Growing potential: How to recruit more Latino students into agriculture

The Latinos in Agriculture Leaders Forum recently convened in San Antonio, Texas. Jamie Cano and Warren Tyler Agner attended the forum with financial support from the CFAES Professional Development Support Fund. The Leaders Forum brought together representatives from industry, government, and education to dialogue about how to capitalize on the potential Latino talent in the field of agriculture.

To put the forum in perspective, demographic data was presented to highlight the crisis facing agriculture. Based on 2008 data from the Food and Agricultural Education Information System (FAEIS), enrollment data for minorities was alarming. There were a total of 251,422 students enrolled in agriculture-related fields, with minority students constituting a small percentage. Overall, enrollment for Latino students was 4.5 percent, or 11,353 students, in 2008. 

The broad support and engagement in evidence encouraged those in attendance ... to create building blocks for implementing positive changes.

Furthermore, the statistics for minority students enrolling in agriculture are alarming. Latinos will impact the future of our society and will have the potential to impact agriculture. Collectively, educators must do a better job of educating and informing Latinos of the opportunities afforded them in agriculture in order to stay competitive in the marketplace. Therefore, given the rapidly changing demographics and the low numbers of Latino students entering agriculture, it is time to explore ways to address this crisis.

The three-day agenda also included a series of presentations and discussion panels related to changing the perceptions of agriculture and increasing the educational pipeline of Latino students for the transformation of the future agricultural workforce. Among the topics were best practices for recruitment and retention, proven methods of recruiting Latino students into agriculture, the role that college advisors play in building an educational pipeline, ands strategies in promoting agricultural literacy to a greater population. Furthermore, there were presentations related to career opportunities for Latinos in higher education and utilizing social media to recruit and retain Latino students.

Sharing of stories, best practices

Included on the agenda was a panel discussion titled "What Will It Take to Recruit Me? Latino Students Sharing their Perspective." The students on the panel shared their personal stories about how they became involved in agriculture and what strategies can be considered when recruiting Latino students into agriculture. Many heartfelt stories were shared of the struggles taken to reach higher education by many of the Latino students.

The broad support and engagement in evidence at the forum encouraged those in attendance to continue to build on what was learned from experts and best practices at the forum, and to create building blocks for implementing positive changes in agriculture with the Latino communities in the U.S.

-- Warren Tyler Agner and Jamie Cano, Human and Community Resource Development