Making Life Better: Penn State seeking to address Latinx community needs

PHOTO PROVIDED The Latinx Agricultural Network is part of a project spearheaded at Penn State by Ilse Huerta, left, a doctoral candidate in Agricultural and Extension Education, and Emma Rosenthal, a doctoral candidate in Plant Pathology.


In my last article, I highlighted areas in which Penn State Extension provides services, and I made a call to community members to reach out to us with ideas on how we can best address their needs. Just like Penn State is committed to educational equity, Penn State Extension is engaged in reaching out to all members of our community, independently of their race and ethnicity, color, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and life experience, national origin, or physical capabilities.

For example, an outstanding effort is the Latino Community Outreach, led by Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch, Tara Baugher, Lee Stivers, Elsa Sanchez and other members of the Horticulture Team who have offered bilingual workshops, fact sheets and online education on good agricultural practices, farm safety, pesticide safety, and the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

In an article published in Penn State News, Gorgo-Gourovitch indicated, “Trainings are most effective when language, cultural, economic and social factors of the audience are considered. When all these factors are taken into consideration, you can tell the audience and presenters feel comfortable and share a sense of community. You can see the interactive conversations and feel the energy of engagement.”

More recently, a new strategic planning group called the Latinx Agricultural Network was created at Penn State. Latinx is a gender-neutral term to refer to people with a Latin American heritage.

The newly formed group seeks to further improve the already ongoing efforts to reach out to PA Latinx agricultural community. The group will build strategically on the experiences of the Latino Community Outreach program, and is led by Ilse Huerta, a graduate student in Agricultural and Extension Education, and Emma Rosenthal a graduate student in Plant Pathology, with the help of Carolee Bull (professor and Department Head of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology), Maria Gorgo-Gourovitch, Elsa Sanchez, Lee Stivers, Tara Baugher, Kathy Sexsmith (professor of Rural Sociology), and Melanie Foster-Miller (professor of International Agriculture).

The group also includes Ed Rajotte (professor of Entomology), Suzanne Weltman (Nutrition Links regional coordinator), Joshua Rice (Penn State Extension assistant director for 4-H youth development programs), Katherine Cason (Penn State Extension acting Associate Director for Programs), Jaime Garcia Prudencio (professor, Spanish for Agriculture Program), Carlos Roberto Quesada Machigua (Penn State Pesticide Education extension educator), Mauricio Rosales (former dairy extension educator), and myself.

I joined the group just in time to participate in a retreat with leaders of the Latinx community last September. In my opinion, the way the meeting was conducted, and the meeting outputs, are examples of true extension work. The meeting room soon became a space where participants freely expressed their needs and concerns about a broad range of issues, beyond agricultural education, that are currently affecting the community, and where Penn State could provide training and support.

I am sure that some of the issues raised are not restricted to the Latinx community, so this experience could be applied to enhance our engagement with other communities as well. The door will always be open for anybody who wants to positively contribute to the well being of our communities.

The Latinx Agricultural Network initiative is funded by two Penn State Extension Impact Awards, a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, and a PA IPM Program grant, with support from the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology and the College of Agricultural Science’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.

Questions? I can be reached via email (axm1119@psu.edu) or at the Penn State Extension Office in Bellefonte by phone 814-355-4897.


Adriana Murillo-Williams is an Agronomy Educator with Penn State Extension.


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