September 11, 2013
Office of Food Initiatives
It's midmorning on a Thursday and it's quiet at Big River Farms in Minnesota's St. Croix River Valley. The van has already left for Minneapolis to deliver boxes full of vegetables harvested yesterday by an unusual group of farmers-in-training: immigrants from Laos, Liberia, Burma, Guatemala, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
One of those immigrant farmers, Mohamad Gaabane, bends over a calculator in the farm's dimly lit office. He spends a lot of time doing this kind of thing: adding up sales, recording which vegetables he has harvested, photocopying seed packets, and mapping out the meticulously planned one-acre plot of land he rents from a nonprofit organization that advocates for local food, the Minnesota Food Association. The paperwork is not what he loves about farming, but the training he's received here at Big River Farms, which is operated by the MFA, has driven home the point that this tedious work will be essential if he wants to move out of the program and start a farm on his own land. Read More...