An association representing Hmong farmers is planning to buy 155 acres in Dakota County, a monumental land purchase for a group that wants to ensure the metro area’s pioneering small farmers have a place to grow fruits and vegetables for years to come.
The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) has been leasing the land in Vermillion Township for more than six years, allowing 100 farmers to grow fruit and vegetables just 15 minutes south of St. Paul. But leasing left the farmers with a sense of uncertainty, especially since suitable farmland near Minneapolis and St. Paul is increasingly scarce.
Now, HAFA is able to purchase the land with $2 million included in Minnesota’s $1.9 billion infrastructure borrowing package — funding that came out of $30 million specifically set aside for projects to benefit communities of color. HAFA must come up with $500,000 to complete the purchase.
Access to land is a huge challenge for small farmers, said Rep. Samantha Vang, DFL-Brooklyn Center, chief sponsor of the purchase proposal. Finding and buying affordable land is especially difficult for Hmong farmers, who face financial and language barriers, Vang said.
Allowing the farmers to own the land not only supports their livelihood, but provides consumers in the metro area with fresh, healthy food. Half the produce sold at local farmers markets is grown by Hmong farmers.
“It’s a smart state investment,” she said. “I know for sure that we’re changing lives.”
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