In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of bilingual UF/IFAS Extension agents has created a series of educational videos to market its services and provide educational information to underserved Spanish-speaking audiences throughout Florida.
Known as the CAFÉ Latino (the Coalition of Florida Extension for Latino/Hispanics), the 45-member volunteer group of UF/IFAS Extension faculty works as a grass-roots organization to serve Florida’s 67 counties. CAFÉ Latino translates, disseminates and connects Hispanic and Latinx residents with information, resources and programming, specifically for non-English speaking residents.
This time of social distancing makes the videos even more crucial, and the need for them is even more pronounced by the recent news about a sharp increase in COVID-19 infection rates in Florida’s Hispanic communities, said Jonael Bosques-Mendez, director of UF/IFAS Extension Hardee County and a CAFE Latino volunteer.
“These are people who work our fields to provide food to your tables,” he said. “These underserved populations have been devastated by COVID-19, and UF/IFAS Extension publications are available with specific instructions on how to protect themselves.”
The videos, titled, “Produciendo en Tiempos de Distanciamiento Social,” are their latest effort. They’re aimed at helping those whose primary language is Spanish and to do so at a time of social distancing.
“In an attempt to better reach Spanish-speaking audiences, CAFÉ Latino members have created a science-based series of videos interviews and demonstrative videos,” said Francisco Rivera, an agricultural agent with UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County and a member of CAFÉ Latino.
The videos cover soil nutrition, farm business planning, reproductive management of beef cattle, 4-H youth development, plant genetic selection, ornamental horticulture and many more topics.
CAFÉ Latino faculty are also translating UF/IFAS Extension documents known as the Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS).
Through various platforms, the faculty hope to alleviate panic, prevent the spread of misinformation and ultimately improve lives. You can log onto YouTube to find the latest videos from CAFE Latino.
Among other things, the material provided by CAFE Latino helps business owners implement protective practices to safeguard employees and clients, Bosques-Mendez said.
The idea for the videos stemmed from a need CAFE Latino faculty saw to help those who were either laid off or working from home.
“From our initial videos, we were contacted by a community that’s in both Puerto Rico and Florida that wanted to learn about backyard chicken production,” Bosques-Mendez said.
CAFE Latino met with the group several times to gauge their needs, developed surveys and conducted two workshops. As a result, the community organized a leadership structure in which they are now buying in bulk and contacting their county Extension agent.
The group also has adopted recommended practices in food safety regarding egg-handling, biosecurity and appropriate ways to reuse poultry waste by composting it and reusing it to fertilize their crops. This reduces the chance for environmental issues associated with nutrient runoff, Bosques-Mendez said.
“Today, more than ever, we see the need to empower as many people as we can in our imperfect society with meaningful and relevant experiences that provide positive change to individuals,” he said. “UF/IFAS Extension utilizes many educators who are willing to facilitate their subject-matter expertise with those that fall in the 20.2% of Florida’s population – people who only speak Spanish, but who need the resources we typically provide in English.”
Without these videos, it would be impossible to reach the wide audiences CAFÉ Latino seeks to attain, he said. All this effort helps improve communities, provide for a more sufficient food system and preserve the environment.
“Through science-based learning, stemming from research results conducted in Florida, agricultural enterprises, families and individuals can learn, reevaluate their management practices and adopt the recommendations we discuss in these videos in an accessible way,” Bosques-Mendez said. “And they can do so without having to leave the comfort of their home, and in their native language.
“CAFÉ Latino exists to promote cultural awareness, diversity and inclusion,” said John Diaz, chair of CAFÉ Latino and a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication in the UF/IFAS Plant City office. “At a time when we are in a health crisis, there is a need for dissemination of information in Spanish and that is culturally relevant. We are serving organizations and agencies with those cultural competencies and more.”
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)
is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make
that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than
a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty
in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions
to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.