Red Lake Nation News - Babaamaajimowinan (Telling of news in different places)

By Anisa Hajimumin
Assistant Commissioner for Immigrant and Refugee Affairs 

Economic Opportunities for Immigrants and Refugees Interested in Agriculture and Food Business Was Focus of June's Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Forum

 


At June’s Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Forum, community leaders, state agencies, and nonprofit organizations came together to talk about the economic opportunities and challenges in the agriculture industry for Minnesota’s Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) farmers. The forum also shared a range of resources from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and community-based organizations for BIPOC Minnesota farmers.

Emerging Farmers Working Group

To kick off the discussion, MDA Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey shared information on the Emerging Farmers Working Group in Minnesota. This group is the first of its kind in the country, and its purpose is to develop new programs that support emerging farmers in Minnesota. The members consist of farmers or organizations that represent farmers who are BIPOC, women, veterans, persons with disabilities and any other emerging farmers as determined by the Commissioner of Agriculture. They are currently studying MDA funding and policy with the goal of developing those recommendations for policies and programs to assist emerging farmers.

Next, we heard impactful stories from two East African farmers in Minnesota with Lillian Otieno from MDA as the moderator.

Naima Dhore, originally from Somalia, is founder of Somali American Farmers Association (SAFA). Naima hopes to strengthen the foundations of Somali farmers here so they can contribute to the future of agriculture in Minnesota and the Midwest. She’s excited to see the growing interest in farming from fellow East Africans, but a major challenge that continues is the lack of land access and capital for new farmers. Sharing her experience, Dhore noticed the gap between primarily white-led organizations that don’t always know how to reach out to farmers like her and other BIPOC farmers. Some advice she gives to those wanting to be a farmer is to keep your day job at first because it’s a process that requires time before you can support yourself completely.

Moses Momanyi, from Kenya, is the owner of Dawn2Dusk Farm and co-founder of Kilimo MN. He arrived in Minnesota in 2004. His proudest farming moment was when he finally had his own land to grow whatever he wanted. As an immigrant farmer, he didn’t initially feel he had support from other local farmers. He quickly learned that networking is a great way to learn about available services and programs, and he now shares his knowledge with new farmers, so they have a good network at the start of their careers. He advises young people to consider a career in agriculture because it’s a lot more than just farming; there are many different career paths that young people can take to be successful in this industry.

Resources for Food Businesses from DEED and MDA

Emma Kasiga from DEED talked about the Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Program. The program works to provide loan capital for businesses that are owned and operated by minorities, low-income persons, women, veterans and/or persons with disabilities. They partner with lender organizations across Minnesota to provide a wide range of resources for people looking to start a business and access capital.

Helen Schnoes from MDA shared a number of resources available to food businesses and farmers. She mentioned the Starting a Food Business Roadmap. This roadmap talks you through what you should know when it comes to planning and funding a food business. She also mentioned their Licensing Liaison and their Food Licensing Wizard tool which can help answer licensing questions people may have for food businesses. She also mentioned a variety of grants, cost-share programs, and loans available from MDA for farmers and food businesses. Lastly, she mentioned FarmLink which is a directory for finding farmland to rent or buy. It’s available for farmland in both the metro area and rural Minnesota.

Additional resources include:

Minnesota Grown helps promote products grown and raised in Minnesota and is a well-known resource for finding local goods statewide.

New Markets Cost-Share Program helps Minnesota farms or branded food or beverage companies take advantage of market opportunities through E-commerce, contracted store merchandising and point-of-sale work, store promotions, tradeshows and store demos.

Organic Certification Cost Share Program helps farmers and handlers with the cost of obtaining organic certification.

Resources for Legal Services and Assistant for Farmers

LegalCorps assists with the needs of small business owners and has an immigrant entrepreneurs plan. They can help with business formation advice and more.

Farmers Legal Action Group (FLAG) is a nonprofit law center dedicated to providing legal services and support to family farmers and their communities in order to help keep family farmers on the land.

Resources from Community-Based Organizations

Aaron Blyth from Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) talked about his organization and their available resources for Latino farmers. LEDC is a business development entity in the Twin Cities and their mission is to transform the community by creating economic opportunity for Latinos. Ten years ago, they began helping Latinos across Minnesota because a third of all Latinos in Minnesota live in rural areas. Besides providing access to capital, they also help Latino farmers get plugged into networks with other farmers and resources.

Lastly, we heard from Patrick Pariseau who works at Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA). MEDA is an organization that provides business consulting and access to capital and market opportunities for BIPOC entrepreneurs. MEDA’s recent work with LEDC and the MDA to distribute CARES Act funding was a new endeavor for them in working with BIPOC agricultural businesses, but they believe it’s an important industry to support and grow in Minnesota.

If you missed this forum, you can watch the discussion on DEED’s YouTube channel here.

In Immigrants and Refugee Access to State Resources, July’s forum will discuss topics of wage and hour laws, workplace safety laws and workers’ compensation laws, as well as provide resources for high skill on-the-job training programs that the Department of Labor and Industry oversees and grants for qualifying agencies.

 

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