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Pollinators, Pesticides and Peaches

Professors’ Blog Expands Access to Agricultural and Nature Information for Spanish Speakers

By Lucy Hubbard ’24

Collage of two researchers with closeup of a beehive in the background; one is wearing a scarf and glasses and the other is in an apple orchard

From left, Anahí Espíndola, assistant professor of entomology, and Macarena Farcuh, assistant professor of horticulture, will receive the 2023 Science Communication Runner-Up Award from the Entomological Society of America next month, recognizing their "Extensión en Español" blog.

Photos courtesy of Macarena Farcuh and Anahí Espíndola; collage by Valerie Morgan

Two years ago if you were looking for trustworthy online information in Spanish on growing the perfect honeycrisp apple or the plight of the powerful-pollinating solitary leafcutter bee in Maryland, you might have wound up with a wimpy fruit or a lackluster garden.

A blog created by two University Maryland researchers fills that gap, earning them the runner-up award for science communication from the Entomological Society of America; they will be honored at its national conference Nov. 5-8.

"Extensión en Español" has a broad focus, with posts ranging from pest control, biodiversity and horticulture to starting your own vegetable and fruit garden, thanks to the work of Macarena Farcuh, an assistant professor of horticulture, and Anahí Espíndola, an assistant professor of entomology, whose research specializes in fruit biology and quality and pollination ecology and evolution, respectively.

A recent post by Espíndola tells readers what to plant in their gardens this fall to attract more pollinators in the spring, while another from Farcuh goes into detail on melons: the types, their characteristics and the ideal conditions in which to grow them.

“You don’t need to be a fruit grower or an entomologist to be able to use this,” Farcuh said. “We cover topics that are just on your daily life, even if you go to the grocery store [or] to the farmers market to buy a fruit.”

Espíndola and Farcuh started the blog as a part of their work with the University of Maryland Extension, which offers problem-solving assistance and teaching statewide not just on agriculture, but topics like healthy lifestyles, water quality, urban development and community engagement. Espíndola, who hails from Argentina, and Farcuh, from Chile, realized materials related to agriculture in the mid-Atlantic were not easily accessible to the Spanish-speaking population.

“And if they exist, they are really hard to find because they are usually buried in some English website,” Espíndola said. Spanish-language information that was available was, although probably well-intentioned, often poorly translated, she added.

According to the National Center for Farmworker Health, 78% of agricultural workers in the United States identify as Hispanic, despite representing only 19% of the population.

“There’s not necessarily a lot of trainings that exist in Spanish that will serve those populations,” Espíndola said.

Farcuh, who often works with growers with farms across Maryland and Pennsylvania, has made it a habit to share the blog with these growers. But "Extensión en Español" has grown far beyond its intended audience and now reaches some 10,000 readers each month.

“We really, at this point, have readers from all over the country and views from every country that speaks Spanish,” Espíndola said.

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.