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Introducing our 2016 Farmers

Posted 6/28/2016 8:38pm by Minnesota Food Association.

June 28th. It is June 28th and the farm is in full gear for the 2016 season!

This week we will deliver our third CSA. For the last two months we have been bringing farmers to our weekend markets with all sorts of tasty and beautiful produce. 

The farmers, staff and seasonal crew navigate the farm like a honey-bee colony. We gather for meetings, touch base on tasks, move out into the land and then reconvene at the end of the day. We are busy. We are growing. We are a community. And we want to share our community with you in one of two ways.

First, come to our annual Open House on July 16th. We are honored to be part of the Eat Local Farm Tour and will have games, snacks, farm tours plus a global farmer table highlighting food and farming cultures around the world!

Second, this year we were blessed with a group of volunteer writers. Tasked with interviewing farmers, they have generated stories, quotes and histories from all the farmers enrolled in our training program. It is with great delight that we share with you the first installment in our 2016 Farmer Story Series. Check back each week for a new feature farmer, plus follow us on Instagram and Facebook where we will post updated news about each farmer and show off their glorious produce!

Without further adieu, we present The Early Birds. 

Story by Nancy Cook; Photos by Laura Hedeen

Lue Lor was born in Laos to a family of modest means. Lue’s father was involved with American CIA operations, and his mother assumed the role of head of household, managing the family’s small farmstead. The years that followed US troop withdrawal from Viet Nam were a “long, sad story” for Lue. His mother and siblings were killed in the Viet Nam War, and in 1979 Lue, then ten years old, and his eleven-year-old brother escaped to Thailand with an uncle. Fifteen years later, married and father to three children, Lue arrived in the United States. It was difficult at the beginning, adjusting to harsh weather and a strange language. But now, Lue says, he feels prosperous and “everything is good.”

After their arrival in Minnesota, the Lors welcomed three more children into the family. And Lue has rediscovered his farming roots. Two years ago, he got connected to MFA’s training program through friends. He started with a quarter of an acre but quickly felt the desire to expand.

A man with “a passion for the outdoors, the sun and the wind,” Lue has found his work at MFA to be very satisfying. His goals are to complete the training program at MFA and acquire his own farm, which will enable him “to give back” and contribute to community health as well as feed his own family. Every day, in pursuit of his dream, he is “up before the sun,” Lue’s son Houa reports. You have to “beat the heat,” says Lue, “if you love the land and work.”

Lue has passed on to his children wisdom acquired during his life’s journey. Houa, the second born, and a college graduate with professional credentials, says that chief among the values he’s taken from his father are patience and diligence. Farming “takes a lot of work,” says Houa. The work is often invisible, and many consumers underestimate the labor involved. For his part, Lue thinks it unfortunate that so many people gravitate toward conventional produce that looks beautiful but lacks taste and nutritional value. If they could only do a taste comparison, Lue believes, they’d make different choices. He also wishes people could see crops growing firsthand, getting exposure little by little over time. As the Lors note, most consumers don’t realize that planting begins in January, or that farmers work nights and weekends. Lue adds: “They survive heat, the dark, rain,” and they do it with “love, passion, care.”

Both father and son reflect positively on the value of community farmers markets. The markets create opportunities for people to get to know each other and introduce people to different cultures. According to Lue, many “beautiful transactions” have taken place on market days. One example the Lors relate is of a time a customer invited them to dinner, where a “spaghetti” meal made from squash raised by Lue was served. It’s this kind of experience, they say, that illustrates what matters most: “family, community, health.” 

Nancy Cook is a writer and teaching artist. She has written many stories about a diverse range of people, jobs and places. She has a professional background in community law practice. 

Laura Hedeen is the Program Manager at the Minnesota Food Association.