Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pakou Hang + Hmong Farmers

Pakou Hang + Hmong Farmers
Written by guest blogger, Erin Larson

Minnesota has one of the largest Hmong-American populations in the United States.

By 1980, Hmong farmers moved to the metro areas of Minnesota, revitalizing the urban farmers markets. Hmong refugees settled from Laos and Thailand to Minnesota following the Vietnam War.

Pakou Hang speaking at the Minnesota FFA Convention
“Wherever [Hmongs] have gone, Hmong people have farmed,” said Pakou Hang, executive director and co-founder of Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA).

Pakou spoke at the second general session of the 2017 Minnesota FFA Convention. In her keynote address, Pakou spoke on behalf of Hmong farmers and their role in Minnesota agriculture.  

“It is great to work in agriculture, a field that encourages people to grow, produce and provide food for others,” said Pakou.

Pakou has worked for more than 12 years as a community organizer and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2008 with a Masters in Political Science. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1999.

Pakou works closely with Minnesota Hmong farmers, particularly on the HAFA farm.

The farm is a 155-acre research and incubator farm, just 15 miles south of St. Paul, near Minnesota Highway 52. HAFA sub-leases the land to its members while maintaining research and demonstration plots to provide continuing education in sustainable agricultural practices to its member-farmers.

“We grow traditional crops found in Minnesota in addition to Oriental crops,” said Pakou.

The HAFA Farm began in 2013. Since it’s start, HAFA has begun implementing sustainable agricultural practices such as composting, succession planting, installing grass roadways and laying of erosion blankets. The HAFA farm has a plan for bees, supplying a whole farm pollinator.

In 2011, HAFA implemented numerous bicultural and bilingual trainings, to become better land stewards. Hmong farmers are committed to building healthy farms that takes into consideration of soil and water quality, biodiversity, farmer and consumer health and economic sustainability.

According to a recent study, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hmong American farmers make up over half of all producers at farmers markets in the Twin Cities’ metropolitan area. Nearly 40 percent of the food produced at the HAFA farm go to a the farmers markets. The remaining 60 percent remain within the Twin Cities, donated to more than 120 schools and community groups.

“We farm for the same purpose as the large-scale farmer,” said Pakou . “We value the importance to feed people.”

To learn more about HAFA, visit their page on Facebook – Hmong American Farmers Association.

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