Grants target disadvantaged

Doug Collins/WSU Small Farms Program Don Hilario Alvarez, right, discusses peanut cultivation at a bilingual Farm Walk in August in Mabton, Wash. WSU Small Farms Program Immigrant Farming Specialist Malaqu as Flores, left, translated during the event.

Money to support education for refugees, minorities

By MATTHEW WEAVER

Capital Press

Two USDA grants will help Washington State University's Small Farms Program assist disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.

According to a WSU press release, the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant is nearly $525,000. WSU is providing more than $132,000 in matching funds.

The USDA Outreach and Assistance to Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers grant, at $300,000, helps immigrant farmers improve production, marketing and land tenure strategies.

Both grants are for three years.

Doug Collins, WSU small farms educator, said the development program's target audience is farmers who are new to farming or thinking about starting to farm.

The USDA definition of a beginning farmer is someone with less than 10 years experience, Collins said, although nobody will be excluded. For the farmers who are already farming, Collins said, the program will provide tools to improve their current operations or develop a new enterprise.

Five advanced short courses will be useful to people who are already farming and want to take on a new aspect or make improvements. Those courses include low-cost season extension methods, sustainable livestock production, seed production, small dairies and soil management.

The program's Cultivating Success course numbers, totaling more than 300 students per year, indicate an increased interest in small farms and a strong need for new farmer education, Collins said.

The grant will also help improve the farm mentorship and internship program and develop a tool kit for farmers and landowners about alternative land tenure strategies.

The outreach program is designed for "social disadvantaged" farmers and ranchers, which Collins said the USDA Request for Applications defines as members of a group subjected to racial or ethnic prejudices because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. Socially disadvantaged groups include African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Hispanics, Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Funds from the grant will help provide additional production workshops and field demonstrations for Latino, Hmong and East African farmers.

"These are primarily refugees from Burundi and Somalia, primarily in King County," Collins said.

Washington County is home to at least 165 refugees from Burundi and 952 refugees from Somalia, he said. A program is already under way, Collins said.

Six classes are currently on for beginning farmers, plus a bilingual class and the class for the refugees. Additional courses will be offered next semester focusing on agricultural entrepreneurship, he said.

Online

Small Farms Program: www.smallfarms.wsu.edu.

Cultivating Success: www.cultivatingsuccess.org.

Cascade Harvest: www.cascadeharvest.org/programs/washington-farmlink.

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