Two Minnesota farm credit organizations presented a $70,000 check Friday to the Hmong American Farmers Association to improve a 155-acre incubator and educational farm in Dakota County.
The farm, just off Hwy. 52, is completing its first growing season and has 36 members, 16 of whom grow flowers and vegetables on the farm’s 5- and 10-acre plots.
AgStar Financial Services of Mankato and AgriBank, its funding bank in St. Paul, provided the grant to make capital improvements at the farm. A benefactor had previously purchased the land and leased it to the association with an option to buy it in eight years.
The association, launched in 2011, intends for the farm to become a model for other immigrant farmers who want to own land but lack the resources to purchase it.
John Monson, AgStar senior vice president for investments in rural America, said that small, family-operated farms are a critical part of the local Twin Cities’ food economy. “But they can face a lack of access to land, capital, credit, trainings and markets,” he said in a statement. “HAFA helps these producers with the resources and tools to build a sustainable business model.”
Pakou Hang, the association’s executive director and founder, said the farm represents more than income for the year. It allows farmers to learn how to maximize their farm operation, how to become the best stewards of the land, and how to provide intergenerational wealth for their families, she said.
In addition to raising food and flowers, the association is training its members about soil chemistry, sound business practices, and food safety protocols and licenses required to sell in larger markets such as grocery stores, public schools, universities, and other institutions.