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USDA 2501 Program Supports Hmoob Farmers

Posted by MD Sharman, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement in Equity Initiatives
May 22, 2024
A woman working in a garden

Yimmuaj Yang, community director of the Wisconsin-based nonprofit and community organization Groundswell Conservancy, explains its mission in the simplest terms: “We protect special places forever.”

Natural resource protection is the focus of this community-driven group, which was recently awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2501 Program.

The 2501 Program demonstrates USDA’s commitment to ensuring that underserved and veteran farmers, ranchers and foresters can equitably participate in USDA programs. Grants are awarded to community-based and nonprofit organizations, higher education institutions, and eligible tribal entities with at least three years of experience working with underserved or veteran farmers and ranchers.

With its most recent 2501 Program grant, Groundswell Conservancy has prioritized a goal of helping the nearly 60,0000 Hmoob in Wisconsin. The Hmoob are an ethnic group primarily from China and Southeast Asia who are essential contributors to local food systems in Wisconsin, but they face significant access barriers.

Although the Hmoob are Wisconsin’s largest Asian ethnic group and make up one percent of the state’s population, their access to government programs and assistance has been limited by language, funding awareness, and the ability to connect for peer sharing.

The Groundswell Conservancy has expanded a coalition of Hmoob-led and farm organizations to help Asian-American farmers access USDA programs, reach additional markets, and get support from university extension divisions, agricultural lenders and peers. “2501 funding made the human resources aspect of our project possible," said Yang. “We were able to secure Hmoob-speaking translators and offer direct technical assistance to connect them to USDA programming.”

Groundswell Conservancy has been around for over 40 years and continues to look toward the future. They view this funding and the current “Strengthening Support Systems for Wisconsin Hmoob Farmers” project as the beginning of doing exactly as the project states. “There has to be a sustainable piece of the support we are offering now,” said Yang. “We want to move these farmers toward being peer resources to support one another.”

The nonprofit organization aims to set the foundation for community network development, encourage best practice sharing, and help Hmoob farmers gain access to agricultural conferences, events and training. “Some of our population did not know USDA existed,” Yang said. “We are looking to change that and create a ripple effect to help all Hmoob farmers.”

USDA is accepting applications for the 2501 Grant Program until July 5.

Category/Topic: Equity Initiatives