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I joined the FairShare team in July of last year through a joint position with UW-Madison Extension. My role as Vegetable Educator has been primarily to support vegetable farmers around the Milwaukee area, creating a supportive community of new and established growers.

I have been involved in vegetable production since I was young (although I am still young at heart, I hope!) and enjoyed working for Peter Seely at Springdale Farm, as well as on an Amish produce farm. These experiences, in addition to running my own CSA farm and working with farmers all over the world, have shown me the power of a strong and supportive community of growers.

A big part of what I do is building relationships with farmers. By visiting farms and speaking with growers on a personal level, I hope to get to know farmers and understand their challenges and successes. My conversations with both farmers and agricultural professionals allows me to act as a connector - when a farmer encounters a challenge, I try to connect them with someone who can work with them to help find a solution.

Farmers Sur and Martice work with 2-wheel tractor weeding tools at Fondy Farm, part of a Sustainable Agriculture & Research Education (SARE) - funded FairShare project.

By understanding the issues facing farmers today, the FairShare team can also work to create educational events and collaborative conversations around these topics. This could be either a big winter conference with hundreds of farmers, like the Organic Vegetable Production Conference, and, more informally, Grower Gatherings.

Milwaukee-area farmers gathered in March to discuss the results of a farm-profitability survey written by farmers and FairShare and UW-Madison staff.

Grower Gatherings bring together a group of farmers in a geographic region to learn from each other about a specific issue or topic area. A few examples of previous grower gatherings include: learning about the greenhouse irrigation system on a farm, participating in a field-walk to learn about crop rotation, or discussions on farm labor. I have found that only farmers truly ‘get’ farmers, and so in addition to improving technical skills, the grower gatherings are also important as a social time for farmers to check-in with each other, meet new colleagues, informally solve problems, and of course, to laugh and have fun. Some of the most successful aspects of grower gatherings are often after the formal activities end, where growers can relax and share their problems and joys with the only other people who understand their reality.

I joined the FairShare team about 6 months ago, and have been so excited to combine my knowledge of HMoob (Hmong) culture with my passion for agriculture. Farming has always been part of my life, and my family carried over their knowledge of farming to the United States when they moved here from Laos. Being a son in a HMoob immigrant family, I understand the many challenges that HMoob growers face in selling their products - from language barriers and difficulties accessing markets, to drastically different farming practices.

FairShare received a USDA Local Food Purchasing Program (LFPP) grant in 2021, with the goal to help build resilience and aggregate market sales sourcing primarily from HMoob growers. I joined the team to help connect HMoob growers with resources, education, and opportunities to empower them to become more resilient in the face of climate and market changes.

During my time with FairShare, we have engaged in deep conversation with Marbleseed, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP), UW-Madison, Garden To Be, Central Rivers Farmshed, Rooted, Big River Farms, Wisconsin Food Hub, Fondy Food, The Good Acre, the Wisconsin Hmong Association, and The Hmong Institute to ensure that a variety of voices, experiences, and expertise are factored into the work we are engaged in.

In the upcoming months, I will be working to intentionally collaborate with multiple HMoob organizations throughout Wisconsin, and work in conjunction with our project partners to set up grower gatherings and workshops for HMoob growers in Madison, Milwaukee, Wausau, and La Crosse.

My goal is that my work will be able to connect the HMoob community to not only the many resources that FairShare provides to growers, but also to everyone involved in improving and strengthening our food system. Because even though many of us have different cultural backgrounds, we all share the same type of love - the love for FOOD!

Introducing … a new collaborative effort connecting diversified vegetable growers with resources, services and their peers across the Midwest!

The Midwest Vegetable Growers Network – MVEG, for short – was formed by FairShare in partnership with other farmer support organizations across eight Midwestern states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The MVEG Network also brings vegetable farmers to the table to directly advise and guide the network in our efforts to address the needs of direct market growers.

Earlier this month, the farm support organizations and farmers who make up the MVEG network met in-person for the first time in Madison, WI. It was a day full of learning and working together, along with forging new connections among the organizations and farms who collectively reach across the Midwest. We began the day by building a physical web of connectivity, showing how we are linked together in this newfound community, and learning about each person’s individual contributions.

Discussions continued throughout the day, covering everything from efforts to collaborate on and how to expand the reach of member organizations’ programs, to inviting new participants into the network and making tangible progress in our smaller, topical Working Groups.

One of the most exciting developments to come from our in-person gathering was a collaboratively created list of farmer peer-to-peer happenings that are already underway across the Midwest, which we can now promote more widely as a network and help to deepen the relationships between farmers in our region. Just a few examples of these efforts include the annual Queer Farmer Convergence in Decorah, IA, put on by Humble Hands Harvest; a Climate Resiliency Cohort led by the Land Stewardship Project in MN; and the new Michigan CSA Network for farmers that’s just getting off the ground.

The Working Groups were able to get hands-on work done at our in-person meeting as well, and then carried that work into the Organic Vegetable Production Conference over the following couple of days. MVEG Working Groups each held a roundtable for open discussion at OVPC, covering each of the subject areas that are being focused on: Farmer Resiliency & Health, Climate Change, Farm Labor, & Technical Skill Attainment.

Because we recognize that a stronger community results when we have access to and consider diverse ideas and experiences, this network actively includes farmers from diverse geographic, racial, and gender backgrounds, who sell through various marketing streams. Our Farmer Committee members play an integral role in ensuring that the MVEG Network uplifts and upholds diversity of all kinds across all levels of involvement within the network. To learn more about our network, check out our Mission, Vision, & Equity Statement, see all of the members involved – both organizations and farmers – and keep an eye on upcoming events, head to our just-launched website at

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