A rural advocacy group has invested in reaching out to Spanish-speaking farmers in Iowa – a population that has grown dramatically.
There has been an uptick in Spanish speaking farm-related events around the state, and Practical Farmers of Iowa has hired a full time person to be a liaison between Spanish speakers and Iowa’s ag-dominant rural communities.
PFI’s Senior Latino Engagement Coordinator, Valeria Cano Camacho, said she’s working to break down barriers that exist for Latinos in those communities. “Whether that be language, or immigration status,” said Cano Camacho, “all these things that stop people from trying to accomplish their farming dreams.”
The latest state data show more than 216,000 Iowans identify as Latino, a 162% increase since 2000.
The Latino population is projected to grow to well over a half million by 2050. The numbers don’t break down what percentage of this population speaks only Spanish.
Cano Camacho said Spanish speaking farmers face a series of challenges in a predominantly white and English-speaking state like Iowa, but she said the number one request she gets is for help with land access. So, PFI offers Spanish speakers access to what are known as “land access navigators,” who offer legal support to people who have found a place to farm.
“The language in the lease can be really complicated,” said Cano Camacho. “All the way up to support – if you would like having a lawyer review the material for you, that is a service that PFI offers for free for these farmers.”
Cano Camacho said the service has been in such high demand, PFI is hiring a full-time land access navigator to help.