At a time when the number of farms in our country has been declining, immigrant and refugees farmers offer a remarkable countertrend. According to the Census of Agriculture, Latinos constitute the fastest growing sector of farmers in the United States, increasing by more than 50% between 1997 and 2007 and by 21% from 2007 to 2012. There are West African farmers in Maryland, Hmong farmers in Minnesota, and Sikh farmers in California. As immigrant farmers’ numbers have grown, local efforts have sprung up throughout the country to support these new farmers.
Today more than thirty established and developing immigrant farming projects exist nationwide. Current project locations include California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.
The National Immigrant Farming Initiative (NIFI) was formed in 2003 as a nationwide partnership between Heifer International and Immigrant Farming Programs (IFPs). Heifer International, already supporting several local immigrant-farming efforts, agreed to take the lead in sponsoring this new initiative along with the USDA’s Risk Management Agency and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
NIFI was established to connect the diverse efforts of immigrant farmers, raise awareness of relevant issues and create state-of-the-art practices to help a diverse population of immigrant, beginning farmers, farm workers, and veterans to obtain the resources to thrive.
“All of us working with immigrant farmers are basically trying to do the same thing. To avoid spinning our wheels, we need to know what’s been done and what everyone else is trying.”