Saturday, March 08, 2008

Helping immigrants live the dream of living off the land

These immigrant farmers are being helped by a conference to help them learn agriculture rules and regulations. These farmers are the majority of vendors at farmers' markets and can use the help with marketing, organic certification and production of healthy foods. DP

Minnesota's immigrant farmers bring diverse culture and food to farmers' markets, and a conference this week will teach them about farm costs, marketing and government rules.

By JOY POWELL, Star Tribune Morning after morning, in a greenhouse near Hastings, a handful of Hmong farmers plant seeds and tend to sprouts of basil, lemongrass, flowers and other produce that they'll sell at farmers' markets this spring.

Just off Hwy. 55, this Hmong-owned farm is nestled in the metro area, just like a growing number of immigrants' small-scale farms and garden plots throughout the state.

The immigrant farmers make up nearly half of the vendors in the farmers' markets that are popping up in community after community to serve consumers who want connections to the source of their food.

They are the kind of small-scale farmers that organizers of an immigrant-farmer training conference hope to attract Friday and Saturday.

These farmers face many challenges -- the least of which is a command of the English language adequate enough to understand the rules and regulations that govern the growing of food and flowers. They need technical assistance and information on subjects ranging from marketing to microbes.

The conference will be offered in six languages for at least 140 farmers, including those of Hmong, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Somali, Ethiopian and Latino origins. Another 30 or so people from government and nonprofit agencies also are to attend the conference near Como Park in St. Paul.
Be sure to read the rest of this story! This is only a small part of it.

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