To many new immigrants, farming is a way of life.
Starting a farming venture in Minnesota, however, means overcoming language barriers, market differences and a formidable list of agriculture rules and regulations.
Many resources exist to do just that, but "immigrant farmers don't know about them," said Glen Hill, executive director of the Minnesota Food Association.
That's why more than 200 farmers are expected to attend the Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference Feb. 3-4 in St. Paul. The regional conference, now in its seventh year, will draw farmers from Minnesota and seven other states to swap farming stories and attend workshops.
"The idea here is making practical connections," said Hill, whose association operates a teaching farm for immigrants in Washington County. "There are real people behind all these rules and regulations."
New immigrants are appearing in greater numbers in metro-area farmers markets to sell produce they've grown themselves. The next challenge for them is learning to sell to a broader market, including grocery stores and restaurants, Hill said.
The conference, called "Planting Seeds for Success," includes workshops about farming history, sustainable farming, best farming practices, finding markets, starting a farm and organic certification. The conference is free to farmers but costs $50 per day for other attendees.
The gathering has another major benefit as well -- bringing immigrants from various countries together to share farming wisdom and learn how to market their crops to other ethnic communities, Hill said.
Translators will be available for as many as six languages. Currently, Hill said, Hmong-Americans represent the largest portion of immigrant farmers. Hispanics come next, but immigrants also come from many other countries, such as Liberia, Somalia, Cambodia and Bhutan.
Kevin Giles • 651-925-5037 Twitter: @stribgiles