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Blending of cultures may be blueprint for growth

From: Harvest Public Media Group
Series: Farmer of the Future
Length: 05:26

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While some of the rural Midwest is hollowing out, regions like Sioux County, Iowa, are actually growing, thanks largely to immigrant populations moving in to take jobs that employers otherwise cannot fill. Melding cultures is never easy, but in communities like Sioux County, Latinos are slowly making the Midwest their home.

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Who is the farmer of the future?

That’s the question being posed by Harvest Public Media in a weeklong series that explores how demographic, technological and cultural forces will shape America’s food producers into the next decade and beyond.

We begin with a story from Kathleen Masterson, who reports that while much of the rural Midwest is hollowing out – some small regions are actually GROWING, largely due to immigration populations taking ag-related jobs that otherwise employers cannot fill. Melding cultures is never easy, but in communities like Sioux County, Iowa… there's a mutual reliance… and slowly members of the Latino community are changing the landscape of the rural Midwest.

Full Story:

Who is the farmer of the future?

That’s the question being posed by Harvest Public Media in a weeklong series that explores how demographic, technological and cultural forces will shape America’s food producers into the next decade and beyond.

We begin with a story from Kathleen Masterson, who reports that while much of the rural Midwest is hollowing out – some small regions are actually GROWING, largely due to immigration populations taking ag-related jobs that otherwise employers cannot fill. Melding cultures is never easy, but in communities like Sioux County, Iowa… there's a mutual reliance… and slowly members of the Latino community are changing the landscape of the rural Midwest.

OPEN---

This corner of northwest Iowa is known for its Dutch pastries; the landscape is dotted with Lutheran and reform churches. But now, Catholic churches and tortillerias are creeping into the landscape … signs of the new residents joining this vibrant community.

Terry van Maanen runs Winding Meadows dairy in Sioux County Iowa. He bought the family farm from his father in the 80s. His farm itself is indicative of how much the region has changed in the last few decades:

Windingmeadows-dairy-SCENE (10) :

MEX MUSIC… Km: is this the end of shift? Martin: Me no speak English -- TVM: check your spanish out talking to Martin...

The workers are cleaning out the milking parlor before bringing in the next batch of cows. Van Maanen explains the 600-cow operation runs 24 hours a day, every day of the week-- even on Christmas .

Vanmannen2 (06)-- I mean you get people apply for a job here, and 'Oh, weekends and nights?' -- oh, no, not interested…

Van Maanen says about TWO THIRDS (7/11) of his workers are Latino.

Vanmaanen1 (19) : I honestly think I could not run my business if all these, the guys that are working for me, were to leave and I had to fill them with non-Hispanic help. I think I'd have to close the door. (laughs) It would be tough.

Some of Van Maanen's staff, Anglo and Latino, have been with him over 10 years. He says everyone gets along well in the workplace, even though not all employees speak English.

But when it comes to mixing outside of work -- Van Maanen says the Anglo and Latino cultures have been slower to SOCIALIZE. (17)

Vanmaanen3 (13) -- The schools, I think, kinda brings everybody together, when their families have kids that go to the community school, I think it gives us a common entity to circle around.

Latino children make up about 20 percent of the classrooms in Sioux Center and nearby towns. Overall, the town’s population has grown 17 percent -- and the county is up 7 percent over the last decade. Meanwhile most of rural Iowa is LOSING people…91 of Iowa’s 99 counties have declined by about 9 percent over the last three decades.

So it's not just about labor -- if Sioux County is any indication -- for some Midwestern communities, immigrant populations could be an important part of keeping rural culture alive.

Back in the milking parlor at Winding Meadows Dairy, there's the whirring of the giant pumps moving milk out to stainless steel tank (NAT SOUND)

Luis Campos , the parlor manager, says he came to the US illegally but he married a US citizen and got his papers. Still it took him a while to adjust to Iowa:

Luis2 (21)- At first, yeah it's too hard for me. Especially when I was single, but now I got a kids-- my kids now they like here. They born here. In America. The schools in here is better, you know, everything is better here.

When I asked if felt comfortable in the culture, Campos said now he considers himself: (04)

Luis2b (08): I am, most, maybe half and half. Half mine and half like you guys.

As far as community involvement -- Campos is really involved. But mostly in the Latino community: he leads the Mexican totonaca dancing at a local catholic church, and teaches Sunday school to kindergarteners.

Enrique Luevano also really likes living in Iowa. Originally from Mexico, he's lived here for 15 years now, and worked his way up to a supervisor at the pork processing plant Natural Food Holdings. He says Latino and Anglo cultures are still fairly separate.

Enrique2 (15) -- We respect each other, that's what is nice about here, you don't hear about people fighting because of the color of their skin. Here everybody minds their own business, and away we go.

Luevano is now a legal resident. BUT MANY others LIVE IN constant fear, community advocates say. They've established families and lives here, but if they're pulled over coming back from the grocery store, they could be deported within days.

Still there are signs Latinos are making a home here. There are bilingual churches, local volunteers teach English night classes, and law enforcement has had training on working in a diverse community.

And these new residents are an important part of the community -- and its future, says Gary Malenke, the president of the Natural Food Holdings pork processing plant.

Gary 1 (12): Misconception I think that people have is that, I think people believe that oh, these immigrants are stealing all these jobs-- we don't see that here, ok, we just don't.

Malenke says there's a real need for laborers --in dairies, hog confinements, poultry farms and general construction, too.

Not only are immigrants helping buoy the farm economy, but their children are American citizens -- they're part of church communities and schools and sports teams.

Malenke2 (19)-- There's a lot of progress in these communities, I mean in Sioux Center they're going to build a hospital, a $48 million dollar hospital, not just a hospital. And that's the kind of things that are happening in these communities, which, face it, that tells you that businesses are doing well.

And when communities do well – it gives everybody options. The kids of these immigrant workers – just like other rural kids in the Midwest, are not all going into farm work. Some want to be doctors, teachers and business owners. And just like generations before -- because of their parents' hard work, they'll have that opportunity.

I'm Kathleen Masterson, HPM.

Piece Description

Who is the farmer of the future?

That’s the question being posed by Harvest Public Media in a weeklong series that explores how demographic, technological and cultural forces will shape America’s food producers into the next decade and beyond.

We begin with a story from Kathleen Masterson, who reports that while much of the rural Midwest is hollowing out – some small regions are actually GROWING, largely due to immigration populations taking ag-related jobs that otherwise employers cannot fill. Melding cultures is never easy, but in communities like Sioux County, Iowa… there's a mutual reliance… and slowly members of the Latino community are changing the landscape of the rural Midwest.

Full Story:

Who is the farmer of the future?

That’s the question being posed by Harvest Public Media in a weeklong series that explores how demographic, technological and cultural forces will shape America’s food producers into the next decade and beyond.

We begin with a story from Kathleen Masterson, who reports that while much of the rural Midwest is hollowing out – some small regions are actually GROWING, largely due to immigration populations taking ag-related jobs that otherwise employers cannot fill. Melding cultures is never easy, but in communities like Sioux County, Iowa… there's a mutual reliance… and slowly members of the Latino community are changing the landscape of the rural Midwest.

OPEN---

This corner of northwest Iowa is known for its Dutch pastries; the landscape is dotted with Lutheran and reform churches. But now, Catholic churches and tortillerias are creeping into the landscape … signs of the new residents joining this vibrant community.

Terry van Maanen runs Winding Meadows dairy in Sioux County Iowa. He bought the family farm from his father in the 80s. His farm itself is indicative of how much the region has changed in the last few decades:

Windingmeadows-dairy-SCENE (10) :

MEX MUSIC… Km: is this the end of shift? Martin: Me no speak English -- TVM: check your spanish out talking to Martin...

The workers are cleaning out the milking parlor before bringing in the next batch of cows. Van Maanen explains the 600-cow operation runs 24 hours a day, every day of the week-- even on Christmas .

Vanmannen2 (06)-- I mean you get people apply for a job here, and 'Oh, weekends and nights?' -- oh, no, not interested…

Van Maanen says about TWO THIRDS (7/11) of his workers are Latino.

Vanmaanen1 (19) : I honestly think I could not run my business if all these, the guys that are working for me, were to leave and I had to fill them with non-Hispanic help. I think I'd have to close the door. (laughs) It would be tough.

Some of Van Maanen's staff, Anglo and Latino, have been with him over 10 years. He says everyone gets along well in the workplace, even though not all employees speak English.

But when it comes to mixing outside of work -- Van Maanen says the Anglo and Latino cultures have been slower to SOCIALIZE. (17)

Vanmaanen3 (13) -- The schools, I think, kinda brings everybody together, when their families have kids that go to the community school, I think it gives us a common entity to circle around.

Latino children make up about 20 percent of the classrooms in Sioux Center and nearby towns. Overall, the town’s population has grown 17 percent -- and the county is up 7 percent over the last decade. Meanwhile most of rural Iowa is LOSING people…91 of Iowa’s 99 counties have declined by about 9 percent over the last three decades.

So it's not just about labor -- if Sioux County is any indication -- for some Midwestern communities, immigrant populations could be an important part of keeping rural culture alive.

Back in the milking parlor at Winding Meadows Dairy, there's the whirring of the giant pumps moving milk out to stainless steel tank (NAT SOUND)

Luis Campos , the parlor manager, says he came to the US illegally but he married a US citizen and got his papers. Still it took him a while to adjust to Iowa:

Luis2 (21)- At first, yeah it's too hard for me. Especially when I was single, but now I got a kids-- my kids now they like here. They born here. In America. The schools in here is better, you know, everything is better here.

When I asked if felt comfortable in the culture, Campos said now he considers himself: (04)

Luis2b (08): I am, most, maybe half and half. Half mine and half like you guys.

As far as community involvement -- Campos is really involved. But mostly in the Latino community: he leads the Mexican totonaca dancing at a local catholic church, and teaches Sunday school to kindergarteners.

Enrique Luevano also really likes living in Iowa. Originally from Mexico, he's lived here for 15 years now, and worked his way up to a supervisor at the pork processing plant Natural Food Holdings. He says Latino and Anglo cultures are still fairly separate.

Enrique2 (15) -- We respect each other, that's what is nice about here, you don't hear about people fighting because of the color of their skin. Here everybody minds their own business, and away we go.

Luevano is now a legal resident. BUT MANY others LIVE IN constant fear, community advocates say. They've established families and lives here, but if they're pulled over coming back from the grocery store, they could be deported within days.

Still there are signs Latinos are making a home here. There are bilingual churches, local volunteers teach English night classes, and law enforcement has had training on working in a diverse community.

And these new residents are an important part of the community -- and its future, says Gary Malenke, the president of the Natural Food Holdings pork processing plant.

Gary 1 (12): Misconception I think that people have is that, I think people believe that oh, these immigrants are stealing all these jobs-- we don't see that here, ok, we just don't.

Malenke says there's a real need for laborers --in dairies, hog confinements, poultry farms and general construction, too.

Not only are immigrants helping buoy the farm economy, but their children are American citizens -- they're part of church communities and schools and sports teams.

Malenke2 (19)-- There's a lot of progress in these communities, I mean in Sioux Center they're going to build a hospital, a $48 million dollar hospital, not just a hospital. And that's the kind of things that are happening in these communities, which, face it, that tells you that businesses are doing well.

And when communities do well – it gives everybody options. The kids of these immigrant workers – just like other rural kids in the Midwest, are not all going into farm work. Some want to be doctors, teachers and business owners. And just like generations before -- because of their parents' hard work, they'll have that opportunity.

I'm Kathleen Masterson, HPM.