Enhancing risk management skills and farm sustainability of small underserved blueberry growers through educational outreach

MSU Extension educator Carlos Garcia-Salazar led the creation and implementation of a Spanish-language curriculum to bring resources to minority blueberry farmers.

Researcher: Carlos Garcia-Salazar
Awarded: $25,000
Leveraged: $324,998

In the past five years, Michigan’s small blueberry growers suffered extensive economic losses due to winter weather, summer droughts, invasive insect pests and new environmental and food safety legislation. Also, depressed market conditions and foreign competition are threatening competitiveness.

Small and minority growers are the most affected, as their economic livelihood is at risk. To preserve their farm’s sustainability, growers need technical assistance, knowledge, skills and new tools to manage production risks.

This project aimed to create a curriculum-based training program. The program provides growers with access to resources and techniques to manage production risks to preserve farm sustainability and employment. Three in-person trainings were held prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the program continuing online after that. One of the trainings was on the use of high tunnels for blueberry production, and review of the curriculum for the National Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Manual for Hispanic/Latino growers/farmworkers. As a result, two of the 13 growers who attended the in-person training implemented this technology in their farms.

Overall underserved Hispanic/Latino blueberry growers/farmworkers benefited greatly from the Spanish training. All 16 trainees were farmworkers sent by their employers to become certified pesticide applicators. After reviewing the National Pesticide Applicator Certification Core Manual, which was translated and delivered in Spanish, and taking the certification test, all trainees became certified pesticide applicators. Once certified, they took responsibilities as IPM scouts and pesticide applicators at their employment farms. They changed their status from basic laborers to specialized employees with greater responsibilities, more secure employment, and better salaries.

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