BY JOE LYONS
Two years ago, the St. Norbert College Enactus Team set out to find a small business in need. The group, which focuses on community-based business, set out to help a group of local Hmong farmers who were having trouble selling more than 50 percent of the produce that they were harvesting. Part of the issue was that the families they talked to were not diverse enough in their channels of distribution, relying too heavily on local farmers’ markets. Much of the food was spoiling before they could sell it, causing the families significant financial hardship.
The result decided upon by Enactus was a Community Supporting Agriculture program during the summer at SNC. The Hmong farmers would be able to distribute the produce on a bi-weekly basis to the faculty and staff, who had the ability to sign up for the 20-week program. This gave the farmers a guaranteed income, and they did not have to worry about cash sales on a weekly basis. Overall, this project greatly benefitted the Hmong farmers, who generated $8,300, an increase of 35 percent of their annual income. It also greatly reduced the amount of waste, as the program helped distribute 2,000 pounds of produce that would previously have gone to waste by efficiently allocating their resources.
This year, Enactus is looking to continue the inspiring project and is also making changes to improve upon last year’s success. The program will run 12 weeks, from June 30 to Sept. 15. Perhaps the most significant change this year is that customers will be able to customize their own bags by filling them with up to the paid price of produce of their choice during pick-up time. The farmers will set up their produce in front of Michels Commons every Monday from 4-5p.m. during these weeks. The food is harvested on Sunday, so the produce will be fresh! As opposed to last year, this system will allow for more frequent pickups with more of a farmers’ market feel and allow the customer to have more power in the transactions.
The Hmong farmers will also be selling bouquets of flowers. There will be three pricing options for the summer: bouquet of flowers only, produce only, or a flower and produce bundle. This program is a great way to add some diversity to your weekly grocery shopping, with your money staying local and going to a very good cause. Instead of buying produce from hundreds of miles away, why not spend your money helping local families that could really use the help? Come support the Hmong farmers, as well as SNC Enactus, as they continue their Community Supporting Agriculture Program this summer! For more information go to: snc.edu/goinglocal.