As the coordinator for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Minority Farmer Outreach and Assistance Program, Jack Chang helps minority farmers connect with needed resources to successfully start or expand their businesses.
While participants in the program consist of Hispanic, African-American and Asian farmers, the vast majority are Hmong. They specialize in growing fruits, vegetables and ginseng, and selling in the fresh market.
“The Hmong have the most interest in agriculture and, in many cases, their family members have had experience in farming before coming to the U.S.,” says Chang, whose parents were farmers in Laos before they settled in Wisconsin. “Our goal is to help minority farmers stand on their own feet by minimizing cultural and language barriers that exist as they enter the market and try to expand.”
Chang says minority farmers already have the work ethic and the agricultural skills to be successful.
“Our program gives them more tools to make informed business decisions,” he says. “For example, it might be about legal issues or production costs or pricing.”
Some of that information may also include safety and risk management.
“Through workshops, we provide customized and culturally appropriate training,” Chang says. “For instance, there is a complexity to regulations around the application of pesticides. We want them to understand the label so that they mix the chemicals and apply them correctly.”
Chang also works one-on-one with minority farmers as they navigate and build their businesses.
“The individual farmers and their families are direct beneficiaries, but we are all lucky to have this program because it has a positive impact on our local, regional and state economies as well.”