Minnesota lawmakers kicked off the 2022 legislative session on January 31st with a historic budget surplus of over $7 billion dollars. Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan’s supplemental budget recommendations outline the ways they would like to use that surplus, including funding to address many issues aimed at strengthening the Minnesota food system. From investments into programs that support farmer mental health, to support for drought relief and farmers markets, the proposed budget offers critical support for Minnesota farmers and the communities in which they reside. Governor Walz also allocated over $6.5M in funding for food assistance relief, including $1.5M for LEAFF (Local Emergency Assistance Farmer Fund) over the next four years. This is HUGE news!
We started LEAFF with several partnering organizations in 2020 as a way to help small-scale emerging and BIPOC farmers survive the loss of their typical markets due to the pandemic. Markets for local farmers have yet to rebound to their pre-pandemic levels, making the LEAFF program all the more necessary now and in years to come. LEAFF is a guarantee to purchase produce at a fair price from BIPOC farmers, 100% of that produce is then donated to hunger relief organizations in Minnesota. The $1.5M in funding that Governor Walz is proposing for the LEAFF program will enable us to purchase produce from 100+ BIPOC farmers and will provide almost a million pounds of culturally appropriate produce into the hunger relief pipeline this year. We believe that Minnesotans experiencing food insecurity deserve access to produce that is fresh, healthy, and culturally significant. LEAFF helps accomplish this while paying farmers a fair price.
Thank you to Governor Tim Walz, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture for making food, farming, and families a priority in the upcoming legislative session. The supplemental budget faces a bumpy road ahead, stay tuned for more info on how you can help advocate.
Here are some highlights of LEAFF’s impact in its first two years as well as testimonials from program partners and participating farmers:
- Worked with 62 BIPOC farmers to train them in wholesale marketing and provide production and business technical assistance.
- Purchased over $480,000 in produce from participating farms.
- Provided over 250,000 pounds of produce from local farmers for distribution to hunger-relief partners
- LEAFF has multiple community-based partners, including the Hmong American Partnership (HAP), Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC), Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Mill City Farmers Market, Lakewinds Co-op, and The Food Group.
- Participants who joined LEAFF in 2020 sold over $350,000 in produce into The Good Acre’s other contract wholesale channels in 2021 because of skills learned from their participation in the LEAFF program.
- 94% of participating farmers reported that LEAFF contributed to their farm business “to a moderate or significant degree”.
- 100% of participating farmers reported learning new skills from LEAFF, including how to communicate with wholesale buyers, packaging requirements, and food safety.
- The vast majority of participants commented that LEAFF allowed them to reduce or even eliminate the amount of wasted produce on their farms.
- Winner of a 2021 Environmental Initiative Award for Local Sustainability Impact.
“I am thankful to the Governor for allocating funding to support local farmers and to fight the hunger in Minnesota. I am happy that I was participating in the LEAFF program, and that my organic vegetable was delivered to Minnesotans who faced challenges during COVID-19.” -Wa Kou Hang, Twin Cities Green Farm
Culturally connected foods have the ability to make people feel seen, welcome and known. The fresh, local, culturally connected foods we’ve received from LEAFF have made such a positive difference to food shelf participants throughout the Twin Cities. The quality and variety has been instrumental in meeting community needs in these challenging times.” -Sophia Lenarz-Coy, Executive Director, The Food Group
I am an Asian American farmer named Yee Moua. I have farmed for the last 10 plus years. I enjoy farming and providing fresh healthy produce to my community. My main source of income came from selling my fresh produce at local farmers markets. During the pandemic, it hit us farmers hard with the lock down and people scared to coming out to support their local farmers at the farmer’s market. When I heard about the LEAFF program The Good Acre and other local non-profits put together to help the local farmers buy and provide their goods to the community, I signed up and got into the program. I am very thankful for these non-profits for coming together to create this program to help buy from local farmers so that their produce at the garden will not go to waste during this time of hardship and give back by providing fresh produce to the community. This program has helped me tremendously to be able to stay in business as a local farmer to provide fresh healthy produce to the community and I hope this program continues. -Yee Moua, Heathy Greens Farm
Read more about LEAFF:
Special thanks to our partners Mill City Farmers Market Charitable Fund, the Hmong American Partnership, Lakewinds Food Co-op, The Food Group, our Farm Program Director David Van Eeckhout, and our Farm Program Specialist, Xiong Thao. Their hard work and coordination help make LEAFF possible!