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AgHiRE: Professional Development for the Spanish-Speaking Farm Workforce

By Kathy Saechou

Agriculture is vital to our national and global economy, and the agricultural workforce is essential to sustaining the industry and a resilient food system. Today, farm employers encounter numerous obstacles in maintaining and expanding this evolving workforce to meet current and future demands. Specifically, the language barrier exists as a roadblock for both Spanish-speaking farmworkers who want to move into positions with more responsibility and farm employers who are seeking to fill vacant management positions. How can farm employers assist talented farm workers and employees in moving up the career ladder, which will also help to increase the productivity and competitiveness of their farming and business operations?

There have been many groups who have provided and are continuing to offer the necessary training and tools for current and aspiring farm employees to advance in their careers. The Center for Land-Based Learning, founded in Winters, California, in 1993, is a nonprofit that provides training, direction and resources to farmers, entrepreneurs and high school students through youth and adult programs across agricultural regions in California. Currently, the Center for Land-Based Learning is in the early stages of designing a leadership and development program for the Spanish-speaking agricultural workforce called AgHiRE, which is a program funded through the California Workforce Development Board High Road Training Partnership (HRTP) initiative.

The Center for Land-Based Learning, in partnership with Valley Vision, hosted an in-person luncheon with local farm employers and education partners on March 19th at the Yolo County Farm Bureau. At this event, results were shared from a survey of farm employers across California to learn more about their Spanish-speaking employee development needs. Local farm employers joined education partners in providing valuable insights and feedback for the initial proposed design of the AgHiRE program. More specifically, farm employers discussed what would work best for them and their workers, and what might be less feasible when considering topics like leadership and communications, English learning, digital skills, math skills and regulatory awareness. These were some of the key takeaways from farm employers at the luncheon:

  • Leadership & Communication skills are key for farm leaders, and relatively few resources exist to meet this need in Spanish
  • Professional development of the farm workforce will mutually require employees and employers to contribute a great deal of effort and some time to successfully develop talented individuals
  • Running a farm can be isolating– farm employers expressed optimism at discovering a sense of community and support for employee development and in the meeting, and looked forward to future collaboration

In the survey, farm employers expressed that the following sets of skills (see below image) were necessary for success in management positions. They also agreed that these skills must be taught in the context of their line of work and must be taught in combination with each other in order to be successful within a three month training program. For instance, leadership and communication skills should be taught in combination with the English language as well as regulatory awareness. 

By the end of the event, many farm employers were interested in serving on the advisory committee to help further develop the training program. Through the AgHiRE: Spanish-Language Leadership Program, the objective at the Center for Land-Based Learning is to help farm workers with high potential move up into more skilled positions, providing benefits to everyone.

To learn more about the Center for Land-Based Learning and their programs, visit their webpage here. To get involved with their AgHiRE: Spanish-Language Leadership Program, contact their California Farm Academy staff here.

Kathy Saechou is a Valley Vision Project Coordinator staffing the Clean Air & Climate and 21st Century Workforce Impact Areas.

Hilary Tellesen is a Valley Vision Senior Project Manager leading the 21st Century Workforce Impact Area.