By: Morse L. Brown, MIFFS Multicultural
Farmers Program Program Director
January 21, 2008: Larry Swain, Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) Certification and IPM Program Manager, was pleasantly surprised when arriving at the first session of the Pesticide Education Workshop last fall when he saw the parking lot at Maria’s Lonestar Hometown Restaurant and Pub full of pickup trucks and cars. Most of those vehicles belonged to the 26 Hispanic farmers waiting anxiously inside for their first workshop sessions on pesticide education, hosted by MDA and Michigan Food & Farming Systems - MIFFS.
These workshops, held on November 14, 28 and December 15, 2007, were planned to provide training to our minority and limited resource farmers in Michigan, who are mostly Hispanics and African Americans. This workshop was unique because, for the first time, we had 26 Hispanics and two African American farmers attend. We also had one Caucasian female. The congratulations for this turnout can be attributed to excellent on-on-one contact work done by Estella Rodriquez, MIFFS Multicultural Farmers Program Hispanic Outreach Coordinator.
The culmination of these three workshops resulted in 15 farmers being certified as Private Applicators. The pesticide exam was given on December 15, 2007, and 100% of those taking the exam passed!
Larry Swain and Antonio Castro-Escobar of MDA and myself, Morse Brown, MIFFS Multicultural Farmer Program Manager, planned and presented these programs to the interested farmers.
This was the first time that we taught most of the classes in Spanish, and I translated in English because the majority of our workshop attendees were Hispanic. We thought that this was a nice problem to have since most of the growth in the farm population in southwest Michigan is Hispanic farmers.
The partnership between the MDA and MIFFS began when MIFFS was founded ten years ago. Larry Swain, MDA Certification and IPM Program Manager, was already working with limited resource and minority farmers, especially in southwest Michigan with the fast-growing population of Hispanic farmers when MIFFS got involved.
MDA and MIFFS in this partnership have certified more minorities and limited resource farmers than any other organizations in Michigan. This has happened because we focus intently on reaching these audiences. We are proud of our effort because of the positive impact of having farmers equipped with the knowledge of proper pesticide application, which results in saving lives and preventing illnesses related to improper pesticide use.
We look forward to partnering and doing more of this work in 2008.