Rigoberto Delgado, executive director of the National Immigrant Farming Initiative, says the median age for farmers is increasing and there are less young people interested in making the move into agricultural production. His organization is working to fill the increasing need for young farmers in rural America with immigrants.

“We saw that the rural farms, the small family farms, were disappearing,” says Delgado. “The newer generations are not replacing the parents and the grandparents on their farming activity.”

Delgado, who recently served as a panelist at the Southwest Marketing 1st annual Border Food Summit held in Rio Rico Arizona, says a large number of immigrants and refugees arrive in this country with a deep understanding and appreciation for sustainable farming and food systems. He points out these new residents are in a good position to step in and fill an increased demand for locally-grown, organic agricultural products.

Delgado says a broad range of people with expertise arrive in this country as refugees. “You have agronomists, veterinarians, and in the case of refugees they have no choice because they helped our armed forces,” says Dr. Delgado.

Agriculture in the countries of origin for many new arrivals usually means a small-scale operation, says Delgado. He says these techniques that make use of natural resources in a sustainable fashion are becoming increasingly desirable in the US.

He says his organization works with a broad range of new citizens to leverage their agricultural knowledge, and to help them become productive farmers in many parts of the country.