What is a "Limited-Resource" Producer?
What is a Limited-Resource Producer?
|By raising high quality organic fruits and vegetables, Virginia mountain farmers have realized new profits and a rewarding way of life after tobacco production. |
Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Development.
Educators face unique challenges working with producers who lack economic resources, formal education and/ or access to government resources. Those landowners, sometimes referred to as limited resource producers, can be found across the nation, from new immigrants to generations of the rural poor. Extension and education programs addressing such producers usually need different, innovative approaches.
There is a reality of limited resource out there that defines an audience without educational base, without capital and without a voice in their community that could really profit from extension educational programs to improve their well-being, said OSullivan, who jointly drafted a guide of successful educational strategies with a team of university specialists.
OSullivan and others at the 1890s historically black university develop programs to benefit North Carolinas under-served producers. Like many other extension educators, the NC A&T group is grappling with the best way to meet their mandate to help them.
|Limited resource farmers, as described by the U. S. Department of Agricultures Natural Resources Conservation Service, have one or more of the following characteristics:|
|Gross farm sales average $40,000 or less in each of the last three years, and there is no non-farm income.|
|Total household net income, farm and non-farm, is 75 percent or less of the non-metropolitan median income level for the state or county.|
|Lack of access to capital, labor, or equipment.|
|Farm or ranch size is significantly smaller than average size.|
|Social, cultural, customs or language barriers, minimal awareness of USDA programs, limited management skills, the level of formal education is below the county average or undereducated, and are less likely to take business risks and adopt new technology.|
|NRCS note: The fifth category ... (is) being bypassed by the institutions that were set up to serve them. This is because agencies and institutions have not changed along with the technological and societal changes that have occurred during the past half-century.|
What Do Farmers Want?
The goals of many small farmers remain modest, according to a 2001 report, Developing Programs from the Grassroots, which rated the needs of limited-resource farmers through focus groups. Most of the 119 participants, sponsored by the Rural Coalition, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., expressed a desire to earn a good living from the land. However, many feel that past and current discrimination toward them may hamper them from achieving that goal.
Educators must be prepared for the mistrust and lack of credibility toward USDA that many producers feel, based on their past and sometimes current experiences, said Lorette Picciano, Rural Coalition executive director. This is a key reason why minority farmers have lost land and have small holdings. In the study, we found that over 30 percent of the farmers who had applied for USDA loans were denied.
To reach their goals, the focus group participants expressed a need for equal access to government programs and credit for both short-term operating funds and long-term improvements. A big step forward for producers on Maryland and Delawares Eastern Shore was achieving a better understanding of credit and loan programs.
When assistance programs are offered, progressive farmers respond first, said Dean Purnell of Delaware State University, who runs a small farm program funded by USDAs 2501 program for socially-disadvantaged producers. Last comes the limited-resource farmers, partly because of social and psychological issues. Tradition carries a lot of weight, so many of these farmers are hesitant to change.
Moreover, the focus group farmers said they need access to accurate information from service providers genuinely interested in their livelihoods.
It is clear that they will need assistance to stay on the land and reach these goals, the Grassroots report states. They have shown that programs must be more responsive to local needs, easily accessible and use locally relevant communication channels.