South Dakota State University receives Community Innovation Grant

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Working to integrate immigrant workers into the South Dakota communities where they live is the focus of a $9,961 Community Innovation Grant awarded to South Dakota State University by the South Dakota Community Foundation.

“Many immigrant workers hired to work on South Dakota dairies find it difficult to feel welcome in the community due to language and cultural barriers, resulting in poor integration and a transient stereotype,” explained Karla Hernandez, SDSU Extension Forages Field Specialist.

Hernandez is among a team of experts from SDSU Extension working with the “Upper Midwest-Puerto Rico Educational Collaborative (UMPREC)” project to build capacity for the South Dakota dairy industry by creating a path to recruit legal Puerto Rican workers. Other team members include Maristela Rovai, Assistant Professor & SDSU Extension Dairy Specialist and Alvaro Garcia, SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Director & Professor.

“South Dakota dairies face a shortage of workers to produce a safe, affordable food supply. A common method is to hire immigrant labor. One way to sustain our existing communities, economic opportunities for growth within this industry is needed,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez, Rovai and Garcia will use the grant funds to recruit Puerto Rican workers for the South Dakota dairy industry; develop comprehensive training program in both English and Spanish and provide on-going training to improve and refine skills necessary for successful dairy farm employment. Concurrent activities with community partners will work to affect successful integration.

“A properly trained labor force reduces accidents and injuries, produces a safe food supply and contributes to industry sustainability,” Hernandez said. “Local communities depend on the economic support of the farms and allied industries doing business with the dairies and employees. The general public relies on the farms for a safe and affordable food supply and dairies require a workforce legally able to work with a long-term commitment to both the farm and local community.”

She added that by collaborating with employers and community leaders, an environment can be created where immigrants feel at home and settled.

“Offering Puerto Rican workers employment with our dairies leads to a less transient image as they integrate, contribute to the local economy and cultural richness of the community,” she said.

The training will address not only current industry standards in dairy farming but will also address social and cultural differences.

To learn more about the South Dakota Community Foundation, visit