples, such as reflective materials, leaf pruning (manual), plant growth regulators, and pneumatic defoliation machines to improve fruit coloration. At the second station, the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program (NYSIPM) team held a discussion on fire blight and invasive pests and with support from Bulmaro Solis and his team demonstrated how they reversed a severe fire blight infection they had in their orchard and saved an orchard block at Zingler Farm. IPM also briefly trained the monitoring of an invasive insect pest, spotted wing drosophila, using red sticky cards.

In the third station of this tour, the Cornell Small Farms Program team focused on how to train new and existing employees on the apple harvesting process to obtain optimum quality fruit, the importance of the role of supervisors in quality inspection, and on motivation and good communication with employees. This station was conducted with the help of experienced Zingler Farm employees and reinforced with human resource management techniques. Finally, participants had the opportunity to travel to a classroom activity to learn Leadership, Communication, and Employee Management skills to achieve personal, professional and farm goals.

Mildred Alvarado

Mildred is the LatinX Farmer Training Coordinator for the Cornell Small Farms Program. Her work is focused on building bridges to facilitate knowledge and help farmers to overcome linguistic, cultural, and technical barriers to promote inclusive and profitable businesses. Coming from a farm facing the challenges that many still face, the program’s mission is close to home for her. The soil of her Honduran farm taught her how to survive, fueled her body, and her dreams which have brought her here to the Cornell Small Farms Program team.