Engaging Spanish-Speaking Farmers and Farmworkers at MAFVC

Posted: February 18, 2016

Since 2009, Penn State Extension has hosted a full-day session at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention (MAFVC), taught completely in Spanish. These sessions have targeted Hispanic and Latino farmers, farm managers and farm workers, working in horticultural crop production. Bilingual educators from surrounding states have collaborated in the project, and helped to create a learning environment that is friendly, engaging, inclusive, and highly relevant.
Spanish session participants practice identifying weeds with a hands-on activity. Photo credit: H. Nunez Contreras.

Spanish session participants practice identifying weeds with a hands-on activity. Photo credit: H. Nunez Contreras.

The number of Hispanic farmers in Pennsylvania is increasing every year, mirroring national trends. Many of these entrepreneurs get their start as workers on established Pennsylvania farms, often rising to management positions. Educating Hispanic and Latino farmers, farm managers and farm workers in best management practices in crop production, pest control, pesticide safety, food safety, and farm business strengthens our state's specialty crop industries and helps sustain them for the future.

Forty-two people attended this year's Spanish session, held on February 3, 2016, at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention. Hands-on, interactive teaching strategies have always been an important feature of this session. Rather than sitting all day in a lecture-style setting, participants roll up their sleeves and jump into learning through activities such as:

  • Identifying grass and broadleaf weeds using live samples and reference materials;
  • Witnessing how gloves and other personal protective equipment keep pesticides off of skin;
  • Visiting an orchard to practice pruning fruit trees for maximum production; and
  • Discussing IPM strategies and cost sharing opportunities for high tunnel production directly with USDA-NRCS staff.

Hector and black light

Hector Nunez Contreras, Penn State Extension Pesticide Education Program, leads participants in a demonstration of how proper use and cleaning of personal protective equipment protects skin from pesticide exposure. Photo credit: L. Stivers.

A survey following the session indicated that 60% of participants have been involved in horticultural production for five or more years. Over half have attended the Spanish session for three or more years. Nearly all have put into practice what they have learned by improving horticultural practices, using new strategies to manage pests, improving crop quality, and protecting themselves and their families from pesticides.

Mario and group

Mario Mirando Sazo, Cornell Cooperative Extension, discusses crop load management and pruning for tall spindle systems before leading the group out into the orchard to practice pruning. Photo credit: H. Nunez Contreras.

The Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention is a multi-state grower meeting held in early February at the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center. The Convention is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association, the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, the Maryland and New Jersey State Horticultural Societies. Cooperative Extension from Penn State University, University of Maryland, Rutgers University, and Virginia Tech University collaborate to organize four days of educational sessions and workshops. Preliminary figures from the February 1-4, 2016 convention indicate a new attendance record this year, of nearly 2,400 people.

Contact Information

Lee Stivers
  • Extension Educator, Horticulture
Phone: 724-228-6881