Main Street Project’s work on agriculture systems started in 2005 with a collaboration on an ambitious four-state, multi-year community building initiative called Raíces (roots)—organizing primarily with Latino youth and adults in diverse rural communities. Problem solving, bridge building, storytelling, empowerment, equity—the powerful goals of the Raíces program became the cornerstone of subsequent Main Street Project program efforts with rural and urban communities.
Since then, we’ve taken that experience and sharpened our strategic focus to work on building a resilient food and agriculture economy that offers pathways out of poverty for the low-wage, primarily Latino workforce. We’ve done this by developing new models of regenerative production systems that are accessible and affordable and provide opportunities for ownership and control that are key to building rural family and community prosperity.
Developing Our Poultry-Centered Model
In 2011 we launched a pilot effort in Northfield, Minnesota, to develop and test an approach for establishing small-scale poultry farms operated by Latino residents. We have focused on poultry because it is familiar across many cultures and geographic regions. We designed and implemented a Spanish-language training program, established local poultry farm incubator sites, and developed and served local markets. Dozens of aspiring Latino free-range poultry farmers have graduated from the program, and we have tested and refined our model to increase its environmental, economic and health impacts.
In 2013 we restructured our organization, directing all of our energies toward replacing the extreme inequities of the food system. Working with farmers, agricultural and environmental scientists, and the immigrant community, we have been building the infrastructure for an alternative food system that thrives on cultivating the potential of its human and ecological communities.
In 2015 we have been adapting our regenerative, poultry-centered agriculture model to emphasize egg rather than meat production, recognizing that eggs require less capital infrastructure to process and market.
We continue to work on developing a more robust program with international training capabilities. We have developed partnerships to build prototypes in Guatemala, Mexico and the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, to demonstrate and measure the system’s effectiveness in varying climates and ecologies.
Interest in our model – from collaborators, funders and potential implementers of such a model – is booming as we continue to put in the essential foundational work and testing needed to document that our system will be broadly viable.