What an uplifting story in the Star Tribune about Hmong farmers buying farmland in Dakota County to secure their future ("A long-term place to grow," Nov. 12). And it secures our future supply of fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers markets around the Twin Cities, where Hmong farm families now provide 50% of the produce and have introduced us to many new Asian greens.

Hats off also to an anonymous benefactor who in 2013 bought the 155 acres in Dakota County and leased it to the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), hoping the farmers could eventually buy the land.

As the story pointed out, HAFA is able to buy the land with $2 million included in the state's $1.9 billion infrastructure borrowing package. HAFA must come up with $500,000 to complete the purchase of the farmland.

This is almost like a modern-day Homestead Act for these immigrant farmers who have brought their rich culture (and agriculture) to the United States and Minnesota — not unlike so many Nordic immigrants and their descendants a little over century ago who benefited from government help like the Homestead Act. We assimilated and the Hmong have, too. This land purchase helps ensure their future as farmers and our supply of a locally produced, healthy bounty at farmers markets and grocery shelves.

Ironically, while the number of farms in Minnesota has been declining for many years, the number of small farmers providing locally produced specialty crops and fruits and vegetables has been doing well. The Hmong farmers are an important part of that.

In this time when immigration issues are much in the news, this success story is such a breath of fresh air. A tip of the hat to our Hmong neighbors and our Legislature for some foresighted legislation.

Myron Just, Minneapolis

The writer is a retired farmer.

IMMIGRATION

Xenophobia fractures our society

My hat goes off to Evan Odegard, the high school junior who wrote the commentary "We mustn't repeat the wrongs that my ancestors suffered" (Nov. 13). What a thoughtful and well-informed young man. He is a shining example of being the change he wants to see in the world.

As an English as a second/other language teacher in a first-ring suburb of St. Paul and the daughter of a Chilean immigrant myself, I think about the immigrant experience constantly and how I can best support my students and their families. Odegard is right: Our society is fragile right now and "there is no place for xenophobia in it." I hope that we may now have some leadership in the White House that steers us away from xenophobic words and actions. That being said, we must all do our part daily to chip away at this ugly and more often than not racist tradition in our country and its lasting effects.

Melissa Chiri, Arden Hills

COVID SURGE

You already know what to do: Mask up, space out, be safe.

As the physician and nursing leaders of hospitals and health systems throughout Minnesota, we have an important message to share about stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Hospitals, health systems and health care providers are watching with growing concern as COVID-19 cases quickly increase in Minnesota, fueled by broad community spread in all parts of the state. Demand for hospital care is increasing in both medical-surgical and intensive care units, and the percentage of beds occupied by patients with COVID-19 is growing.

The high level of community transmission means that our health care heroes — including nurses, doctors, therapists, pharmacists, support services, housekeeping, technicians, advanced practice providers and many more — are contracting COVID-19 as they go about their daily lives in our communities. Reducing and preventing community spread is critical to helping keep our health care heroes healthy and able to care for patients.

For the past many months, hospitals, health systems and the Minnesota Hospital Association have joined with Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health to urge Minnesotans to do their part to help slow community spread.

Simple public health best practices, including physically distancing at least 6 feet from others, washing hands frequently and wearing a mask in public, can help break the chain of transmission.

Our hospitals and health systems are working to keep our patients, visitors and health care workers safe by requiring staff, patients and visitors to follow public safety protocols, including mask-wearing and screenings upon entry to our facilities. We urge Minnesotans to exercise this same care as they interact in the community.

Minnesotans must do all we can now to reduce the community spread of COVID-19. As we did at the beginning of this pandemic, we each need to do our part and protect our health care heroes, our family members and our communities.

This letter is signed by Dr. Rahul Koranne, president and CEO of the Minnesota Hospital Association, and its physician and nurse leaders.

• • •

As COVID-19 continues to spread, state and local health officials keep pleading with residents to wear a mask in public. Fortunately, most people, who understand and respect the risks posed by this extremely contagious disease, are following that advice.

However, a sizable group of Minnesotans continue to resist that plea, for reasons that defy understanding. You might expect that the well-founded research supporting the idea that masks will reduce the odds of you or your family winning a trip (if you have good health insurance) to your local intensive care unit would be reason enough. But obviously this is not the case. So let me suggest several other really good reasons to mask up when you go out in public.

Forgot to brush your teeth this morning? No worries. Those three-ply masks will corral the residual odors of your late-night anchovy-and-onion pizza. Persistent runny nose? The cold and flu seasons are upon us, and while you may avoid COVID-19, the odds of avoiding all three are as good as the Minnesota Timberwolves finding a winning combination on the basketball court. So a super-absorbent mask is the perfect remedy for that drip, drip, drip of a runny nose. You will have to swap out masks once in a while, but that is a small price to pay.

Big, ugly cold sore got you down? Acne? Remnants of a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich on your chin? You're covered!

No one will know what you really think. Hear a political comment that makes you scowl? Or inane comment from your wife's uncle that makes you want to stick out your tongue? Your ever-ready mask is there to hide your true feelings, avoiding a potential confrontation that could lead to a punch in the nose.

Nouveau fashionable Minnesota winter attire? As many an intrepid Minnesotan has discovered, a face mask is a terrific way to moderate the lung-burning effects of an arctic Minnesota winter as they coax themselves or their dog into another bone-rattling morning. As a result, it is now common to see hard-core joggers and cross-country skiers wearing masks. So just as it has become cool (and smart) for bikers to wear those fancy aerodynamic helmets, with this fashion statement you may convince your neighbors that you are some sort of athlete, training for the Olympics.

Of course, at the end of the day, there is nothing funny about any of this. When, God willing, this pandemic is contained, it is likely that more Americans will have died from COVID-19 than died in combat in World War II. So whatever reason or excuse motivates you to wear a mask, do it.

Tom Baumann, Isanti, Minn.