MDA Builds Upon Work to Better Support Emerging Farmers

Editors note: Following the “Agriculture in the Metro” session at our Annual Conference last week, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey phoned in with some resources he wished to share with emerging farmers.

The Department of Agriculture was started as the Minnesota State Dairy Commission in 1885 by a department head, a single assistant, and one clerk who doubled as a food chemist. Since 1921, all commissioners, deputy commissioners, and assistant commissioners have been white. It wasn’t until June 2019 that the first African American MDA Assistant Commissioner, Patrice Bailey, was named. He holds a B.S. in Agriculture Education from Prairie View A&M University (Texas) and has a Master’s Degree in Agriculture from Iowa State University. He has served the Twin Cities in several positions focused on bridging underrepresented communities of color to various available resources and advocating for them legislatively at the Capitol.

Land access is a common and prominent barrier for emerging farmers. FarmLink is one of MDA’s existing programs that can be a helping hand. FarmLink is a list of farm properties for sale or rent in Minnesota, which of course is also helpful for retiring, heirless, or otherwise experienced farmers interested in connecting with a budding farmer. Also, the Farmland Access Hub through Renewing the Countryside provides navigator support to people wishing to obtain farm land.

One of MDA’s newer initiatives has been the Emerging Farmers Working Group, established in May 2020. Its purpose is “To advise the commissioner and legislature regarding the development and implementation of programs and initiatives that support emerging farmers in this state…” Seventeen members from thirteen different counties meet regularly, and the public is invited to attend (check their webpage next month for more information about March’s meeting).

You may also remember last year’s Emerging Farmers in Minnesota Legislative Reportbeing widely shared and discussed. The 2021 Legislative Report is available now and includes a summary of the Emerging Farmers Working Group’s actions and developments since it was established.

This of course is only a peek at what’s going on at MDA. You can connect with Assistant Commissioner Bailey and other members of the Commissioner’s Office here.