Hmong American Farmers Association

Hmong American Farmers Association

HAFA was formed by Hmong farmers, for Hmong farmers, for the purpose of increasing our economic mobility, building intergenerational wealth, and overcoming systemic barriers that prevent us from fully accessing the information, resources, land, and markets we need to fully realize our economic potential. We believe that true equity requires

Hmong American Farmers Association

HAFA was formed by Hmong farmers, for Hmong farmers, for the purpose of increasing our economic mobility, building intergenerational wealth, and overcoming systemic barriers that prevent us from fully accessing the information, resources, land, and markets we need to fully realize our economic potential. We believe that true equity requires systems-level change, and only occurs when people recognize each other, align their shared values, and act in community-driven solidarity. This philosophy underpins every strategic and programmatic decision that HAFA makes—from founding our incubator farm and developing bilingual, bicultural trainings, to developing outreach programs that ensure access to free, healthy produce for low-income, food insecure immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC families. We also recognize that the problems our farmers face are not endemic to the Hmong community, but affect low-wealth, refugee, immigrant and BIPOC communities in general. Consequently, we regularly partner with other organizations focusing on small-scale immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC farmers, sharing information, resources, and organizing together to advocate for changes to the local foods economy and promote equity for all Hmong and BIPOC farmers. We are well practiced at listening to community members’ ideas about what they need, and acting in solidarity rather than imposing a predetermined solution and course of action. Because HAFA is led by and works so closely with the people we serve, we can pivot quickly and adapt our goals and programming to best suit the populations we advocate for.

About the Organization:

HAFA was formed by Hmong farmers, for Hmong farmers, for the purpose of increasing our economic mobility, building intergenerational wealth, and overcoming systemic barriers that prevent us from fully accessing the information, resources, land, and markets we need to fully realize our economic potential. We believe that true equity requires systems-level change, and only occurs when people recognize each other, align their shared values, and act in community-driven solidarity. This philosophy underpins every strategic and programmatic decision that HAFA makes—from founding our incubator farm and developing bilingual, bicultural trainings, to developing outreach programs that ensure access to free, healthy produce for low-income, food insecure immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC families. We also recognize that the problems our farmers face are not endemic to the Hmong community, but affect low-wealth, refugee, immigrant and BIPOC communities in general. Consequently, we regularly partner with other organizations focusing on small-scale immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC farmers, sharing information, resources, and organizing together to advocate for changes to the local foods economy and promote equity for all Hmong and BIPOC farmers. We are well practiced at listening to community members’ ideas about what they need, and acting in solidarity rather than imposing a predetermined solution and course of action. Because HAFA is led by and works so closely with the people we serve, we can pivot quickly and adapt our goals and programming to best suit the populations we advocate for.

organizational budget

$1 MILLION - $2 MILLION

existence for

11-15 YEARS

The Issue:

The Hmong people are political refugees who were relocated to the United States after the Vietnam War. Many families, lacking resources and employment options after arrival, utilized their traditional agricultural skills to grow fresh produce and sell it through local farmers’ markets. Today Hmong farmers (mostly elders) account for over 50 percent of the farmers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan farmers markets, serving over 300,000 people annually and contributing to a thriving local foods and agriculture economy that generates an estimated $184 million in economic activity on a yearly basis. But despite their participation in a system that benefits so many Minnesotans, Hmong farmers and their families do not equitably share in the system’s tangible benefits. In 2011, a research project found that the average Hmong farming family’s income was about $35,000 per year, and their average sales per acre were about two-thirds of what other white Minnesota vegetable farmers earned. This discrepancy was due to outright discrimination and exploitation as well as a number of systemic inequities—including a lack of tenured access to affordable farmland; being forced to rely on farmers markets as the main sales outlet for their produce; resources such as crop insurance, microloans and financing; and, as the farmers are primarily Hmong-speaking, being unable to fully access English-based training and research on growing processes and techniques that would help them optimize their businesses and farming operations. After learning about these challenges, Hmong farmers and their children came together and founded the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), a membership organization that serves as a collective voice for Hmong farmers and that exists to combat economic injustice and discrimination against Hmong farmers and other immigrant, refugee, and Black, Indigenous, and People of color (BIPOC) families and individuals. We increase farmers’ economic mobility, build community wealth, foster systems change, support sustainable agriculture, and work for equitable access to healthy food for low-income, disenfranchised communities through capacity-building projects and partnerships.

The Solution:

HAFA’s organizational emphasis is not to “do” for our farmer-members, but is focused on equipping them with training and resources so that they are empowered to build wealth, equity, and self-sustaining businesses on their own. Our theory of change is rooted in a “whole foods model” that asserts all aspects of the food and farming system (land, markets, capital, training and research) must be simultaneously and freely accessible to immigrant farmers to build intergenerational and community wealth.
Programmatically and strategically, HAFA focuses on four key areas: Land Access—We manage a 155–acre incubator and educational farm in Dakota County, Minnesota, and sublease 5–10 acre parcels to Hmong families in long term agreements and are in the process of purchasing the farm. Once we close, it will be the only farmland in the United States owned by a Hmong-led nonprofit for Hmong farmers—a major racial equity achievement for Minneapolis-St Paul Hmong farmers, and securing land access for them in perpetuity. Business Development—We coordinate with several partners to grow our farmers’ farm business acumen and generate farm business plans to access microloans. Since the inception of this program, our farmers have saved over $60,000 in individual development accounts and used those funds to leverage the purchase of over $300,000 in farm assets. Training and Research—We have developed a robust, multi-module, bilingual and bicultural training program for Hmong farmers that we annually conduct from November to April. This training program covers a range of topics—from soil health to break-even analysis and high tunnel production. We also run multi-year research projects, such as the efficacy of bees on the HAFA Farm, the effects of cover crops on water and soil quality, and the effects of climate change in pest migration. Alternative Markets—We run a Food Hub and train our farmers on food safety and good agricultural practices, and aggregate their produce for sale to school districts, restaurants, co-ops, and a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. We also run a Farm-to-Family CSA program where we deliver boxes of free produce to institutional partners for distribution to immigrant, refugee, and BIPOC food-insecure families.

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