Professor named to federal Advisory Committee on Minority Farmers

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Elsa Sánchez, professor of horticultural systems management in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, has been appointed to serve on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Advisory Committee on Minority Farmers.

“USDA is excited to announce new members of the Minority Farmer Advisory Committee,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “This diverse committee of talented farmers will play an important role in advising the USDA on challenges and opportunities that minority farmers in the United States may face.”

Elsa Sánchez, professor of horticultural systems management in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Credit: Elsa SánchezAll Rights Reserved.

The committee, which is managed by USDA’s Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement, consists of 15 members, including representatives of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, nonprofit organizations, civil rights organizations or professions, and institutions of higher education.

Congress authorized the committee in 2008. Since its inception, it has advised the secretary and USDA on the implementation of the Section 2501 Program of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation and Trade Act of 1990; on methods of maximizing the participation of socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in USDA programs; and on civil rights activities within the agency.

As a commercial vegetable crops extension specialist, Sánchez works closely with farmers and farmer-centered organizations including the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association and Pasa Sustainable Agriculture.

“The U.S. is becoming more multicultural, and minorities are playing a larger role in agriculture,” Sánchez said. “There often are barriers that prevent minorities from fully participating in programs or accessing resources available for farmers. We need a systematic change in how we develop programs and disseminate resources to remove barriers and increase our reach to minority farmers.”

Her efforts to empower minority farmers include spearheading professional development events for Penn State Extension educators aimed at creating a sense of belonging for Hispanic/Latinx farmers and farm workers; sharing program successes with other agricultural educators; and supporting the inclusion of women and minority farmers on statewide farmer advisory boards.  

“We are so proud of Dr. Sánchez’s appointment and service on the USDA Advisory Committee on Minority Farmers,” said Erin Connolly, head of the Department of Plant Science. “She is an outstanding researcher, teacher and educator whose academic work often has addressed challenges faced by minority farmers. She is well qualified to take on this task and provide guidance that leads to positive change.”

Additionally, Sánchez is a faculty leader of the Latinx Agricultural Network, a strategic planning group at Penn State that seeks to enhance engagement with and provide support to Pennsylvania’s Latinx agricultural community.

The group’s goal is to build on Penn State Extension’s history of outreach to the Latinx community. Programs include bilingual workshops, online education and fact sheets on topics such as farm safety, good agricultural practices and the federal Food Safety and Modernization Act.

“Pennsylvania has one of the fastest-growing Latinx populations in the nation,” said Carolee Bull, head of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology, who is among those leading the Latinx Agricultural Network.

“Dr. Sánchez has been ahead of the curve in helping to provide programming that directly meets the needs of these communities. As a Latinx Agricultural Network leader, she continually guides the group away from our biases and encourages us to take direction from those we hope to serve. I am sure she will do the same for this commission.”

Sánchez holds a doctorate in horticulture from Washington State University, and master’s and bachelor's degrees in agricultural biology and horticulture, respectively, from New Mexico State University.

She has secured more than $2.7 million in support for her research and extension programs from national, state and local resources and has written or co-written 19 articles for national journals.

Last Updated April 15, 2021