The Minnesota Hmong Agriculture Cooperative’s Aggregation and Value- added Program

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2017: $19,350.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Minnesota Hmong Agriculture Cooperative
Region: North Central
State: Minnesota
Project Coordinator:
Phenhli Thao
Minnesota Hmong Agriculture Cooperative

Information Products

Small Farm Management Plan (Workbook/Worksheet)


  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbages, carrots, cucurbits, eggplant, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), okra, onions, peppers, radishes (culinary), sweet corn, tomatoes, Hmong vegetables
  • Additional Plants: ginger
  • Animal Products: honey


  • Crop Production: catch crops, crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, crop rotation, double cropping, food processing, food processing facilities/community kitchens, food product quality/safety, multiple cropping, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, varieties and cultivars
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, technical assistance, workshop, youth education
  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, farm-to-institution, farm-to-restaurant, farmers' markets/farm stands, financial management, grant making, value added, whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: cultural control, disease vectors, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, physical control, prevention, row covers (for pests), trap crops, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community planning, ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, food hubs, infrastructure analysis, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, values-based supply chains

    Proposal summary:


    Members of Minnesota’s immigrant communities are encouraged to go into farming for many good reasons, including strong agricultural traditions here and in their home countries. Immigrant family farmers are growing produce throughout the metro area, often on leased parcels of land without annual continuity. In recent years there is also increasing interest in urban agriculture and low-income communities and communities of color are encouraged to grow produce as a means to improve both physical and economic wellbeing. Despite some challenges, both types of agriculture are being practiced successfully, adding to the documented surplus of Minnesota-grown produce each year (hundreds of millions of pounds, according to Hunger Free Minnesota’s research in support of its Agricultural Surplus Initiative).

    Many of these farmers lack the resources to effectively market their entire crops. At the same time, there are people who could benefit both from affordable access to this produce, and small businesses opportunities created to more effectively aggregate, preserve, and distribute it.
    The farmers have been told they could sell more produce if they could create larger organizations to better address institutional buyers’ expectations. It is our observation that there is a gap in our food system that could be filled if small-scale, socially disadvantaged farmers were to utilize cooperatives to aggregate their produce for more efficient sale and distribution.

    Cooperatives are widely recognized as a means for people to gain economic advantages they could not achieve individually. Drawing from successful examples of cooperatives in Minnesota and elsewhere, Community Table is working with farmers and food entrepreneurs to develop sustainable models for cooperative businesses – both producer- and worker-owned – to sell the full harvest of participating farms (including first, second and third quality produce) by collectively selling to wholesale buyers, including food processors, food shelves, and reaching corner stores.


    Lead workshops on Cooperative organizational structure and business planning for our farmers to expand their leadership capacity and skills. To develop a business plan in order to secure better financing, space, transportation and equipment which will generate more sales, income and equity for our members. We are fortunate, through Community Table’s relationship with Cooperative Development Services (CDS) of Minnesota and connections in Georgia to the Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC) we are able to bring in leadership training from both CDS and FSC to offer culturally specific cooperative development training with our farmers of color.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Empower limited resource farmers to increase their produce sales and create food related businesses through cooperative processing, marketing and distribution efforts.
    2. Positively impact the environment by promoting organic growing practices to local farmers.
    3. Empower farmers economically by strengthening their ability to supply vegetables to corner stores, CSAs, buying clubs and to local institutions through improved farm plans, business plans, financing and sales.
    4. Benefit the community by expanding access to low-cost fresh and frozen vegetables and fruits to families in low income neighborhoods year-round.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.