Project: Huertas

Understanding the Food Security of Migrant Farmworkers in Vermont

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Fellsmere Community Garden

By: Kristen Fedie

The longstanding mission of the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) “is to build power among farmworker and rural low-income communities to respond to and gain control over the social, political, workplace, economic, health, and environmental justice issues that impact their lives” (  The FWAF has done just that.  The FWAF began in 1986 and expanded statewide in 1992; today, the organization has more than 8,000 member families and five locations throughout Central Florida.

For over 25 years, the FWAF has worked diligently to secure social, economic, and environmental justice for Florida’s vast farmworker population.  The organization has numerous projects addressing such issues as worker justice, immigrant rights, and health education: “Through education and community organizing, the FWAF works to improve farmworkers’ health, working conditions, and access to quality health care; raise awareness of the harmful effects of toxic pesticides; and influence policy related to health and safety protections for farmworkers” (

In addition to the social, economic, and environmental changes that the FWAF has been able to implement throughout Florida, the organization has also addressed issues of food security, issues that far too often affect the farmworker community.  In 2011, the FWAF developed a community garden project in Fellsmere, an area devastated by hurricanes in 2004.

An overwhelming majority of families in Fellsmere, a landscape covered in citrus groves, are employed as farmworkers in the citrus industry, in the groves and packing houses.  Composed of both documented and undocumented workers, Fellsmere is similar to many other farming communities; however, the community also consists of mainly established families.  Many own their own homes and have children enrolled in local schools.

The Fellsmere garden, founded on city owned property, provides the community with not only fresh foods to eat but also a growing sense of accomplishment and a place of relaxation.  Currently, the garden is providing the community with numerous fruits and vegetables, some of which include: cilantro, romaine lettuce, radishes, sweet potatoes, collard greens, beans, corn, and tomatoes.  Additionally, the garden hosts a special section for herbs, a small house in which to store seedlings, and a water pump.

The garden is becoming an increasingly popular community project, “Area ranchers are offering free cow and horse manure to use as fertilizer on the newly developed raised beds. And, community members are learning to convert their household food scraps into compost for the garden” (  Additionally, volunteers, such as those from YAYA, the Youth & Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry, have contributed to the success of the Fellsmere Community Garden through assisting with clearing, weeding, and planting.

Although a work in progress, the Fellsmere Community Garden, is a thriving symbol of the community in which it feeds.  According to Angela Smith, “Food grown in the first garden by about a dozen families over the past two years has helped supplement meals for them as well as numerous needy families around the city” (  The Fellsmere Community Garden is the pride of the community, a success story of a farmworkers becoming empowered and taking control of their situation.  The Fellsmere Community has quickly become a place of togetherness and collaboration, a place for not only fun but also education.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the project has expanded.  In 2012, in an effort to provide more families with nutritional food options, the FWAF started another community garden in Fellsmere.  The second garden, situated in a once vacant lot, will provide food for more local families this coming spring.  Additionally, the new garden will have a section specifically for the students of Fellsmere Elementary School.  The Fellsmere Community Garden project may only be in its infancy, but offers both hope and insight into how a community supported garden project can quickly thrive.

For some pictures and more insight into the many ways in which the FWAF is working to make a difference in the lives of farmworkers, check out the organization’s Facebook page:!


Farmworker Association of Florida. Web. 27 March 2013. <>

Smith, Angela. “Fellsmere’s 2nd community garden will help feed more families”. TCPalm. 12 November 2012. Web. 27 March 2013. <>

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By: Sam Rothberg

In addition to almost all of the vegetables and fruits we are used to here in Vermont, there are some estranged plants that seem important to Mexican cuisine. It is important to note that not all of these plants may be able to grow in Vermont given the climate, but further study will reveal better detail on that matter. Below is a better understanding of the many ingredients that make up the diversified and differing cuisines of Mexico.


Coyole (palm fruit): cooked

Chilicayote (Malabar gourd)

Dulce de calabaza (squash)

Calabacita (summer squash)

Zapote negro (sapote, black)

Jicotilla (cactus fruit)

Chicosapote (sapote)

Sapote Amarillo (yellow sapote)


Papa estranjera (oxalis)

Quelite/epazote (pigweed)

Nopal (cactus paddles)

Pochote (kapok)




  • Chile Amarillo/chilcosle*
  • Chile ancho
  • Chile de árbol
  • Chile chipotle
  • Chile costeño*
  • Chilhuacle*
  • Chile guajillo
  • Chile morita
  • Chile mulato
  • Chile pasilla de Oaxaca*
  • Chile pequín


Achiote (Annatto):

  • red seed helped to make paste with other ingredients for meats, poultry and fish as well as to color rice dishes and season pork or chicken

Hierba Santa:

  • fragrant wrappers for fish either steamed or grilled. Also used as for flavor in Mole Verde. Used as a tamale wrapping as well as with chicken and shrimp dishes. It is also used medicinally to cure inflammations, stomach cramps, and skin irritations.

Amaranto (amaranth):

  • used to make candy, drinks, and a special mole.


  • leaves of herb used in tamales and pumpkin seed sauces


  • oaxacan herb very commonly used

Corteza de maguey (century plant):

  • out leaf of the maguey plant is used as a cooking bag for meat and poultry

Epazote (wormseed):

  • leaves used to add flavor to black beans, in quesadillas. Used as an herbal medicine to cure insect bites.

Guajes (cuajes):

  • lentil like legumes that are used to flavor stews. Important to cuisines of Puebla and Oaxaca.

Hierba de conejo (Indian paintbrush):

  • herb commonly added to beans and rice.

Hoja de aguacate (avocado leaf):

  • have licorice-like aroma which help to add flavor to soups, chicken and fish dishes, as well as beans.

Hoja de maíz y de platano (corn and banana leaf):

  • used to wrap tamales to be steamed.


  • herb used in cemitas (type of Mexican sandwich) as well as guacamole and salads

Toronjil (balm-gentle):

  •  herb used in teas and used as a digestive

Verdolaga (purslane):

  • used in salads, or in mole verde as well as stews

**What we have here and are used to, but what is also commonly used in Mexico:


  • Onions
  • Scallions
  • Garlic
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes



  • Albahaca (Sweet basil)
  • Ajonjolí (Sesame seed)
  • Anís (Anise): indispensible ingredient in many moles.
  • Berros (Watercress)
  • Cilantro (and coriander)
  • Cominos (cumin): Used in Mexican soups and stews
  • Hierba Buena (spearmint)
  • Laurel (bay leaf)
  • Manzanilla (chamomile)
  • Mejorana (marjoram)
  • Menta (peppermint)
  • Orégano (oregano)
  • Perejil (parsley)
  • Quelitas (lamb’s quarter): sautéed with other vegetables
  • Romero (rosemary)
  • Te límon (lemon grass): used in novelle Mexican cuisine and a popular tea.
  • Tomillo (thyme)
  • Clavo de olor (Cloves)
  • Comino (Cumin)
  • Pimienta (Allspice)
  • Canela (true cinnamon)


Other ingredients that seem essential to the cuisine:

  • Lard
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Raisins
  • Cacao/chocolate



Martínez, Zarela. The Food and Life of Oaxaca, Mexico. New York: Macmillan

Publishing, 1997. Print.

Graber, Karen. “A culinary guide to Mexican herbs: Las hierbas de cocina.” Mexconnect.

Mexconnect, 01 Apr 1999. Web. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.

Whitaker, Thomas, and Hugh Cutler. “Food Plants in a Mexican Market.” New York

Botanical Garden Press. 20.1 (1966): 6-16. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.


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Nuestras Raices

By: Dan Rosen

Nuestras Raices, Spanish for “Our Roots” is “a grassroots organization that promotes human, economic, and community development in Holyoke, MA, through projects related to food, culture, and the environment.” Centered on Holyoke’s Puerto Rican population, they are a leader in “agri-cultural” development, in that they advocate an urban agricultural movement in their city within the realm of their cultural backgrounds. Although principally a gardening program, Nuestras Raices is multifaceted and addresses a diverse array of food systems issues. In addition to a vast network of community gardens, the organization also operates a 30 acre inner-city farm, funds environmental policy initiatives, holds a youth organization, and acts as a community gathering place to exchange ideas and celebrate Latino culture.

An old New England mill-town in picturesque Western Massachusetts, the city of Holyoke has a history similar to many formerly industrial American communities. Throughout the twentieth century, as opportunities in the city were expanding, people were moving to this community to work in paper factories and nearby tobacco farms. Simultaneously, in rural Puerto Rico, agricultural livelihoods were becoming less economically feasible for many families, which sparked mass migration throughout the US, including to the city of Holyoke. Unfortunately, throughout the 1960s and 1970s, both the paper industry and the tobacco industry plummeted, resulting in rampant unemployment. Even in the current era, Holyoke’s economic decline never fully recovered and is currently one of the state’s poorest cities

From the onset of Puerto Rican migration, community gardening was a strong part of the city’s culture to both sustain their cultural upbringings and, perhaps more importantly, to survive on a limited income. This movement became even more vital as the economy was in decline, but with a lack of a central organizing unit, gardens were small-scale and did not generally last that long. However, Nuestras Raices has brought Holyoke’s gardening movement to an entirely different scale and has instilled hope in an economically depressed community.

As may be expected in the Five-Colleges region, Nuestras Raices was founded with the help of Hampshire College student, Seth Williams. In 1991, Williams was working on a community gardening thesis and partnered with interested members in the Holyoke community. He worked with gardeners and community members to find land, water, and tools to replace gardens that were lost due to city development. Inspired by Williams, community garden members founded Nuestras Raices in 1992 to help keep the gardening movement alive. Today, the organization has expanded to include 10 community gardens, over 100 member families, and a 30 acre inner-city farm. Additionally, the nonprofit has initiated community organizing initiatives that have worked to address a number of social and environmental issues in the city and even operates a homeless shelter. As of 2008, Nuestras Raices was operating on an $800,000 budget, a tribute to its success and influence.

Nuestras Raices’s first project was the conversion of an abandoned lot in South Holyoke. Initially, the space was filled with trash and was a common place for both drug trade and drug activity, clearly evident by the disposal of used needles on the lot’s grounds. However, a small group of social-environmental activists transformed this lot into a vibrant community garden, which sparked interest throughout the city. As more gardens were being established, they joined the Nuestras Raices network. Having access to a centrally unified group allows Holyoke community members use the Nuestras Raices network to form connections with one another and discuss pertinent social, political, environmental, and economic issues that the city and its residents face. Nuestras Raices responds to these discussions with action, and has been able to initiate and aid many projects, some of which are completely unrelated to their gardening project. Furthermore, Nuestras Raices’s projects have made Holyoke a more desirable place to live, evidenced by a higher sense of Holyoke pride, an increase in property values, an increase in air quality, and an increased sense of community.

The design of Nuestras Raices encourages community connections in Holyoke in several ways. For example, Nuestras Raices takes on an intergenerational model of development. They believe that “intergenerational connections are strengthened when children, teenagers, adults, and elders are able to partake in a common project and learn from one another.” As stated earlier, most of Holyoke’s elder population migrated from rural farming communities in Puerto Rico, so the elders are teachers to the youth on how to farm, as well as how to use fresh produce to cook Puerto Rican delicacies. Puerto Rican youth in Holyoke have been incredibly moved by the program, and many high schoolers report the desire to go into the agricultural or culinary industries after they graduate.

The design of the gardens themselves also encourage family and community involvement. Each garden is unique and has its own amenities and activities to promote these values. Almost all the gardens have parks and playgrounds to entertain children as their parents and older siblings garden, and a few gardens hold annual festivals to engage the community. These festivals serve free roasted pork and chicken and offer entertainment opportunities for all ages, such as live music and activities for children.

To promote youth involvement, Nuestras Raices has innovated two unique programs for passionate young activists, which work with the Holyoke Public School System. One of these programs is the Farm Apprenticeship Program. Teens in this program are paid and employed through the New England Farm Workers Council to gain experience working on and maintaining a farm. The program also offers skill building workshops and one-on-one counseling to help youth find jobs both while in high school and after they graduate.

The other youth program through Nuestras Raices is the Youth Organizing Committee. This is an educational after-school program with the mission of teaching high school students about the environment, history, agriculture, and policy. Projects are diverse and engage students in both research and activism, addressing concepts such as water and air quality issues, farm-to-school initiatives, and healthier school food. The youth gather together for a monthly event, “FEEST,” to cook healthy foods together from their community gardens and discuss food systems issues. The application process for this program is competitive. Youth need to apply and undergo a probation period of twelve sessions before gaining membership.

Nuestras Raices is heavily egalitarian and gives the youth in their community a high degree of trust and autonomy. Daniel Ross, the current executive director of Nuestras Raices, took on this job in 1995 at the young age of 22. He was a social activist all throughout his childhood and spent a year traveling the East Coast, working to better the lives of migrant farm workers. Due to his personal journey, empowering youth is a central value of Ross. Testament to this value, Atlantic reporter, Colby Kummer, actually received his tour of the community gardens and much information for his report about the organization by two 15-year-old boys, rather than an adult member.

Nuestras Raices also has initiatives to not only feed its community and gather its community together, but also to expand economic opportunities for its community members. For example, the organization operates a 30 acre inner-city farm, La Finca. La Finca was born out of a community planning process in which community members expressed a desire to not only grow their own food to sustain themselves nutritionally, but also to make a profit and sustain themselves economically. With assistance through a state grant, the City of Holyoke, and Nuestras Raices’s operating budget, an urban farm was established in 2002.

Central to La Finca is a farmer training program, Land of Opportunities. The mission of Land of Opportunities is to provide its participants with the necessary capital, knowledge, and connections to own their own small farm. Participants in the program rent small plots of land, between 1/8 and 1 acre, and are provided with access to an array of resources, such as connections to acquire small loans, an extensive training program, shared resources among the community, and market assistance.

La Finca serves other community benefits as well. It’s a central gathering point to celebrate Latino culture and hosts numerous festivals. When older residents visit, they report, “It feels like Puerto Rico!” The farm is also home to an extensive array of small businesses, which accommodates both area residents and visitors to the region with a slew of options to enjoy their day visiting the farm. These businesses include The Paso Fino (Fine Step) Horse Barn, The Petting Zoo, The Farm Store, The Lechonera (Pig Roast), and many greenhouses.

In addition to the gardening program, the farm, and the youth program, Nuestras Raices is also heavily focused on environmental justice and facilitates projects to make Holyoke a more sustainable community. Beginning in 2007, members of Nuestras Raices, including many youth, spent two years researching and identifying environmental risks to community health. After this extensive process, they decided to focus on three main issues: indoor and outdoor air quality, asthma, and community health; land use and garbage disposal; and water quality and fishing in the Connecticut River. In 2009, they sent a proposal to the EPA CARE Program (Community Action for a Renewed Environment) and received a level 1 grant to fund their initiatives. They use this grant to fund sustainable practices and offer regular environmental workshops, free to the public, to educate community members on how they can lower their carbon footprint and live more sustainably.

Nuestras Raices is a highly successful non-profit organization addressing environmental, social, and economic issues in its community. Huertas is fortunate to have a similar initiative so close to home, and would greatly benefit by reaching out to Nuestras Raices in its quest to expand upon its small and underfunded program. Just like Huertas is moving forward through the help of UVM extension, Nuestras Raices initiated through an academic connection as well. Although the population Huertas addresses is arguably in a more marginalized position due to citizenship status and isolation in rural locales, I am confident that Huertas can learn something from Nuestras Raices and possibly even use them as a resource in moving forward.


Nuestras Raices Home. Network Solutions, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <;.

Kummer, Corby. “A Papaya Grows in Holyoke.” The Atlantic 1 Apr. 2008: 1-2. The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <;.

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Nutritional Inadequacies and Related Health Problems Among Migrant Farmworkers

By: Hannah Ross


Two weeks ago, I discussed numerous factors that lead to food insecurity among migrant farmworkers in the United States. Not only is it very important to understand the various barriers to obtaining food, but it is also crucial to recognize the health implications that result from significant food insecurity as it is clear they are closely related. Low incomes and lack of money, infrequent consumption of nutritious fruits and vegetables, insufficient time to prepare meals due to long work days, communication barriers, and the uncertainty of trying new foods are all contributors to nutritional inadequacies and other related health problems. Some of the most commonly reported deficiencies are of calcium, riboflavin, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Other nutritional inadequacies include: thiamin, niacin, B6, folate, phosphorous, zinc, and fiber. Calcium and riboflavin deficiencies are often due to an inadequate consumption of dairy products whereas vitamin A and vitamin C deficiencies are caused by a low consumption of fruits and vegetables (Essa 2001: 22-23). Perhaps what’s most important to recognize here is that the nutritional inadequacies migrant farmworkers experience in the United States were never a previous concern because traditional diets provided adequate sources of nutrients (Essa 2001: 19). Therefore, it is evident that the incidence of nutritional inadequacies is also caused by a lack of knowledge regarding common foods present in the United States. Prolonged nutritional inadequacies can have a detrimental effect on one’s health.

An increased risk of high-energy intake within the migrant farmworker population in the United States, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension are some of the most common nutritional inadequacy-related health problems (Cason et al 5). Due to their low socio-economic status, data indicates that among the Hispanic migrant farmworker population, “energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods frequently are consumed at the expense of nutrient-dense foods” which results in:

  • Marginal micronutrient intake
  • Poor compliance with nutrient and food group-related dietary guidance
  • Low serum concentrations of vitamins and carotenoids (Deza 2006: 6)

With a diet such as this one, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease all become common health concerns. Even when considering the high amount of physical activity farmworkers exert throughout the day, “the excess of unhealthful food often rich in fats, proteins, and carbohydrates puts migrant farm workers at risk for other nutrition-related diseases” (Deza 2006: 55).

Despite high rates of nutrition-related diseases among migrant farmworkers, they do understand the importance of having a balanced and healthy diet. In a study examining components of health and well-being among Hispanic migrant farmworkers in Pennsylvania, there was an overwhelming support for instituting nutrition education classes. Participants advocated for classes to include information on “nutrition, food safety, and diet-related health issues, including diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure” (Cason et al 155). They were also interested in learning how to use American foods because most of it was foreign to them. But most of all, having culturally appropriate information and having lessons taught in Spanish were great concerns these migrant farmworkers expressed.


Cason, Katherine, Sergio Nieto-Montenegro, and America Chavez-Martinez. “Food Choices, Food Sufficiency Practices, and Nutrition Education Needs of Hispanic Migrant Workers in Pennsylvania.” Topics in Clinical Nutrition (n.d.): n. pag. National Center for Farmworker Health.

Deza, Abel C. The Health and Nutrition of Migrant Farm Workers in South Carolina. Thesis. Clemson University, 2006.

Essa, Jumanah S. Nutrition, Health, and Food Security Practices, Concerns, and Perceived Barriers of Latino Farm/industry Workers in Virginia. Thesis. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2001.

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The Brown County Connecting for Success- Hmong Food Systems Project

By: Kristen Fedie

The Brown County Connecting for Success- Hmong Food Systems Project is one that recently developed out of a multi-year survey project conducted by Karen Early and in association with the University of Wisconsin Extension program.  The project studied household food security throughout Brown County, Wisconsin, discovering that due to such factors as economic instability and a lack of access to transportation the Hmong population was disproportionately affected by food insecurity.  According to statistics presented by Karen Early, 96% of the Hmong population in Brown County identified as having low or very low food security (18).

This study uncovered drastic inequalities in food access.  Additionally, the study concluded that the inability to meet the most basic of food needs was extremely prevalent among the Hmong population in Brown County.  According to Early, the program emerged from the desire “to provide a forum for members and community partners to take action toward improved food security and relieve hunger” (Early 7).  As a result, UW Extension applied for and received a “3-year USDA Community Food Systems grant to expand and enhance elements of the local Hmong food system” (Rhodes and Joseph 5).  Through the collaboration between UW Extension, community partnerships, and the USDA grant, the Hmong Food Systems Project was able to emerge, serving as a viable way in which to provide the food insecure community with both nutritious and well-balanced diets.

The Hmong Food Systems Project works to provide the population with not only access to healthy food options but also education surrounding farming and small-scale marketing.  Over 200 gardeners, 80% of which are Hmong participate in the county’s community gardening program.  Additionally, according to Rhodes and Joseph, “A number of projects are underway with some already completed; a shared commercial kitchen and produce cold storage, pastured poultry demonstration, expanded community garden plots, as well as integrated pest management, education on pesticide usage, produce marketing, food preservation, and food service sanitation, farmers’ market and roadside stand start-ups, and a composting video dubbed in Hmong” (5).  The diversity of projects offered has proven to be central to the success of the Hmong Food Systems Project.

Through UW Extension, the Hmong Food Systems Project is also seeking to provide assistance to Hmong landowners.  The project is working to educate its members on how to fully utilize their land as well as how to diversify their crops and farming operations; such changes become particularly essential when farmers are seeking to not only healthily supplement their diets but also improve their income.  Additionally, “there is also a continuing effort to connect local landowners and Hmong families without land with opportunities to rent, lease or purchase of land for start-up farming operations” (Rhodes and Joseph 6).  Yet another successful venture created through the programs is the formation of a Hmong Farmers Co-op that is currently pursuing funding.

The Hmong Food Systems Project has begun to expand, increasing its involvement with not only food insecure but also food secure populations throughout the Wisconsin county, bringing the community together to address food security.  The Hispanic population of Brown Country, both US citizens and recent immigrants, also struggles with low and very low food security.  As such, the Hmong Food Systems Project is eager to provide assistance to the county’s Hispanic population.  The Hmong Food Systems Project demonstrates the various positive changes a small-scale, university extension program can incite.  The project has been successful in not only providing food insecure populations with access to healthy food options but also providing education and opportunity.  Although the project has been successful, its future relies heavily on both continued funding and community support.


Early, Karen. Brown County 2009 Household Food Security Report. 30 September 2010. Web. 14 March 2013. <>

Rhodes, Marla; Joseph, Hugh. January 2004. Immigrant Farming Programs and Resources: A Guide to Projects, People, Places, Publications, and Other Information on Immigrant Farming Activities Across the United States. January 2004. Web. 14 March 2013. <>

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ALBA- Agricultural and Land-Based Training Association

By: Dan Rosen

ALBA, The Agricultural and Land-Based Training Association, is a non-profit organization located in Monterey County, California.  Although not a gardening program per-say, ALBA provides amazing opportunities for farm-workers and limited-resource aspiring farmers to establish economic and food security in Monterey County.  The organization operates two organic farms, the Rural Development Center (RDC) and the Farm Training and Research Center.  Both farms provide educational opportunities for limited-resource farm workers to pursue further advancement within the agricultural industry by providing them with access to information, operating capital, and land.

Although they do not target a specific demographic, the overwhelming majority of ALBA’s beneficiaries are recent Latino immigrants who previously worked as migrant farm workers, thus similar to the population demographic that the Huertas project addresses in Vermont.  ALBA’s mission is to “accommodate economic viability, social equity, and ecological land management among limited-resource and aspiring farmers.”  Furthermore, “ALBA aims to contribute to a more just and sustainable food system” through implementing programs that treat its farmers fairly and also “promote the enhancement of biological diversity and protection of natural resources.”  Their overall goal is to create greater economic opportunities for small farms while promoting ecological land management and healthy foods.

ALBA was officially incorporated in 2001, but the organization was formed through a history of progressions that dates back further.  In 1972, Geraldine Mary Bardin sold her inherited family farm to Central Coast Counties Cooperative Development Center, an initiative born out of Johnson’s War on Poverty.  This program sought to help heavily marginalized, small-scale Latino farmers work together to form cooperatives and achieve a competitive advantage in the market place.  Unfortunately, the program ended during the Reagan Administration due to economic opportunity cuts.  However, in 1985, the Rural Development Center, based out of Washington D.C. (which now has an office in Burlington, VT!) founded the Association for Community-Based Education (ACBE) on the same farm.  This new program initiated the idea of a “farmworker to farmer” program,” to encourage and support farmworkers to advance and gain access to farm management and farm ownership positions.

In 2001, RDC’s local advisory board initiated discussions to transform this program into a locally owned non-profit in Monterey County.  Thus, ALBA was officially incorporated through adapting previous RDC strategies, as well as enhancing and expanding upon these strategies.  Since 2001, ALBA has improved land-lease agreements, expanded the educational curriculum, and branded its products as an official licensed distributor.  ALBA Organics distributes goods to local retailers large wholesalers, including Whole Foods and Trader Joes, as well as institutions, including Stanford University, UC Santa Cruz, and Google.  In 2012, ALBA Organics’ fiscal sales were $4.5 million.

ALBA offers a number of programs to provide services for small-scale, socially disadvantaged, and usually immigrant farmers.  For instance, Programa Educativo para Agricultores (PEPA), or the Farmer Education Program, “trains individuals in farm management and organic crop production practices with an emphasis on business success.”  This course, offered in both Spanish and English, consists of both lectures and field experiences and attracts a diverse range of participants, including farm workers and agricultural industry employees.  The course teaches its participants about pests, planting, beneficial insects, and cover crops.  ALBA adapts a hands-on approach and invites guest speakers, including local farmers and local farmers and university biologists, and takes field trips to irrigation supply stores, compost suppliers, farms, and farmers markets. The admissions process is competitive and cost for the course is on a sliding scale.  Credit is available through Harnell Community College for an added fee, with financial aid for full-time students available through a FAFSA application.

After passing PEPA, participants have the option of taking part in the Farm Business Incubators program.  This is a six-month long, intensive apprenticeship program for PEPA graduates.   ALBA offers participants a significantly subsidized land-lease that decreases steadily between 1 and 6 years, with the expectation that participants are becoming more financially stable every year.

Another successful initiative of ALBA is the Market Match program.  This program organizes farmers’ market incentive programs for families who rely on California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (EBT benefits) through CalFresh.  When CalFresh enrolled families choose to spend 10 dollars at eligible farmers markets, they receive a 5 dollar credit toward an additional produce purchase.  ALBA both recruits farmers to sign up for this program and offers it as a purchase option for ALBA Organics stands at farmers markets.

Overall, ALBA has been quite successful.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture, between 1997 and 2002, the number of Latino farmers in Monterey County has increased 70%, and 264 Latino-owned farms have been established.  ALBA has specifically started 80 small farm businesses, and this growth occurred in spite of an overall decrease in the number of farms in the county within the same period.  And as a more indirect result, more Latinos are consuming organic in California and viewing the movement as less anglo-elitist.

According to its program manager, Nathan Harleroad, “A lot of farmworkers are working tirelessly to invest in their children’s futures, but ALBA gives them the opportunity to improve their lives within their lifetime”.  Furthermore, aside from the obvious financial benefits of rising up the occupational ladder, participants appreciate a number of other opportunities ALBA allots them. For instance, they appreciate that they no longer engage in the monotonous work of large scale farms; they appreciate that they are no longer are exposed to dangerous, cancer causing chemicals; and they appreciate the community, family friendly environment that the ALBA community creates.


Wozniacka, Gosia. “”Latinos Start Organic Farms with Help of New Programs””Huffington Post. N.p., Dec.-Jan. 2012. Web. 04 Mar. 2013.

Welcome to ALBA (Agriculture & Land-Based Training Association). RedShift Internet Services, Web. 4 Mar. 2013. <;.



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Food Security Awareness Among Migrant Farm Workers

By: Hannah Ross

In the United States, some of the most food insecure individuals are migrant farm workers and their families. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food security for a household means “access by all members at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Food security includes at a minimum “the ready availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods” as well as the “assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways” (USDA). Moreover, food security status is measured in four ranges: high food security, marginal food security, low food security, and very low food security (USDA). While migrant farm workers play a critical role in the United States’ agricultural sector by picking fruits and vegetables, many do not have the resources to be food secure. In a study looking at food security among agricultural workers in California’s Salinas Valley, only 34% of farmworkers participating in the study were food secure, leaving 66% of respondents to be food insecure. Of those participants, 53% had low food security and 13% had very low food security (Eastman, Kresge 2010: 12). The significance of these statistics is that they represent migrant farm worker populations across the United States, from the Carolinas to the Mexican border to Pennsylvania. Likewise, there are fundamental components that lead to food insecurity.

Chief factors attributing to food insecurity among this population are below poverty income levels and socioeconomic status. Farm workers typically earn minimum wage but that salary is not necessarily guaranteed if they are not legal citizens; thus, bosses often take advantage of their workers’ legal status and pay the bare minimum. In these situations, undocumented workers may be afraid to speak up and assert themselves due to fear of deportation. Furthermore, “many of these workers send remittance back to help their families in their home country, leaving them with even less money for their own health and nutrition needs” (Essa 2001: 74). Therefore, at the end of the day, migrant farm workers have very limited financial resources.

Cultural barriers as well, prove to be an influential predictor of food insecurity. In a study to assess nutrition, health, and food security among Latino farm/industry workers in Virginia, one participant stated, “We don’t know how to ask for what we need. We move so much from city to city. By the time we learn what is in the markets and where it is found, we move again and have to learn the new things in the new places. One of the biggest barriers is being new in a place and not being able to find our food” (Essa 2001: 59). As expressed by this individual, migrant farm workers who are new to the United States and unfamiliar to the foods in the country, do not necessarily know what to purchase and struggle even more because they do not have access to culturally relevant foods from home.

Another substantial factor contributing to food insecurity is the lack of physical access to grocery stores. Migrant farm workers who are not legal residents, and thus do not have a driver’s license, experience great difficulty in going food shopping. They often have to rely upon others to shop for them, and as a result, they might only receive groceries every few weeks. Additionally, most agricultural work takes place in rural areas, making food shopping inconvenient and time consuming for migrant workers. Therefore, the work Huertas is doing is especially significant because of Vermont’s rural landscape. Because of food insecurity, migrant farmers and their respective families are at great risk for and experience many nutrition-related health problems and concerns. In the coming weeks, I will discuss further the nutrition and health related implications of food insecurity which migrant farm workers confront.


Kresge, Lisa, and Chelsea Eastman. Increasing Food Security Among Agricultural Workers in California’s Salinas Valley. Rep. California Institute for Rural Studies, June 2010.

Essa, Jumanah S. Nutrition, Health, and Food Security Practices, Concerns, and Perceived Barriers of Latino Farm/industry Workers in Virginia. Thesis. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2001.

“Food Security in the U.S.” United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. <;.

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Understanding the Cuisine of Mexican Migrant Farmworkers

By: Sam Rothberg

We all get where we’re going because of history.  It precedes us and tends to shape our world.  More specifically, we eat because of how the people before us ate, what they craved, what they paid large amounts of money, or gold, for. We eat the way we do because of slave labor, because of newly opened shipping routes thanks to world discoverers, because of greedy royalty in Europe, because of how the people before us ate and what they would do to accomplish that not-so-simple task of survival.

I’m searching for a better idea of what migrant workers in Vermont originally ate before they traveled to the U.S. in hopes of a better life for their families. Of course, not all the migrant workers in Vermont come from the same country, and although most of them are from Mexico, the culture and foodways of the different states and regions of Mexico range greatly. Through this blog, I hope to better understand the original cuisine and foodways of the migrant workers in Vermont.  Although they do come from various places, the Huertas program director, Naomi, mentioned that more than 90% are from Mexico while others are from places geographically close to Mexico like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.   Naomi also mentioned that a majority of the Mexican migrant workers are from the southern state of Chiapas.

Nevertheless, it is important to understand the foodways of this population because they are key players in our economy yet they face real threats of food insecurity and hunger as well as obesity-related diseases such as diabetes.  In order to better understand their current foodways, I look to first understand how their original food system, more specifically that of Mexico, became what it is today.

There are two diets that largely affect the Mexican diet today: that of the Spaniards and that of the indigenous before the Spaniards arrived. Both of those diets have fused and transformed to make a rich diet today.  Among disease and war, the Spaniards brought important food crops like wheat, rice, animal protein such as pig, sugarcane and important vegetable crops like onions, garlic, carrots, lentils, lemons, limes and much more.

Of course, the two independent diets began to emerge into comida novohispana, which created a cuisine based on the blending of Old World and New World foods. One example being the mole poblano—a dish containing onions, ga

rlic, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, chicken or turkey served with tortillas.  What was most important, though, was that the Europeans provided fats to the indigenous diet, which completely transformed the cuisine. The technique of frying food, and including cheese in dishes became a mainstay in the food culture, which is why wonderfully engorging dishes like gorditas, quesadillas, tortas and tacos are still so popular today.  Beverages evolved as well. Pulque, emerged as one of the most common alcoholic beverage produced from the fermented juice of a maguey plant. And, as rice was introduced as a compliment to maize, the popular drink of rice, flour, sugar, cinnamon and ice called horchata emerged.

Despite all of the culinary introductions the Europeans made to Mexico, what was and still remains the core of Mexican diet is the holy grail of corn, beans, and chiles complimented by the mother of all Mexican foods: the tortilla.  The chile is the “most culturally meaningful of the three” according to Joy Adapon in her book, “Culinary Art and Anthropology”(Adapon, 7).  Of course, the traditional planting of the Milpa—corn, beans and squash together has highly influenced the Mexican diet producing popular dishes such as sopa de flor de calabaza which is made from all components of the Milpa including a fungus called huitelachoche that grows on the Maize, or corn, plant. The soup also contains ingredients important to Mexican cuisine such as squash blossoms, epazote (a popular herb), poblano chiles and nopales, or cactus.

By understanding how the cuisine has been ever-evolving into a very distinct flavor, we can better understand the foods which migrant workers in Vermont require for a healthy diet.  This is extremely important not only for maintaining a happy and sustainable life in such a wobbly and transitional world, but for supporting the food security of our migrant farm workers that provide so much to all of us here in Vermont.


Super, J. Vargas, L. The Cambridge World History of Food. Retrieved from

Adapon, J. (2008). Culinary Art and Anthropology. New York, NY: Berg Publishers.



Huerto de la Familia

By: Kristen Fedie

Huerto de la Familia (“The Family Garden”) is a non-profit organization in Eugene, Oregon that not only seeks to provide Latino families with access to organic gardens but also provides opportunities to start small food or farm businesses.  According to the organization, “offering people the opportunity and instruction to grow their own food is the most effective way to combat hunger and for people to put more nutritious food on the table” (huertodelafamilia.rog).  It is from this sentiment that the organization emerged.

Huerto de la Familia began in 1999 as a small volunteer community garden project aimed at supporting the region’s low-income Latino immigrant population.  Many immigrants are attracted to the region “for employment opportunities and to join family who came to the area previously” and as such the number of Latino immigrants in Eugene has grown significantly (  Most of the Latino immigrants in Eugene work in agriculture (often seasonally), forestry, construction, and food service, jobs traditionally granted low wages.  As a result, food insecurity was high within the population, an issue Huerto de la Familia sought to address.

At its inception, the Huerto de la Familia, headed by Sarah Cantril, “worked with six Latina women to develop a 300-square foot garden” in which organic and culturally relevant foods could be grown (Carruth).  Since 1999, Huerto de la Familia has been extremely successful, providing assistance to over 400 parents and children through supplying land, plants, seeds, and organic gardening materials.  The program currently operates three community gardens and a farm in Eugene, supporting over 50 families.

The main mission of Huerto de la Familia, a program rooted in a commitment to social equity, food justice, and sustainable agriculture, began as “to strive and alleviate poverty and hunger among low-income Latino families” (  However, due to the program’s success, this mission has expanded, emphasizing entrepreneurship and the importance of self-sufficiency.

In 2004, Huerto de la Familia extended its services to include support programs, organic gardening education, and workshops related to both health and food preservation; thus, enabling Latinos to start micro-enterprises and small businesses as a way in which to supplement low wages.  Additionally, in 2010, The Small Farmers’ Project, a farm-based business created through a partnership between Huerto de la Familia and Heifer International, provided low-income Latino famers with the opportunity to participate in a cooperative.  The Small Farmers’ Project graduated from the organization in 2011 and is now an independent business.

Huerto de la Familia “blends a commitment to social justice with an interest in entrepreneurship and the business of farming” and “while this melding of entrepreneurship and cooperative agriculture may be unfamiliar––and even unsettling––to some in the nonprofit sector, the Small Farmers Project has proven to be resourceful in defining their mission and obtaining seed money” (Carruth).  Huerto de la Familia has been recognized as not only valuable and innovative but also a national leader among the urban agricultural movement; the program received the Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award in 2009 as well as the Heifer International Golden Program Award in 2011.  Both the numerous successes of Huerto de la Familia do not end there.

The benefits of the program are more than monetary; additional positive results of Huerto de la Familia include: “spending time with family, interacting with the broader community, decreased stress, increased self-sufficiency and self esteem, and connecting to other programs” (  Ultimately, Huerto de la Familia demonstrates the many possibilities available to community garden programs aimed at providing Latino immigrants with not only food security but also access to culturally appropriate food choices.

The next two installments of this video series can be found at:


Carruth, Allison. “Huerto de la Familia: Leading the Urban Ag Movement,” 27 August 2010. Web. 1 March 2013. <>

Huerto de la Familia. Web. 1 March 2013. <>