For the first time in US history, Hmong American farmers have gone from farmland renters to owners.
The Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA)—an association founded in 2011 by a group of farmers in Minnesota looking to advocate for Hmong American farmers in the state—says that the recent purchase of 155 acres of Minnesota farmland marks the first time in American history that Hmong farmers own and operate their own farm operation on US soil.
For years, the farmers rented the acreage, located in the Vermillion Township (Dakota County) of Minnesota. Now, 16 Hmong families—all members of the HAFA—chipped in to purchase and share the land.
Access to land ownership has been a long-time hurdle for BIPOC farmers. According to USDA and census data, Black, Indigenous and other people of color cultivate less than one percent of American farmland, regardless of accounting for nearly one-quarter of the country’s population.
And according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, access to land is the number one barrier that new farmers face. And with centuries of structural racism within the pathway to land ownership for farmers, the burden of acquiring land is historically heavier for farmers of color—resulting in white farmers owning 98 percent of American farmland.
The recent purchase, finalized in early October, marks a major milestone for the HAFA, which took to social media to celebrate the achievement. The association and farmers purchased the land with money acquired through grants and community support.
Of the 155 acres of land purchased, 125 acres are tillable. Currently, vegetables and crops such as corn, tomatoes, parsley, green beans and cabbage are cultivated on the land. As of now, the produce grown on the farm is sold at farmers’ markets and supplies food to a seasonal subscription service as well as a program called Veggie RX. The Veggie RX program is run with the intention of mitigating malnutrition and hunger through produce donation.
In the near future, the HAFA hopes to raise enough money to purchase 1,000 fruit trees to add to the swath of land.