Latinos are not only farm workers, but many are operating small farms and ranches. They along with other black, indigenous and white small farmers are the backbone of America and are the most forgotten.
Rudy Arredondo a long-time human rights activist decided 16 Years ago to dedicate himself to survival of these small agricultural businesses. These independent men and women work the long hours not just for a small profit but more importantly for a way life that while difficult with the longest of hours is a love of mother earth and freedom.
The economics of today along with climate change are pushing many small businesses to go further in debt and on the road to bankruptcy. While the media covers the tragedy of inner-city small businesses there is not the same level of coverage of the situation of small agricultural businesses and even less for Latinos and others of color.
October 28-30th these Latino Farmers and Ranchers gathered for the 2nd Annual Conference of The Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association at the Isleta Casino and Hotel just south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. I was there as the MC (EMCEE) or as some joked as the Main Chicano.
For three days we listened and learned from each other about the plight of Latinos in agriculture and solutions that we needed to pursue. For too many years the focus and funding and support from the Department of Agriculture has been to target Agribusiness and giving a few crumbs and lip service to farmers and ranchers of color.
At this amazing national conference gathered there were the Latinos and their allies who have the knowledge and expertise to design the legislation and policies to sustain small farmers and ranchers.
In the past years there has been a huge growth of Urban Farming which is important and a good movement of Food from the Farm to the Table, have been good efforts to get healthy food to the consumer in addition to supporting the small producers.
There are many families that want to farm and ranch and live a life that is most satisfying. Not everyone wants to live in a crowded city with all its complications and not the satisfaction that the Land can give you.
We also need to find ways to get more of our students of color to become the experts in land-based economics and science. We must blend this knowledge with a cultural foundation to sustain good agricultural practices.
Every year we lose good farmlands to large corporations who will farm the land until it becomes more profitable to sell it to some urban housing or business development. Many are worried that we will lose these properties and their water rights and soon will be left with a much smaller agricultural eco-friendly environment. Thus, many are calling for an Agricultural Land Trust that will protect our key agricultural areas and an important way of life.
Today with climate changes causing droughts and flooding, it is most imperative that our state and federal governments develop programs to help the small farmers and ranchers of color to survive along side of small white farmers. The lack of water makes it most expensive to farm and ranch and could mean a rise in prices for that which we eat. It could mean that less land will be used to produce products due to the lack of water.
Corporate farms will invest more money in international products that are raised with little or no controls of the chemicals used on these plants and animals and continue to mistreat humble workers who produce their products.. These international products could destroy our Family Agricultural System.
Arredondo explained “we represent 75,000 Latino Farmers and Ranchers and we know that there are many more out there who have not registered with the Agriculture Department”. If you don’t register with the Department of Agriculture, you are not included in the census that they do every five years.
This thanksgiving and each time when food is prepared and served on your table, please remember that strong and wonderful men and women were involved in the production of these food items. And when possible, you should consider purchasing your food locally and consider supporting those farmers and ranchers of color who are proud Americans and deserve to be sustained.
You can join this movement and help them to build an even stronger voice for Latino Farmers and Ranchers. Together we can save this important lifestyle.
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association Office: 202-628-8833
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.NLFRTA.org