By Gabriela Pereyra, GrowNYC's FARMroots Beginning Farmer Program Manager
National Latinx Heritage Month in the United States is the period from September 15 to October 15, when people recognize the contributions of Latinx and Hispanic Americans to the country's history, heritage, and culture.
Our work is to identify, educate, and support aspiring farmers with agricultural experience to establish their own economically and environmentally sustainable farm businesses. Started in 2000, GrowNYC created the New Farmer Development Project as a partnership between Greenmarket and Cornell Cooperative Extension's NYC Program. The project was based in New York City and trained mostly Latinx farmers within the city to start their farm businesses in New York's Hudson Valley and Catskill Regions, New Jersey, and northeastern Pennsylvania.
Our work of training the next generation of regional farmers continues, through programs that give them access to zero interest loans, discounted market opportunities, paid mentorships, and three years of additional technical assistance. It is also complemented with projects like the Labor Ready Farmer. This project, a collaboration with the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension, focuses on the growth of New York State fruit & vegetable farms through improved Latinx workforce management and leadership skills.
Currently, 80% of New York State’s agricultural work is done by Latinx people, yet they own less than 3% of the state’s farmland, and less than 4% are farm managers. GrowNYC's FARMroots training works to provide profitable, equitable agriculture opportunities for Latinx communities. Improving the managerial skills of Latinx farmers and supporting them to start their own farms helps to keep farmland in production and strengthens rural communities, farmers markets, and the region’s food system as a whole. Today, at our Greenmarkets, Latinx farmers are selling a range of unique products that speak to their culture. Thanks to them, all New Yorkers have access to high-quality and locally-grown papalo, huacatey, epazote, amaranth, ají dulce, tomatillo, chiles, flores de calabaza, maíz de tortillas, dahlias, and herbs.
The contributions of Latinx people, both in the fields and in our Greenmarkets, are countless. Thanks to their work and effort, our regional food system is better and stronger.