Just south of St. Paul in Vermillion Township, the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) Farm is striving to preserve Hmong heritage and support the economic development of the 80,000-strong Hmong American community of Minnesota. The 155-acre property rents out plots of land to members of the community, but that is not all HAFA does—the group, which was founded in 2011, has developed various initiatives to support its members, including community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares that deliver fresh local produce to shareholders and return the revenues to Hmong farmers, and financial literacy and micro-loan programs through a collaboration with Eastside Financial Center.
On June 24, WEN members trekked to Vermillion Township to learn more about HAFA and to support the farm through a volunteering event. The variety of greenery on the farm was immediately striking—rows of leafy vegetables neighbored a field ablaze with a rainbow of flowers, and further north, whimsical walking onions swayed in the breeze. After the harvest, much of this produce is brought by member farmers to local farmer markets. In fact, according to HAFA, Hmong American farmers comprise over 50% of farmers participating in Twin Cities farmer markets.
The first phase of our event consisted of a discussion of the history of the Hmong community of Minnesota and of HAFA’s activities, led by HAFA co-founder and executive director Janssen Hang. The Hmong ethnic group, which originates from areas of southern China and southeast Asia, experienced a large-scale emigration during the Vietnam War, with many Hmong refugees settling in the U.S. Today, Minnesota is home to the second largest Hmong American community in the country. Agriculture has always been an important aspect of Hmong culture, and many Hmong Americans continue to practice farming to preserve their roots.
WEN members worked together to paint the trim of several sheds around the HAFA farm. The sheds are made available to farmer members and allow members who commute from the cities greater flexibility when tending to their crops. WEN had a lovely time supporting HAFA farmers and learning more about the organization!
HAFA is currently running a capital campaign to purchase its farm and build produce treatment facilities. HAFA also welcomes volunteers and offers farm tours. You can support HAFA through donations or volunteering at www.hmongfarmers.com.