Eleven Minnesotans joined or were reappointed to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) Emerging Farmers’ Working Group this month.

“The Emerging Farmers’ Working Group’s first year laid a strong foundation for efforts to build the agricultural industry of the future, by bringing all voices and ideas to the table,” Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said. “I’m thankful to the returning and new members who are committing to move this important conversation forward. I’m so excited about this work.”

A total of 41 people applied for 11, two-year positions in the 19-member advisory group. New and reappointed working group members include:

  • Hannah Bernhardt, Pine County, reappointed
  • Rebecca Dosch Brown, Hennepin County, new appointment
  • Ben Dossman, Hennepin County, new appointment
  • Bridget Guiza, Becker County, new appointment
  • Mark Gutierrez, Ramsey County, new appointment
  • Mohamed Hassan, Olmstead County, new appointment
  • Kyle Huneke, Goodhue County, new appointment
  • David Manuel, Beltrami County, new appointment
  • Murigi Mutiga, Washington County, new appointment
  • Albert Nyamari, Ramsey County, new appointment
  • Shelly Woods, Sibley County, reappointed

Group members entering the second year of their two-year terms include:

  • Naima Dhore, Ramsey County
  • Janssen Hang, Dakota County
  • Denise King, Anoka County
  • Erika Legros, Carlton County
  • Hindolo Pokawa, Hennepin County
  • Emily Reno, Otter Tail County
  • Michael Walgrave, Rock County
  • Kaitlyn Walsh, Carlton County

The group’s purpose is to advise the 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 MDA convened six listening sessions throughout Minnesota in 2019. The findings of those listening sessions were compiled in a legislative report (pdf), 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.

In 2021, the Legislature appropriated $150,000 to establish an emerging farmer office and hire a full-time coordinator. This new coordinator will help ensure that anyone who wants to farm can access the available resources and build a successful farm business.

MDA staff managed a selection process that was designed to ensure geographical, racial, gender and generational diversity, along with specific targeted populations from the legislative language.

This article is submitted by the MDA.

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