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USDA Grant Helps University of Hawaii Train Farmers in their Native Languages

Posted by Mariela Castaneda, Office of Partnership and Public Engagement in Equity Farming
May 30, 2023
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Kauai Soil and Water Conservation District conduct an Irrigation Water Management workshop for Thai farmers on Kauai

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proud to support successful partnerships that pave the way for meaningful outreach and access to services for underserved communities. In Hawaii, USDA is helping multiple partners come together to provide language-appropriate outreach to Thai, Lao, Ilocano, Chinese, and other immigrant farmers. Funding is made through USDA’s Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program, also known as the 2501 Program.

Through a recent 2501 grant, the University of Hawaii at Manoa Cooperative Extension partnered with GoFarm Hawaii, and the Oahu Agriculture and Conservation Association to better meet the language needs of small family farmers and immigrant farmers across the state. By providing training to immigrant farmers with limited English proficiency, partners can give underserved producers more meaningful access to agricultural services.

Emilie Kirk, assistant extension agent at the University of Hawaii in Kauai, discovered that her knowledge of the Thai language helped her work with the immigrant Thai farming community. She and her colleagues identified opportunities to better serve the diverse populations of Hawaii by engaging with farmers in their native languages.

“University of Hawaii Extension has been working to support disadvantaged farmers in different capacities over the years, and this 2501 grant helps us connect farmers to services according to their needs,” said Kirk. “Building relationships and trust takes time, and is facilitated through engaging with communities in their native languages. We recognize the importance of providing practical information to farmers, and we want our programs to reflect the beautiful diversity of people in the ag community here.”

The partners offer workshops on agricultural production and business management, farmer resource fairs, and individualized assistance through farm visits and consultations. For example, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Kauai Soil and Water Conservation District conducted an Irrigation Water Management workshop for Thai farmers on Kauai.

Thanks to the 2501 Program, these events offer professional interpreters or hired native language speakers in Thai, Lao, Ilocano, Chinese, and Vietnamese, among others. The partners are developing multilingual resources, such as technical assistance videos and bilingual templates for efficient record keeping. These efforts help to reach a wider audience, including local immigrant farmers, so they can succeed in conservation, agriculture production, and agribusiness.

The 2501 Program is accepting applications until July 25. Visit the 2501 Program page for more information on this funding opportunity.

Category/Topic: Equity Farming