For nearly 15 years, the Adelante Mujeres organization has been inspiring local Latina women and their families to become community leaders, helping strengthen the Latino presence in Oregon – including those in the agricultural world.
Based in Forest Grove, Adelante Mujeres has worked with more than 3,500 families since its beginning in 2002, empowering and educating low-income Latina women and their families. The organization’s goal: ensure that Latinos are active in their communities.
To carry out this mission, Adelante Mujeres’ participants take part in a variety of holistic programs, such as Adult Education, Chicas Youth Development – and the 14-week class series, Sustainable Agriculture. Alejandro Tecum, director of Sustainable Agriculture, says many Latinos already have an ag background. Also, agriculture is critical to life and the foundation of the economy, he adds. In 2004, the organization reopened the inactive Forest Grove Farmers Market for the program. So far, Sustainable Agriculture has helped nearly 275 people.
“We saw it as an opportunity for our participants to practice a skill they enjoy, and we were right,” Tecum says. “Since the beginning, those who attended the first meeting demonstrated their desire to participate in the farmers market by selling fruits and vegetables that they grew themselves.”
However, he says, they needed to learn how to grow crops in Oregon, which has a much different climate than their countries of origin. Plus, many only had experience with conventional growing practices.
“We put together a program that would train Latino farmers on how to grow food using sustainable techniques,” Tecum says. “Over the years, we have realized that it was the right decision to make because many families who have participated in the program are now growing vegetables for their own consumption or to sell.”