Farmers & Growers
Indoor Winter Market, Saturday Market
Organic Vegetables | Winter Storage Vegetables | Organic Fruit
Mhonpaj has been farming since her childhood. When her parents arrived in the United States farming was all they knew so they immediately looked for a farming opportunity, becoming pickle farmers and selling their product to a local company. Farming was a family event and everyone pitched in to help. Soon the family also started a small garden farm, growing many traditional Hmong foods for family consumption plus a little extra for area Farmers Markets.
Mhonpaj believes farming makes you appreciate things. Farming is a form of mediation and a great stress reliever. It is also a time for the entire family to pitch in and work on a project together. But farming isn’t without challenges, the biggest of which include insects and weather. In Laos, insects weren’t nearly as much of a problem. Mhonpaj’s parents have told her that because there was such abundant food for insects in Laos, they didn’t need to attack newly planted crops. Weather has also been a challenge, especially when it comes to adapting to the ever-changing climate in the Midwest.
Mhonpaj has been connected with the Minnesota Food Association for several years. When she learned about the opportunity to begin production farming this year she thought it would be perfect for her and her family. Through the New Immigrant Agriculture Program, Mhonpaj and her family have access to land and a Hmong-speaking Southeast Asian Coordinator who can help them find resources and answer questions. Together they have already worked to resolve a number of issues related to drip irrigation setup, product liability insurance, budgeting information, and more.
Mhonpaj’s Garden is 1.5 acres on which she is growing grape tomatoes, slicer tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, and green peppers. In addition to selling CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares, Mhonpaj and her family are vendors at the North St. Paul Farmers Market and Marketfest in Downtown White Bear. Mhonpaj and her family also sell their produce to Cub Foods, Byerly’s and Chipotle through the Big River Foods distribution program. Their next goal is to create a specialty CSA where they can sell Hmong vegetables throughout the summer.
Besides growing authentic Hmong herbs and vegetables Mhonpaj and her family share their knowledge and culinary heritage through cooking demonstrations and classes. Mhonpaj and her mother May have been featured on the Channel 2 show Almanac showcasing simple tips and recipes for grilling with authentic Hmong herbs and peppers and on Minnesota Public Radio. In the future Mhonpaj hopes to expand Mhonpaj’s Garden including creating a recipe book for traditional Hmong Foods and teaching how organic food promotes a healthy lifestyle.