Source: FARMER'S LEGAL ACTION GROUP submitted to
MINNESOTA HMONG FARMER OUTREACH PROJECT
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
TERMINATED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0218835
Grant No.
2009-39300-19981
Project No.
MINW-2009-00733
Proposal No.
2009-00733
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
2501
Project Start Date
Sep 1, 2009
Project End Date
Aug 31, 2012
Grant Year
2009
Project Director
Stokes, S. E.
Recipient Organization
FARMER'S LEGAL ACTION GROUP
360 ROBERT STREET NORTH, SUITE 500
ST. PAUL,MN 55101-1589
Performing Department
(N/A)
Non Technical Summary
Many of Minnesota's newest family farmers are coming from the state's largest immigrant or minority groups-especially the Hmong in Ramsey and Dakota Counties near the Twin Cities metro area, who immigrated to this region by the thousands from Southeast Asia over the last 20 years. Many of these new Americans aspire to reclaim their traditions in farming. Hmong people have in fact become the region's most prominent new farmers, and they are virtually all family-run operations. For example, about 50 of 150 vendors at the Saint Paul Farmers' Market are Hmong farming families, selling fruits, vegetables, roots, herbs, flowers, and highly specialized varieties of traditional crops. Hundreds more Hmong farmers sell at markets across the region. In fact, Saint Paul's center city, particularly its Frogtown neighborhood, and the farm fields of neighboring suburban counties have emerged as two of the state's most vibrant new farming communities, with Asian residents often living in the city and commuting to their farms. In many ways, Hmong family farmers have been a tremendous success story. They have established themselves as essential components of the region's farmers' markets. But it has become clear to many farmers, market managers, analysts, and media reporters that those successes have come despite significant legal, administrative, and cultural conflicts and misunderstandings. It has also long been clear that these new farmers face real barriers, administrative, racial, and otherwise, as they try to secure the economic stability of their farms. The precariousness of these farmers' lives was made clear on July 10, 2008, when a violent storm tore through Dakota County, south of the Twin Cities, where as many as a hundred Hmong farmers, most of them from Saint Paul, were raising vegetables and flowers. Many of them lost their entire crop, which was to be a large portion of their families' incomes. It appears that none of the farmers had crop insurance, or even knew of its existence. At a community meeting on July 17 on Saint Paul's East Side, more than 100 farmers, some of them in tears, spoke of lost crops, destroyed flowers, wrecked equipment, downed trees, and looming mortgage payments. Using the grant funds requested in this proposal, FLAG will attempt to build new, long-term stability and opportunity for both the region's Hmong farmers in crisis and other similarly vulnerable farmers. Although FLAG's work with Hmong farmers last summer was possible only because of the terrible circumstances of the destruction of these farmers' crops and hopes, we also see in these new relationships great possibilities. There was a very high level of interest in learning more about a new federal disaster program included in the June 2008 Farm Bill, as well as existing federal crop insurance programs that may help stave off future similar disasters.
Animal Health Component
100%
Research Effort Categories
Basic
(N/A)
Applied
100%
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
60160203030100%
Goals / Objectives
FLAG's attorney/managers will leverage years, and, in some cases, decades, of experience assessing and responding to the needs of Minnesota's Hmong farmers to broaden their access and understanding of USDA programs. Overall Management Goal: Provide outreach, education, training, and assistance to connect Minnesota's Hmong farmers with federal farm programs that can help them stabilize their lives in farming. Create long-term capacity to bridge cultural, education, and language gaps. The model used should, wherever possible, be transferable to other similar circumstances across the country. Function 1: Assess and clarify priorities (First 4 months) FLAG will convene initial meetings with our collaborative organization to set goals, expectations, timetables, and assignments. The Project Director will begin formal monthly contacts with collaborator to monitor progress, deadlines, and developments; create protocols and procedures for FLAG to respond to requests for legal and technical research and advice; and produce a precise 36-month project timeline/work plan. Function 2: Initial investigation, production and outreach (First 4 to 9 months) FLAG will work with collaborator to produce plans and content for trainings, meetings, and other outreach; determine which educational materials require production or update; and produce materials and a plan necessary to evaluate the project's impact. We would anticipate both individual and group farmer meetings convened with the Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (AAMWM). Function 3: Remediate, train, publish and outreach (6 to 36 months) The FLAG team, working with collaborator, will oversee production of the project's deliverable components-trainings, individual counsel, distribution of publications, organizational collaborations-that will advance constituents' access to USDA programs. Function 4: Review and outreach (1 to 36 months) At each step in this project, FLAG's staff will document the information they acquire; the people they train; the publications they update, create and distribute; and the impact of the work they can record or in some way quantify. The project's final report will include suggestions on ways that the results of this project can be applied more widely to improve access to and participation in agricultural programs by socially disadvantaged Hmong farmers. The Project will reach hundreds of limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and underserved family farmers--approximately 20-30 farmers who attend each training session; hundreds more through the educational materials we distribute at trainings; hundreds more in the long run through the dozens of liaisons and advocates directly trained and supported by FLAG attorneys; and hundreds more through distribution of educational materials from FLAG's website. All of those farmers will return to their land better prepared to manage risk and debt, plan for the future, and secure the financial good health of their operation. Each advocate and community leader will multiply those outcomes among dozens, perhaps hundreds, more family farmers across the country.
Project Methods
FLAG's Minnesota Hmong Farmer Outreach Project will provide outreach, education, and training to limited resource, socially disadvantaged, and traditionally underserved farmers on subjects that include financial and risk management. These farmers hope to begin new operations or cling to the ones they have. Training and information from FLAG can profoundly change for the better the fortunes of family farmers. FLAG will also work with the farm advocates and community leaders of those farmers to build broader community knowledge and resources for the long term. In many ways, FLAG has been preparing during the last four years to deliver important training and information to secure stable economic futures and social justice for Hmong family farmers in Minnesota. Four years ago, we began a pilot project to understand the needs of Minnesota's Hmong farmers and farmers' markets. We acquired permanent, language-proficient legal staffing; created a library of educational materials, in both English and Hmong; and, perhaps most importantly, built working relationships with Hmong community organizations, their leaders, and members. Central to this project is FLAG's Hmong Community Outreach Coordinator, whom FLAG hired in 2006. The coordinator is a native Hmong speaker who recently graduated from Hamline University's School of Law and earned her M.B.A. The coordinator travels regularly to the region's farmers' markets to personally meet with market managers and Hmong farmers; provides training and information as they are needed; and refers farmers' problems to colleagues at FLAG and at other farm and community organizations. She also oversees the production and translation of guides and other educational materials and resources that the Hmong farming community needs to reclaim its traditional roots in farming and build a life here. Added to the cultural competence is FLAG's unparalleled expertise in the area of agricultural law, including disaster assistance and risk management programs for farmers. With the experience, relationships, and resources in place, FLAG is poised to move beyond the questions of everyday farmers' market management to the longer-term work of economic development, to make sure that Hmong farmers and their communities will never be this vulnerable again. FLAG and and our collaborator will evaluate our work in Minnesota's Hmong community in the grant period by documenting the planning and development of trainings and information opportunities; the numbers and geographical representation of participants; the range of concerns and challenges voiced in group and individual sessions; production and distribution of documents; media coverage and other awareness efforts that widen knowledge of risk management strategies and tools; the numbers of participating farmers who enroll in risk management programs; and their experiences in the programs.

Progress 09/01/09 to 08/31/12

Outputs
OUTPUTS: Planning, logistics, training for the 5th, 6th, and 7th Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conferences (St. Paul, MN) with more than 800 attendees: 2/3 immigrant farmers; most were recruited and transported to the conferences by project partner AAHWM. More than 175 farmers attended FLAG workshops on owning and leasing farm land, and farmers' market rules. Held at least 50 meetings with AAHWM; addressed issues facing Hmong American farmers; trained AAHWM staff on USDA programs and recordkeeping. Conducted at least 65 individual and group sessions with more than 700 participants in total (some farmers attended more than one) about preparation and application for federal programs, leasing land, marketing, and risk management. Project staff created or facilitated more than 12 new direct market opportunities to diversify farmers' marketing by providing assistance on schedules, pricing, packaging, and invoicing, and connected 33 farmers to 7 new farmers' markets. Other farmers used this training on their own: 23 percent of surveyed farmers said they found new markets from this training. Conducted outreach and provided counsel and assistance at 15 farmers markets' vendor meetings with more than 700 Hmong American farmers over 3 years (some sell at more than one market; some received services in more than one year). Worked with 6 MN FSA offices to increase Hmong American farmers' participation in NAP. Conducted 20 NAP workshops for 176 farmers with FSA and AAHWM staff; continued outreach and one-on-one work with farmers and partner organizations on NAP deadlines and procedures; created new NAP forms on land tenancy issues. Leveraged NAP experience to obtain a grant for a University of MN graduate student to collect data to update the state NAP table to include vegetables grown and sold by immigrant farmers. Provided legal representation to more than 70 Hmong American farmers on three sites whose livelihoods were threatened by criminal acts or unfair official actions. Produced a new farm recordkeeping template, vital for federal program participation, and included recordkeeping training in Hmong language in at least 41 sessions attended by more than 200 immigrant farmers. Provided advice and information to immigrant farmers re: contracts, loan servicing, income tax preparation, pricing at farmers' markets, composting, pest management, NRCS grants, and more. Partnering with U of MN Extension, created an innovative pilot food and farm safety program. Worked closely with a Hmong American farmer leadership group to improve their farm operations through water sanitizing and hand-washing activities; those farmers then led workshops for other farmers. This project generated considerable interest among farmers. Assisted, through mediation rather than an adversarial process, a Hmong ginseng grower overturn his insurance coverage denial, recovering more than $20,000. Overall: Provided outreach, technical and legal assistance, education, training, transportation, counsel, and language and cultural interpretation in individual sessions and workshops attended by more than 800 Hmong American farmers. Total numbers include individual farmers who attended multiple events. PARTICIPANTS: Susan E. Stokes (Project Director) is a practicing attorney and FLAG's Executive Director. She has overseen FLAG's outreach to Hmong and other immigrant farmers, helping them understand their legal rights and obligations in leases and contracts, and connecting them to federal programs that can improve profitability. Susan represented 44 Hmong American farmers and obtained a civil restraining order when some of them were threatened by a neighbor with a loaded rifle; and she helped others with discrimination claims against a major metropolitan farmers' market. Susan helped plan the 6th Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference and co-presented a workshop on leasing farm land; worked on securing access to farm land for immigrant farmers; and helped facilitate several new direct marketing relationships. Hli Xyooj (Principal Investigator) is a staff attorney and Hmong outreach liaison. She has been responsible for FLAG's outreach to the Hmong American farming community; helped plan several Immigrant and Minority Farmers' Conferences and co-presented a workshop on farmers' market rules; created marketing profiles and helped broker new direct marketing relationships; conducted workshops in Hmong on NAP and recordkeeping; trained AAHWM staff in Hmong on federal farm programs; drove to farmers' homes and farm land and helped them keep records and apply for NAP; drove Hmong American farmers to FSA to assist them in applying for NAP and an FSA loan, and acted as a bridge between the farmers and FSA. Hli did all this bilingually, providing much-needed Hmong language assistance and cultural competence. Partner Organizations/Collaborators: The Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (AAHWM) provides cultural services, education, and advocacy to address the evolving needs of Hmong American women and their families. AAHWM staff, including its Executive Director, Ly Vang, did much of the day-to-day communicating with the immigrant farmers served by this project; hosted most of the training sessions at AAHWM's office; provided the culturally and linguistically tailored communications to connect the farmers to the services described above, often driving the farmers to their destinations; assisted with recordkeeping with on-farm individual assistance; and assisted with the evaluation of the work. TARGET AUDIENCES: FLAG used formal education programs, workshops, and individual instruction and outreach to change and improve the knowledge, actions, and circumstances of a wide range of Hmong American farmers. The farmers served under this grant have all been immigrant and refugee farmers, most of them Hmong American, most of them (about 80%) women, nearly all low-income. One of the most detailed descriptions of the target audience FLAG serves remains the attendance record from the annual Minority and Immigrant Farmer Conference held in St. Paul, which project partners help to organize. In 2012, the largest group of farmers (36%) identified themselves as Hmong; followed by Caucasian (13%), Bhutanese (12%), Karen (12%), and Latino (10%). Other conference attendees identified themselves as Native American, Somali, African American, Burmese, Cambodian, Burundi, Nuer, Latino-Native American, Persian, Cambodian, and Kenyan. The participants in the programs came to us based on more than seven years of outreach and building trusting relationships. Because of the language, cultural, farming, and legal skills of FLAG and AAHWM staff, the program's substantive training and assistance were culturally appropriate and conducted primarily in Hmong (not in English and then interpreted into Hmong). FLAG and AAHWM spent considerable time developing surveys that would evaluate overall knowledge gained by the farmers; specific information learned; and specific changes they made to their farming operations. FLAG and AAHWMs formal evaluation process began at the start of the grant's third year. The challenge: Most of the farmers served were low-income and non-English-speaking, or spoke English as a second language. Many farmers were not literate in any language, making formal surveys or evaluations difficult to complete. All surveys thus were conducted verbally, in Hmong, and by the same staff. Evaluation sessions were conducted in small groups and individually with FLAG and AAHWM staff reading through the questions (written in English) and providing interpretation into Hmong, rather than using hired interpreters. We have found that general interpreters typically are unable to provide competent interpretation because they lack specialized knowledge of farming, farm practices, farm programs, and the law. AAHWM and FLAG staff were uniquely qualified to conduct the surveys, and the same staff members were used to ensure consistency. Many farmers in our program have other employment, so most evaluation sessions were conducted after farmers were finished with their day jobs. We usually work with some 200 farmers at a given time, and we were able to get complete survey responses from 43. Of those, 22 answered additional questions on land access and market diversification. 35 survey forms were not tabulated for various reasons (could not verify if they were duplicative, were conducted by a different staff person not at the other evaluation sessions, or surveys were incomplete). The broad array of education and assistance described above, provided in a linguistically and culturally tailored way, allowed us to effectively serve this otherwise underserved group of farmers. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: This project is now complete.

Impacts
Change in knowledge: 88% of farmers who responded to a survey said they will adopt new practices in recordkeeping, insurance, and on-farm food safety as a result of our training and assistance. 91% said they can now find help with land access and understand tenants' rights and obligations. Change in knowledge: 100% of responding non-farming participants said they felt more informed and better prepared to start farming. Change in action: 85% of responding farmers said they changed farming practices based on new knowledge; 60% began recording production activities; 40% began recording market activities. 92% are more likely to keep farming as a result of new knowledge. Change in conditions: Minnesota's FSA director and county officials sought FLAG's input to improve services to immigrant farmers and implemented our suggestions, improving those farmers' access to FSA programs. Change in knowledge: With our training and individual assistance, more than 376 farmers learned about NAP, FSA office locations, and recordkeeping skills to access USDA programs. Change in actions: With changed knowledge and conditions above, at least 39 farmers applied to MN FSA county offices (Kanabec, Le Center, Winona, Anoka, Wright, and Dakota) for NAP coverage. Change in conditions: Land access. Partners found land for 201 farmers over 3 years on more than 170 acres in the Twin Cities region; we negotiated 1- to 3-year leases on many parcels. Change in conditions: Land access. 91% of survey respondents said they found farmland to rent and received help with a lease. 55% signed a written lease. Lease terms were 1-3 years. Change in conditions: Access to credit. With our input, MDA and AgStar Financial Services created microloan programs for immigrant farmers that accommodate unconventional credit histories. (AgStar official: "We could not have begun our program and process without FLAG."); assisted 7 farm families with loan applications; one family successfully purchased a rototiller and trailer. FLAG also submitted comments on a proposed FSA microloan program. Change in conditions: Market diversification. Trained and connected farmers to at least 8 new direct market relationships; 33 were connected to new farmers' markets. The income of survey respondents who added new markets increased between 10-20%. Original goals: Provide individual training to 75 Hmong American farmers on risk management and loan programs. (Complete) Assist 25 Hmong American farmers register farms with FSA by filling out crop acreage reports so their farms are known by FSA and they are contacted after natural disasters and with program updates. (Complete) In the first 2 years, assist at least 15 Hmong American farmers affected by natural disaster through the 12- to 18-month process of applying for relief in the SURE program under the 2008 Farm Bill. (Complete) Assist at least 6 - 12 Hmong American farmers each year in applying for crop insurance or other appropriate risk management tool. (Complete) Build capacity of partner AAHWM staff with legal and technical training on solutions for problems faced by their farmer members, with the goal that they become expert farm advocates. (Complete)

Publications

  • Xyooj, Hli (with partners). 2012. On-Farm Food Safety Reminders poster. See: http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/arts/HmongFS_Poster.pdf.
  • Xyooj, Hli (with partners). 2012. Harvesting Healthier Food: A Program of Safe Food Handling Practices for Immigrant Farmers flyer. See: http://www.flaginc.org/topics/news/20120223HHFhalf.pdf.
  • Xyooj, Hli (with partners). 2012. Starting Points: Food Safety Practices for Vegetable and Fruit Growers guide (available upon request).
  • Heyman, Amanda and Jambor-Delgado, Jennifer. 2012. Farmers Guide to Farm Employees: Federal and Minnesota Labor and Employment Law for Small-Scale Family Farms. See:http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/MILEguide.pdf.
  • Stokes, Susan E. 2012. FLAG testifies before the Agriculture and Rural Economics Committee on Immigrant and Minority Microloan Program at Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Economies Meeting Minutes. See: http://www.senate.leg.state.mn.us/schedule/hearing_minutes.phpls=87& hearing_id=7038&type=minutes.
  • Stokes, Susan E. 2010. Selling Directly to Schools: Tips for Farmers. See: http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/arts/Farm2School_20100727.pdf.
  • Xyooj, Hli. 2010,2011,2012.Deadlines for Minnesota Farmers to Sign Up for NAP (Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance)Program. See: http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/arts/2012NAPappDeadline.pdf.
  • Xyooj, Hli. 2012. Recordkeeping Instructions and Templates for Small-Scale Fruit and Vegetable Growers. See: http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/recordkeeping/RecordkeepingToolkit 2012.pdf.
  • Xyooj, Hli. 2012. Post-Harvest Handling and Packing Suggestions (available upon request).
  • Xyooj, Hli. 2012. Farm Information Sheet form (available upon request).
  • Xyooj, Hli (with partner). 2012. Working One-on-One with Farmers in Direct Marketing and Selling of Their Fruits and Vegetables, training outline (available upon request).
  • Xyooj, Hli (translation). 2012. Selling Your Products, Level I. See: http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/arts/SellYourProducts1_Hmong.pdf (Hmong translation); and (with partner) http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/arts/SellYourProducts1_English.pdf (English version).
  • Xyooj, Hli. 2012. Order Form for Fresh Local Vegetables from Your Local Farmer template (available upon request).
  • Xyooj, Hli (with partner). 2011. Do you want to join the growing number of chefs who buy fresh food from local farmers flyer for restaurants (available upon request).
  • Xyooj, Hli. 2011. We are your local farmers, customized farmer profile templates describing farmers background, contact information, and fresh produce available during growing season (available upon request).
  • Xyooj, Hli (with partners). 2012. Harvesting Healthier Food: Safe Food Handling Practices for Hmong Farmers. See: http://www.flaginc.org/topics/pubs/arts/2012_HFHL_Summit.pdf.


Progress 09/01/10 to 08/31/11

Outputs
OUTPUTS: Planning, logistics, training for 6th Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference (St. Paul, MN). 253 attendees (156 farmers, most of whom are Hmong). 87 farmers attended FLAG workshops on owning and leasing farm land, and farmers' market rules. Held 25+ meetings with partner AAHWM; addressed issues facing Hmong American farmers, trained AAHWM staff on USDA risk management programs. With AAHWM, MN Farmers Union, The Minnesota Project, and MN Dept. of Ag., assisted farmers' search for scarce farm land near homes and markets; found landowners who provided land for 109 Hmong American farmers on 145 acres in Eagan, St. Paul, Rosemount, Inver Grove Heights, and South Haven; 139 Hmong, Karen and Bhutanese farmers on 2012 waiting list for land. Created or facilitated 7 new direct market opportunities to help Hmong American farmers diversify their marketing. Provided technical assistance to prepare farmers to meet buyers' needs and schedules; helped them learn to price and package differently; created invoices and marketing profiles. In outreach to farmers' market vendors; attended vendor meetings at 10+ farmers' markets; connected 33 Hmong American farmers with 7 new farmers' markets and 128 farmers to existing markets; helped Hmong American farmers improve stall assignments and understand market grievance procedures. Worked with 4 MN FSA offices to increase Hmong American farmers' participation in NAP. Conducted NAP workshop for 25 farmers with Wright Co. FSA staff and one with AAHWM for 18 farmers; continued outreach and one-on-one work with Hmong American farmers and partner organizations on NAP deadlines and procedures; provided transportation and translations; created new forms to address land tenancy issues; helped 12 Hmong American farmers apply for NAP (9 farmers filed). Leveraged knowledge gained from NAP experience to obtain a grant for a graduate student to collect data to update the state NAP table to include vegetables grown by immigrant farmers, which currently are not in the table. Completed representation of 44 Hmong American farmers in Eagan, MN, after neighbor made threats with loaded shotgun. Worked with prosecutors to ensure felony charges; reviewed rights and safety protocols with farmers; and arranged police patrols. Organized Hmong and Catholic healing ceremony with defendant who pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor and agreed to probationary conditions. Obtained two-year civil restraining order for all 44 farmers. Revised and piloted new draft farm recordkeeping templates, vital for participation in federal programs. Conducted 4 recordkeeping workshops in Hmong, one on a farm. Provided brief advice and information to beginning farmers re: contracts, loan servicing, income tax preparation, pricing at farmers' markets, composting, pest management, NRCS grants, and more. Hosted liability insurance workshop on requirements for market participation; connected farmers with insurance agent; referred farmers to other insurance sources and partner organizations. Assisted farmer in navigating state agencies that gave her inconsistent advice on a direct marketing license; helped urban farmers with legal issues on leases, zoning, and more. PARTICIPANTS: Susan E. Stokes (Project Director) is a practicing attorney and FLAG's Executive Director. She has overseen FLAG's outreach to Hmong and other immigrant farmers, helping them to understand their legal rights and obligations in leases and contracts, and connecting them to federal programs that can help them become more profitable. Susan represented 44 Hmong American farmers who obtained a civil restraining order when some of them were threatened by a neighbor with a loaded rifle, and has helped others with discrimination claims against a major metropolitan farmers' market. She also helped plan the 6th Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference; presented at a workshop on leasing farm land; worked on securing access to farm land for immigrant farmers; and helped facilitate new direct marketing relationships. Hli Xyooj (Principal Investigator) is a staff attorney and Hmong outreach liaison. She has been responsible for FLAG's outreach to the Hmong American farming community; helped plan the Immigrant and Minority Farmers' Conference and presented at a workshop on farmers' market rules; created marketing profiles and helped broker new direct marketing relationships; conducted workshops in Hmong on NAP and recordkeeping; trained AAHWM staff in Hmong on federal farm programs; drove to farmers' homes and farm land and helped them keep records and apply for NAP; drove Hmong American farmers to FSA to apply for NAP and an FSA loan, and acted as a bridge between the farmers and FSA. Hli did all this bilingually, providing much-needed Hmong language assistance and cultural competence. Partner Organizations/Collaborators: The Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (AAHWM) provides cultural services, education, and advocacy to address the evolving needs of Hmong American women and their families. Today, the 30-year-old organization, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, helps families that are reclaiming their farming traditions. With this funding, AAHWM has added farm staff that FLAG has trained. AAHWM staff work closely with Hmong American farmers and organize workshops. Training and professional development: This grant is supporting a new capacity-building position, Farm Coordinator, at AAHWM through FLAG's training and technical assistance. TARGET AUDIENCES: In the grant period, FLAG once again used formal education programs, workshops, and individual instruction and outreach to change and improve the knowledge, actions, and circumstances of a wide range of Hmong American farmers. The farmers FLAG has served under this grant over the past year have been immigrant, mostly female farmers. One valuable insight into the demography of this work's target audience remains the annual Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference, the sixth edition of which convened in St. Paul, Minnesota, last February. According to a survey of the conference participants (which confirms the wider experience of FLAG's staff), most participants were Hmong, followed by Bhutanese, Karen, African, Caucasian, and Latino; a majority were women; and there were many repeat participants from the 2010 conference when more than 90 percent of the people were beginning farmers. Many of Minnesota's most visible family farmers continue to come from the Hmong American communities of the Twin Cities. About half of the vendors at the main St. Paul and Minneapolis farmers' markets are Hmong Americans. They grow and sell fruits, vegetables, roots, herbs, flowers, and traditional crops by the hundreds at other markets across the region. These days, FLAG attorneys work closely with perhaps 100 Hmong American farm families in a given year. There was great progress over the past year in helping the farmers successfully apply for federal programs, find land, sell to new markets, and integrate risk management strategies into their operations. One example of the methods we employed to assist the Hmong American beginning farmer population can be seen in a farmer who attended the Immigrant and Minority Farmer conference. He was turning to farming after he and his wife both lost their jobs in the economic downturn. This farmer met FLAG and AAHWM staff at the conference. He learned about NAP through workshops. FLAG staff provided direct assistance to help him apply for NAP and, when he suffered losses, helped him file a notice of loss. AAHWM staff helped him locate land to rent. Through FLAG's partnership with The Minnesota Project, we connected him to several new direct markets, including the University of St. Thomas and a local church. We helped him create a marketing profile; an invoicing system; and helped him and the buyer at the university come to an understanding about terms of delivery. We also brokered a deal, between the farmer and the farmer/landowner he rents from, to tend her strawberry patch and split the profits from the sales. After attending FLAG's workshop on recordkeeping and learning how to measure his land, he measured the two-acre plot he was renting and learned it was only 1.5 acres. He approached the landlord and received a refund. He has become a leader among the many Hmong American farmers who also rent from the same landlord and passes on his knowledge to them. He was selected to be on an advisory committee to help University of Minnesota Extension staff conduct outreach and training to immigrant farmers on food safety. And, as of this fall, he is now a member of FLAG's Board of Directors. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report this period.

Impacts
Provided outreach, technical and legal assistance, training, publications, transportation, counsel, and translations to 300+ Hmong American farmers. Change in knowledge: Taught 100s of Hmong American farmers, solo and in groups, including 15 training sessions with 277 participants in total, about preparation and application for federal programs, leasing land, marketing, and risk management. Change in action and conditions: Assisted Hmong American ginseng grower successfully appeal NAP coverage denial; worked with FSA office to help FSA staff understand ginseng production; connected an Extension Farm Advocate with Hmong American growers. Change in action: At least 7 new Hmong American farms are registered at Wright, Sherburne, and Dakota County FSA offices and eligible for NAP payments for farm losses (1 recovered for 2010 losses; 3 for 2011 losses). Change in conditions: Conducted community education about immigrant farmers' needs. Results: 1) State FSA director and county officials met with FLAG attorneys to learn how to improve services to Hmong American farmers. 2) MN Ag Commissioner sought input on how MN can better serve immigrant farmers and has started to create an operating loan program for socially disadvantaged farmers. 3) Other community organizations added assistance for Hmong American farmers and asked FLAG for guidance. Change in action: Helped a Hmong American farmer get a $40,000 FSA operating loan and manage farm records; provided language and cultural bridge with FSA. Change in conditions: Hmong American farmers are now selling vegetables directly to at least 7 new institutional markets: Hastings schools (2 deliveries of 85 lbs. vegetables, 30 lbs. tomatoes); St. Paul restaurants (Hmong greens, herbs, and winter squash); Univ. of St. Thomas (vegetables); Macalester College (224 lbs. of vegetables plus cooking lessons). Change in knowledge, actions, and conditions: With FLAG's training, a Wright County Hmong American farm family keeps USDA-ready records; applied for NAP coverage; received a NAP payment; obtained refund from land owner after learning how to measure land; and is now teaching other farmers about USDA programs. Change in conditions: Because of FLAG's work in Eagan, MN, area's farmers are safer and less isolated from the community after a threat by a local resident. Original goals: Provide individual training to 75 Hmong American farmers on risk management and loan programs. (On schedule) Assist 25 Hmong American farmers register farms with FSA by filling out crop acreage reports so their farms are known by FSA and they are contacted after natural disasters and with program updates. (On schedule) In the first two years, assist at least 15 Hmong American farmers affected by natural disaster through the 12- to 18-month process of applying for relief under the 2008 Farm Bill. (Complete) Assist at least 6 to 12 Hmong American farmers each year in applying for crop insurance or other appropriate risk management tool. (On schedule) Build capacity of AAHWM staff with legal and technical training on solutions for problems faced by their farmer members, with the goal that they become expert farm advocates. (On schedule)

Publications

  • Xyooj, Hli. 2011. Deadlines for Minnesota Farmers to Sign Up for NAP (Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance) Program.
  • Stokes, Susan E. 2011. Leasing Farm Land in Minnesota. A new PowerPoint presentation for a workshop attended by approximately 47 immigrant and minority farmers highlighting legal and risk management aspects of leasing farm land; 45 more people downloaded copies from the FLAG website during the grant period.


Progress 09/01/09 to 08/31/10

Outputs
OUTPUTS:  Planning, logistics, and training for Fifth Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference in St. Paul, with 242 attendees. Sample survey of farmer attendees: 92 percent beginning farmers. Approximately 45 farmers attended FLAG workshop on legal and risk management aspects of leasing farmland.  Met at least monthly with the director and staff of partner, Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (AAHWM). Agenda: collaboratively addressing issues facing Hmong American farmers; training AAHWM staff on farm programs.  Through partnership with Minnesota Farmers Union, FLAG and partner AAHWM assisted Hmong American farmers in search for scarce farmland near homes and farmers' markets. Secured and negotiated leases on 61 acres for 83 Hmong American farmers.  Created new direct marketing opportunities to help Minnesota Hmong American farmers diversify marketing operations beyond local farmers' markets.  Worked closely with Minnesota FSA office in Dakota County to reach out to Hmong American farmers for 2008 losses in the new SURE program. Met at Hmong American farmers' homes to organize and convert records to FSA spreadsheets; accompanied farmers to FSA office for language/technical assistance. Eight Hmong American farmers applied for SURE payments with FLAG's assistance.  Represented 44 Hmong American farmers in Eagan, MN, after a neighbor made threats with a loaded shotgun. Worked with prosecutors; reviewed rights and safety protocols with farmers; requested police patrols; conducted outreach to community, including op-ed article in major metropolitan newspaper; obtained restraining orders.  Researched NAP and AGR-Lite's potential for Hmong American farmers; conducted outreach to individual Hmong American farmers and partner organizations on NAP deadlines; provided transportation and translations; and helped eight Hmong American farmers apply for NAP.  Conducted research and advised Hmong American farmers on forms of business entities for their direct marketing operations (selling to Chipotle).  Near completion of new recordkeeping template for direct marketing farmers; peer review and pilot program set for next reporting period.  Provided brief advice and information to Hmong American farmers who contacted FLAG re: contracts, loan servicing, pricing at farmers markets, and NRCS grants, and more.  Conducted additional outreach to farmers' market farmers, at markets and by attending and providing education at a Minnesota Farmers' Market Association conference. PARTICIPANTS: Principal Investigators: Susan E. Stokes is a practicing attorney and has been FLAG's Executive Director since November 2005. She joined FLAG in January 2002 and became its Legal Director later that year. After leaving the Iron Range where she grew up, Susan received her B.A. degree from St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN) in 1984 and her J.D. degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1989. She is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the United States Supreme Court. Hli Xyooj joined FLAG in 2006 as the Hmong Community Outreach Coordinator and has since become a Staff Attorney as well. Hli has helped to forge contacts with the Hmong American farming community so FLAG may better serve Hmong farmers. Hli earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999 with majors in International Relations, Political Science, and Asian Studies, with a concentration in Southeast Asia. She graduated from Hamline University School of Law in 2007 (where she also obtained her Certificate in Dispute Resolution from the Dispute Resolution Institute) and completed her Master of Business Administration degree from Hamline University School of Business in December 2008. Partner Organizations/Collaborators: The Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women in Minnesota (AAHWM) provides cultural services, education, and advocacy to address the evolving needs of Hmong women and their families. Today, the 30-year-old organization, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, helps families that are reclaiming their farming traditions. TARGET AUDIENCES: In the grant period, FLAG used formal education programs, workshops, and individual instruction and outreach to change and improve the knowledge, actions, and circumstances for a wide range of immigrant farmers. One quantifiable example was the 2010 Minority and Immigrant Farmer Conference held in St. Paul, Minnesota. According to a survey of the conference participants:  91 percent of the farmers were Asian; 68 percent of the attendees were women.  92 percent of the farmers who responded to the evaluation questions had been farming fewer than 10 years. The majority of Minnesota's most prominent new family farmers continue to come from the Hmong American communities of the Twin Cities. About half of the vendors at the main St. Paul and Minneapolis farmers' markets are Hmong Americans, most of them beginning farmers. They grow and sell fruits, vegetables, roots, herbs, flowers, and traditional crops by the hundreds at other markets across the region. These days, FLAG attorneys work closely with perhaps 100 Hmong American farm families in a given year. This project's target audiences have hit a kind of economic ceiling. They have established farming practices, although usually as a second or third job. They have secured access to farmers' markets, although the income from them is unpredictable and profits are often miniscule. In 2008, the Census Bureau's American Community Survey reported that almost 30 percent of Minnesota's Hmong American residents live in poverty. According to the economic analyses we have conducted, on average, selling fruits and vegetables at a Twin Cities area farmers' market is paying beginning and immigrant farmers roughly 40 cents an hour. Example: One of the most successful St. Paul Hmong American farmers we have assisted grows flowers and vegetables on 22 acres of land on the edge of the Twin Cities. She is laboring to become an independent, full-time farmer. We assisted her to get what we believe was the first FSA operating loan for a Hmong farmer in Minnesota, and she repaid the loan ahead of schedule. Last year, her best year, she had gross sales of $8,700 at farmers' markets. After expenses, she took home $5,323, and she lost her home to foreclosure due to a questionable mortgage her family signed on to. We are helping her find land for next year. Her story is a classic example of the complexities Hmong farmers face. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Impacts
FLAG and AAHWM provided outreach, technical assistance, training, publications, counsel, translations, and transportation to more than 500 Hmong American farmers. Those services created changes in knowledge, actions and conditions through activities ranging from brief legal assistance to hours of individual work.  Change in knowledge: Hundreds of Hmong American farmers, in groups and individually, learned about preparation and application for federal programs, land leasing, new marketing options, and a broad range of risk management strategies.  Change in conditions: FLAG and AAHWM found farmland for at least 83 Hmong American farmers on more than 61 acres; negotiated leases on 22 of those acres for Hmong American farmers.  Change in conditions: Created a waiting list for 149 Hmong American farmers seeking farmland.  Change in action: Eight Hmong American farmers applied for SURE payments to compensate for losses in a July 2008 storm.  Change in conditions: Buyers from 26 schools expressed interest in buying vegetables directly from Hmong American farmers. In a pilot program, four Hmong American farmers sold nearly 400 pounds of produce (90 pounds of it broccoli) in one week directly to schools.  Change in knowledge and actions: An important breakthrough on USDA's Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) coverage for Hmong American farmers. Eight farmers applied successfully. Four of the farmers suffered substantial crop losses this year, filed notices of loss with FSA, and are now in the claims process.  Change in conditions: Because of FLAG's outreach work in Eagan, MN, after Hmong American farmers were threatened by a local resident, all 44 area Hmong American farmers are now less isolated from the community around them. Program's original quantifiable goals: 1) Provide individual training to 75 Hmong American and other immigrant farmers regarding federal risk management and loan programs. (On schedule) 2) Assist 25 Hmong American farmers as they "register" their farms with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) by filling out crop acreage reports, which then gets them "in the system," so that their farms are known by FSA and they will be contacted by FSA in the event of other natural disasters, and with other program updates. Going forward, we would strive to assist 5 - 10 Hmong American farmers each year in filing their crop acreage reports. (On schedule) 3) In the first two years of the grant, assist at least 15 Hmong American farmers affected by natural disaster through the 12- to 18-month process of applying for disaster relief under the new programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill. (On schedule) 4) Assist at least 6 to 12 Hmong American farmers each year in applying for crop insurance or some other risk management tool that is appropriate for their operation. (On schedule) 5) Contribute to capacity-building of AAHWM by providing legal and technical training and support to its staff to identify productive, sophisticated solutions for farm-related problems faced by their members, with the ultimate goal that they become expert farm advocates for Hmong American farmers. (On schedule)

Publications

  • 1. Krueger, Jill 2010. A two-page leaflet on the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payment Program (SURE), the new USDA program created by the 2008 Farm Bill, for farmers who suffered crop losses back to 2008, for training with Dakota County (Minnesota) farmers whose crops were severely damaged by storms in July 2008. Roughly 50 paper copies of the leaflet were distributed, and 345 people have downloaded it from our website.
  • 2. Xyooj, Hli 2010. A template, nearing completion, for farm production and financial recordkeeping to meet the needs of immigrant farmers applying for federal programs and to improve business planning. The template is currently being subject to peer review and pilot usage.
  • 3. Stokes, Susan E. 2010. A PowerPoint presentation prepared for a workshop attended by approximately 45 immigrant and minority farmers highlighting legal and risk management aspects of leasing farmland; 45 more people downloaded copies from the FLAG website during the reporting period.
  • 4.Vang, Ly, and Stokes, Susan E., June 30, 2010, Minneapolis Star Tribune. FLAG and collaborator AAHWM wrote a newspaper commentary on the issue of Hmong American farmers and their reception in suburban and exurban communities.
  • 5. Stokes, Susan E. 2010. A two-page leaflet, Selling Directly to Schools: Tips for Farmers, presented and distributed to farmers at a public meeting in Scott County, Minnesota.