Last month, Minnesota Food Association, a program of The Food Group, hosted the 13th annual Emerging Farmers Conference (formerly the Immigrant & Minority Farmers Conference). The 2-day conference served to advance the success and sustainability of farmers who traditionally face barriers to the education and resources necessary to build profitable agricultural businesses, including immigrant farmers and farmers of color. The conference provides education and resources, relationship fostering between farmers and community partners. Participants are empowered to lead change in their communities through healthy food access, education, and economic opportunity.
This annual conference is unique because it is planned by farmers and for farmers with a continual emphasis on removing barriers to participation, and farmer-to-farmer learning. Most workshops are presented or co-presented by farmers, and the keynote speakers this year were Hmong farmers Blia Tou Thao and Phua Yang Thao of Thao’s Garden in Wisconsin.
Beyond the farmers who attend, the conference is recognized by many in the community as an asset to supporting local agriculture, and this year’s special guests included Senator Amy Klobuchar (via video welcome) and Assistant Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Andrea Vauble. Workshop topics included: how to grow the best tomatoes, farm business planning, goal setting, and marketing.
The Emerging Farmers Conference is free for all farmers and language interpretation is available in Spanish, Hmong, Karen, Bhutanese, Vietnamese, and Somali.
The conference remains free for farmers due to the generous, ongoing partnership of conference sponsors. 2018 sponsors included Midwest Sustainable & Organic Education Service, USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service, and University of Minnesota Extension.