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Farmer

Darren Reinhart, farm loan officer at Farm Service Agency, stands by Lucia Schulz, project specialist at Center for Rural Affairs, at Centro Hispano on May 17. 

Center for Rural Affairs continued its mission on May 17 of educating underserved populations consisting of Latinos, women and veterans through its Beginning Latino Farmer classes catered for people who are interested in diving into the farming industry.

The United States Department of Agriculture defined beginning farmers as individuals who have not operated a farm for more than 10 consecutive years.

A survey conducted by Center for Rural Affairs showcased the constant growth of the Latino population in Nebraska, as well as the population’s growing interest in the farming business.

Lucia Schulz, project specialist at Center for Rural Affairs, said many Latinos farmed in their home countries and are interested in implementing their skills in the U.S.

The center just wrapped up its Beginning Latino Farmer classes in Lexington and held the first session at Centro Hispano in Columbus. The overall course is broken down into three bilingual sessions covering different aspects of the industry that will be applicable for beginners and experts in the field.

Schulz said beginners struggle the most when obtaining land, which is the necessary first step. She said there are many ways for beginners to acquire land for farming, such as renting, borrowing, applying for loans through the Farm Service Agency or simply purchasing land.

The first session was led by Darren Reinhart, farm loan officer at Farm Service Agency, who spoke about the different loans his organization offers. Reinhart said loans can benefit individuals of all backgrounds interested in farming.

“These loans could be for machinery, seeds, land,” Schulz added. “Also buying livestock.”

Reinhart is no stranger when it comes to advocating for the agency’s loan programs. He recently visited Schuyler Public Library and Schuyler Community Schools for agricultural presentations. He encouraged people to take advantage of the services, especially when it comes to purchasing machinery and land.

“A lot of times, especially our guys in full-time production and agriculture, they can’t buy their first farm without us,” he said.

Schulz said the language is the most common barrier among the Latino population, followed by the issues of trust. She said there are many cases where agencies have reached out to this community with failed promises.

Reinhart said he is working hard to spread the word to the Latino population while gaining their trust.

“I think we've got to break some barriers there and earn the trust of the community and show that it works for them,” Reinhart said. “Agriculture is not easy to get into. You got to have a place to conduct your business.”

The second session takes place on May 24 covering the topic of animal and produce production.

The final session, on May 31, will examine programs provided by Natural Resources Conservation Service State, which includes education on conserving soil. Attendees will learn steps to care for their soil, making sure it is healthy and ways to identify land erosion.

“Through NRCS, we not only provide the information, but we also promote or encourage existing farmers to come and speak to the different ones to let them know how they benefited from the different programs,” she said.

This is the center’s third year conducting the programs. Schulz said the classes can teach farmers important skills to create more viable farms and businesses. 

“So for us to go in there and to at least have a couple of success stories has been really good for us,” she said.

People who are interested in taking part in these classes can contact Schulz at 402-750-5727 or lucias@cfra.org.

Natasya Ong is a reporter at The Columbus Telegram. Reach her via email at natasya.ong@lee.net.

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