Minnesota lands 4 federal grants to help beginning farmers

The USDA grants from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture are each over $500,000 with minority groups being a prime focus.

Mallina Xiong.jpg
Mallina Xiong takes a break on an evening in July 2020 from tending to plants on her parcel of land on the 155-acre HAFA farm. HAFA subleases land to its members while also helping them get access to bi-cultural and bi-lingual trainings. (Noah Fish / Agweek)

Four different Minnesota groups have been awarded federal grants to help bring new blood into the world of agriculture.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture on Wednesday, Oct. 27, announced spending more than $50 million on 85 newly funded grants and 55 continuation projects.

Here are the Minnesota projects that received funding:

University of Minnesota, $744,103: An app will be developed to help beginning farmers evaluate the financial returns from various marketing channels, such as farmers markets, community supported agriculture, roadside stands, pick your own, food hubs, wholesale, online, or home delivery. Analyzing the returns from various marketing channels will allow beginning farmers to focus on the most profitable marketing methods.

One goal is to test these tools with at least 20 beginning farmers and ranchers, including immigrant farmers, to ensure that they meet the needs of beginning farmers marketing directly to consumers.


Hmong American Farmers Association, $600,000: The proposal plans seven training programs annually: The group will continue to host a comprehensive, year-round training program for Hmong farmers in and around the Twin Cities, with workshop topics ranging from whole farm planning to maintaining farm equipment and tractors. These workshops will be led by experts from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the University of Minnesota Extension, and Ridgewater College, as well as two nonprofits - the Sustainable Farming Association and Organic Farming Works. The workshops will be conducted in the winter and then coupled in the summer with in-the-field tutorials and on-the-farm demonstration projects led by HAFA staff.

HAFA seek to develop a new training program aimed at Hmong youth. This will cover many of the same topics as the core curriculum, but with the added element of linking farm practices to traditional Hmong culture.

Renewing the Countryside II, 599,751: The Expanding Integrated Solutions to Achieve Farmland Access for New Farmers project seeks to expand the Farmland Access Hub to assist beginning farmers and ranchers in obtaining access to land in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

The project has these goals: 1) Help beginning farmers become prepared to seek land; 2) Assist beginning farmers in obtaining improved leases or purchasing land; 3) Work with Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) beginning farmers to reach these same goals; 4) Grow the network of farmland navigators and support service providers to support the work; 5) Create a thriving network of 70 hub partners to sustain longevity.

The project expects 96 beginning farmers will purchase farmland or obtain favorable lease or use agreements. An additional 120, beginning farmers will make progress towards accessing farmland.

Land Stewardship Project, $516,548: The project is entitled Regional Farmer-led Education and Training Hubs for Building Resiliency and Viable Farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The long-term goals of this project are to: 1) Offer beginning farmer training programs for varying levels of farming experience; 2) Develop two new farmer-led regional training hubs to increase resiliency of beginning farmers with five to 10 years of experience; and 3) Collaborate with Red Lake Nation to develop a new curriculum and support socially-disadvantaged beginning farmers.

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