Last week, the Minnesota (MN) House of Representatives passed a bi-partisan $1.9 billion infrastructure bonding bill which included funds for the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) to purchase the HAFA Farm, a 155 acre incubator and research farm located in Vermillion Township. As of October 16, 2020, the MN Senate passed the bill, and then it goes to the Governor to sign into law.
As Senator Foung Hawj stated, “HAFA is an innovative organization helping our underserved community to be sustainable in farming. I am honored to have the opportunity to be a part of the pivotal points of this agency from the beginning by asking state permission for land ownership to Farm to School initiative and now farming expansion.”
If passed, this bonding bill will fundamentally change the economic trajectory of many Hmong farmers affiliated with HAFA, a nonprofit organization that was formed in 2012 to build the economic prosperity of Hmong farmers and their family members. In Minnesota, Hmong farmers make up the majority of vegetable growers in the Twin Cities’ farmers’ market system, but they earn only $0.64 for every dollar their mainstream counterparts in Minnesota earn. This bonding will allow for the purchase of the HAFA Farm, and as a result, long term, affordable access to farmland for many Hmong farming families.
“My family started farming to pay for the parochial schools my immigrant parents wanted to send my six siblings and me to. While we grew and sold vegetables at the farmers market, we also learned about traditional Hmong farming practices, the value of hard work, respecting people who work with their hands and the importance of clean air, good soil and a sound environment. Like many other farming families, agriculture has been a pathway to achieving the American Dream,” says Janssen Hang, the Executive Director of HAFA. “Thanks to the legislators in this 2020 legislative session, this tradition will continue for the next generation of Hmong and non-Hmong mixed vegetable producers.”
HAFA’s inclusion in the infrastructure bonding bill was championed by State Representatives Samantha Vang, Fue Lee and Jay Xiong and State Senator Foung Hawj, who collectively represent areas where many Hmong farmers live. Moreover, funds for the purchase of the HAFA Farm were made possible by the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor’s advocacy of a $30 million “equity in bonding” proposal that sought to support community based organizations who have traditionally been excluded from the bonding process.
“I ran for public office because I wanted to make a difference for the people in my neighborhood,” say State Representative Jay Xiong. “My family and I, and many other Minnesotans shop at the farmers markets and we see how hard Hmong farmers work. This infrastructure bonding bill acknowledges the dignity of their work and hopefully will build a pathway to family and community wealth.”