Hacia el ranchito: Mexican immigrants, farming and sustainable rural livelihoods in Iowa
Latinos are the fastest growing ethnicity of farmers in Iowa and across the U.S., and 3.7 percent of Iowa's total population. This case study of four Mexican immigrant farmers explores why and how they farm in Iowa, and how agricultural institutions can support them. I conducted in-depth interviews and observation, using the Sustainable Rural Livelihoods framework in analysis. These farmers learned as children to tend livestock and butcher animals for home consumption. Each bought a small Iowa farmstead by assembling social, human and limited financial capital. They work off-farm fulltime, while on-farm producing meat, dairy, and/or vegetables for home consumption, and selling slaughter animals through networks of co-workers, friends and family. They are disconnected from farm agencies, and desire information in Spanish on regulations, production and marketing. This study suggests potential to develop institutional linkages that strengthen local food systems by building on Mexican immigrant farmer knowledge, practice and networks.