Cultivating A Stronger Community Through Fresh Produce And Flowers

By Damon Guinn





HAP Farm Coordinator Tou Xiong didn’t dream of becoming a farmer when he was growing up in south Minneapolis – he wanted to be a detective. He imagined himself unearthing clues and getting to the root of crimes, not digging up vegetables and pulling roots from the soil.

Then, in college, Tou took a class called “Race to Save the Planet” where he learned about the environmental impact of modern food systems. He also took an interest in aquaponics, the practice of raising fish and cultivating plants in a shared indoor system. He loved the fact that aquaponics was being used in the inner city to empower disenfranchised communities and provide healthier food to people living in food deserts. About the same time, he decided to join the Minnesota Food Association, began farming a half-acre, started his own CSA (community supported agriculture), and set up his own booth to sell his produce.

Now, as HAP’s Farm Coordinator, Tou will work closely with local Hmong farmers to harvest and sell their produce as part of the HAP Farm-to-Table CSA. He will help plan harvests and deliveries, track and report the program’s success, and provide support to members.

HAP is offering two CSA farm share options to community members this season: a 16-week membership, which began on July 8th and ends on October 21st (no longer available), and a 14-week membership, which begins on July 22nd and also ends on October 21st. The deadline to register for the 14-week farm share is July 20th.

Members can choose from a range of packages featuring weekly deliveries of fresh, eco-friendly vegetables and/or flowers grown by Hmong farmers and gardeners in Coates, Minnesota, and delivered in custom totes. Membership also includes a bi-weekly newsletter with recipes, stories about the farmers, and more, in addition to farm visits and tours by appointment. Farm share options and registration can be found at

For the farmers who work with HAP, it’s a family affair… and a labor of love. One of the farmers, Sun, has been helping her parents farm for over 25 years, since she was a little girl. Now a single mom, she continues to lend a hand to help her parents earn an income and provide support to her own household. She likes growing her own food, knowing that the extra care she puts into planting and harvesting the crops will help keep her entire family healthy.

Tou’s interest in working with farmers harkens back to his childhood, as well, when his parents sold vegetables from their home garden to support him and his five siblings. “I still have fond memories of walking with my mother, door to door, selling cilantro and green onions, the wonderful smell of my mother’s cooking and the sound of her yelling from the kitchen for me to go to the backyard garden to grab ingredients for dinner.”

“What interests me about this work is the food,” Tou added. “I truly believe food is the universal link that all people can relate to. I believe that food isn’t just for sustenance but an experience. The CSA has tremendous potential for benefits and enrichment of our lives, if we will allow it.

“What I’m most excited about is the community we will become through this CSA. I have reached out to old friends that I haven’t spoken to for years and asked them to join the CSA. Many have joined and it makes me so happy for their love and support. I hope to get acquainted with many of you, too.”

For more information about HAP’s Farm-to-Table CSA, contact Tou Xiong at or 651-495-1504.


Tou Xiong