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Small Farms

Hispanic producers in the United States

Hispanic* farmers and ranchers are the largest group of minority producers in the United States . In 2002, the Census of Agriculture counted more than 50,000 principal operators of Spanish origin, who farmed more than 20 million acres of land, and produced crops and livestock worth at least $4.6 billion. Hispanic producers are also the fastest growing minority group; between 1997 and 2002, their numbers rose more than 50 percent, acres farmed increased by more than 23 percent, and the value of produce soared by 39 percent. Such rapid growth is likely to continue for several years, although the upcoming Census may not reflect their true numbers because of undercounting. An interesting article of undercounting in Hispanic populations, by Victor Garcia and Juan Marinez, appears in the October 2005 issue of the Journal of Extension.

As with other minority groups, most Hispanic farm and ranch operations are classified as small farms, but in other aspects this is a diverse population. Most Hispanic producers are of Mexican decent, but there are also substantial populations from other countries, in particular from Central America. While many Hispanic operators are recent immigrants, some families have been in the United States for several generations. Locations vary, too. For decades, most were farming or ranching in the west and southwest but increasingly more migrants are moving into the southeast and mid-west . Hispanic operators produce a wide variety of crops and livestock; the 2002 Census found that more than one-third focused mainly on beef cattle, while another 8,000 listed primarily field crops, and more than 7,000 were involved in fruit and nut tree farming.

The land-grant system is responding to this client group through its extension, research, and educational programs. Examples include:

  • extension educators sharing expertise and materials across the Cooperative Extension System through the Extensión en Español Web site;

  • research on how collaboration among ethnic groupings, such as Hispanic farmers, could affect their prosperity and their rural agricultural communities; and

  • more than $6 million of annual competitive grants program funding promotes and strengthens the ability of Hispanic-Serving Institutions to carry out higher education programs in the food and agricultural sciences.

* The term ‘Hispanic’ is used here for simplicity to refer to people from many backgrounds, generally of Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino origin. An interesting article of the issue, written by Oriol Gutierrez, is in the September 15, 2005, issue of Diversity Inc.


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