Training includes 10 classroom sessions during the off-season in organic certification, GHP/GAP/food safety, Organic practices and Certification, Filing Schedule F, record-keeping, business plan development, Government and organization farmer support programs, pest management, harvesting, marketing and distribution, etc. In-season training includes 10 in-field workshop sessions through out the season on pest management, trellising, irrigation systems, etc., famers producing on their own farms, regular individualized training and consultation sessions, weekly field walks and occasional field trips. Farmer benefits include skills and business development, new markets and significant revenues through direct and wholesale marketing, civic engagement and participation in a farming community, and mitigation of risks and minimizing their capital investments in starting their farming operations.
In 2009, MFA worked with 9 immigrant producer “farms” of ½ - 3 acres and coordinated sales to our 120-member CSA and 8 or more wholesale venders from these farms. MFA also works with about 60 Hmong Elder gardeners, many of whom are in incubator stages before becoming production farmers. Farmers in BRF are the only USDA certified organic and GHP/GAP certified immigrant farmers in Minnesota.
Two farmers in our program received SARE grants in 2008 for hoophouse/season extension/ specialty crop projects with MFA’s support. MFA aims to build new immigrant farmers’ own viable farming operations by connecting them with land (long-term lease or owned). Two Latino brothers, who purchased their own farm in 2008 after 3 years in MFA’s program, will now be taking over the large Chipotle account from MFA in 2010. Two more farmers acquired additional (leased) land to farm on in 2009. Two farmers with BRF have set-up their own CSAs as well with MFA support.
Initially, MFA worked primarily with Latino and Hmong farmers, however, now MFA is working with farmers from various communities – Somali, Kenya, Cambodia, Karen (Burma) – and we continue with outreach and discussions with Bhutanese, other East African and African-American communities. MFA plans to expand the BRF distribution service towards connecting the more experienced and skilled growers in the program directly with their own markets. MFA will act as a market broker as well as a produce broker. MFA continues to partner with the USDA Farm Service Agency and the Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota in organizing the Annual Immigrant Farming Conference. In 2010, there were over 240 participants, of which 160 were immigrant farmers from 7 different immigrant communities.
Over the years, some sponsors of MFA’s work include the USDA Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and CSREES (NIFA), ISED and ORR, MN Dept of Agriculture, Hugh J. Andersen Foundation, HRK Foundation, Beverly Foundation, Bush Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation, MN Environmental Fund, NIFI and hundreds of individual donors.Mission: To build a more sustainable food system in Minnesota.