Seventeen Minnesotans appointed to a legislatively created Emerging Farmers’ Working Group recently met for the first time, beginning their journey the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to help shape the future of farming in the state.
The group’s purpose is to advise MDA and Minnesota Legislature on ways to advance the success and sustainability of farmers who traditionally face barriers to the resources necessary to build profitable agricultural businesses. Emerging Farmers are defined as women, veterans, persons with disabilities, American Indian/Alaskan Native, communities of color, young and urban farmers.
The inaugural working group members are Gina Aguilar, Hennepin County; Hannah Bernhardt, Pine County; Elizabeth Bryant, Rice County; Naima Dhore, Ramsey County; Jessika Greendeer, Washington County; Janssen Hang, Dakota County; Denise King, Anoka County; Lucas Kruse, Blue Earth County; Erika Legros, Carlton County; Moses Momanyi, Isanti County; Hindolo Pokawa, Hennepin County; Emily Reno, Otter Tail County; Sai Thao, Dakota County; Miah Ulysse, Ramsey County; Michael Walgrave, Rock County; Kaitlyn Walsh, Carlton County; and Shelly Woods, Sibley County.
MDA convened six listening sessions throughout Minnesota in 2019. The findings of those listening sessions were compiled in a legislative report, which recommended the creation of a working group to provide guidance to Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and the Minnesota Legislature on developing programs and initiatives to support emerging farmers in Minnesota.
“We know that Minnesota’s agricultural economy benefits when everyone gets a fair shot to succeed in farming, and we know we have work to do to make that possible,” Petersen says. “I’m grateful to the working group volunteers for accepting this challenge and I look forward to working with them.”
MDA staff including Commissioner Petersen; Deputy Commissioner Andrea Vaubel; Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey; Tribal Liaison Shannon Kesner; Ariel Kagan, MDA strategy and innovation specialist; and Michael Birchard, Dakota County Technical College associate vice president of diversity and inclusion, reviewed the applications. The selection process was designed to ensure geographical, racial, gender and generational diversity, along with specific targeted populations from the legislative language. MDA received 101 applications to join the working group.
The working group’s first meeting took place Nov. 6.