Photo: Adelante Mujeres
This week, The Oregonian ran a short article about an exciting pilot program taking off in Forest Grove. The new program - which is run by the Hispanic women’s development group Adelante Mujeres - provides and farm land and training to Latinos who’d like to practice organic agriculture. While Latinos make up an overwhelming majority of farm laborers statewide, very few own and operate their own farms. According to Alejandro Tecum, director of the agriculture project, “Many Latinos grew up in the fields and know a lot about farming. When they move here, they miss this contact with the earth. We see the people’s happiness when they come to farm, to be able to cultivate the land once again.” The group, which also runs the Forest Grove Farmer’s Market, hopes that the recent $300,000 federal grant they received will help new Latino farmers to learn alternatives to the conventional, chemical-intensive agriculture practiced on many farms.
This is a very inspiring project taking place right in our local counties, and a good reminder of the breadth of issues surrounding farm labor. While working conditions for Latino farmworkers have garnered more attention over the past year, very few people make the leap to consider what it takes to assist Latinos in starting their own economic enterprises and farms. But that’s not to say that the issue has been entirely overlooked in Oregon, either. The fledgling Adelante Mujeres project will find good company in a similar program run by Zenger Farm, The Immigrant/Refugee Farmer Training Program. With the support of the surrounding community, there’s hope that these programs will be just the first step towards sustainable, farm-based economic development for many new populations.