Northfield Farm Expands Land Access for Immigrant, Newly Emerging Farmers

On a windy day outside in rural Northfield, Minn., a group of farmers from Sharing Our Roots in T-shirts and jeans walk through the rows of a neatly plowed field. New growth pokes through the soil, while in the distance sheep and lambs are grazing in a pasture that’s been restored as a result of attempts to improve topsoil health.

Though it’s been around for about 17 years, nonprofit Sharing Our Roots is trying something new this year. It’s creating a support system for beginning and newly emerging farmers and BIPOC farmers. It also teaches regenerative agriculture techniques while also addressing food insecurity within southern Minnesota.

Executive Director Rocky Casillas Aguirre said Sharing Our Roots opened up all of its 100 acres this year to prospective farmers in the area.

“Land access is the single largest barrier to emerging farmers and farmers of color,” Aguirre said. “A lot of these farmers can’t afford land in this area and maybe have farmed in other places, but not with long-term lease.”

He said for farmers to have food sovereignty — the right of people to have healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sustainable methods, and the right to define their food and agriculture systems — they need land.

So, Sharing Our Roots acts as a homebase for farmers for as long as they want to be a part of the project. Some move onto purchasing their own land and growing their business enterprise. Others stay and continue feeding their families right off the land.

This is Elkana Abobo’s second planting season with Sharing Our Roots. He grows tomatoes, sweet potatoes and corn. He also planted traditional Kenyan vegetables, such as managu, African nightshade and chinsaga, or African spider flower as it is sometimes called in the U.S.

“It’s not easy to get in the market,” Abobo said. “Unless the Africans have planted them, harvested them and they have enough they can take to the market and sell them there.”

By Hannah Yang
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