Lessons and Learnings from Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement 2021

Amid the global pandemic, the climate crisis, and the on-going reckoning with racism at all levels, everyone is doing the best they can to navigate all the things. It’s been a trip. At the Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI), we have been working hard with our community to adapt our work to be joyful, life-giving, and impactful in a virtual space, amidst all that is happening.  

In 2021, we hosted our second online training for Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement, an introduction to the Field of Community Engagement. Contending with Zoom fatigue on top of all these on-going crises, we weren’t sure what participants would walk away with. Turns out, folks learned a lot. And we did too. 

We wanted to pause and offer some of our reflections from this year’s cohort to other comrades in the movement trying to host each other in this socially distanced reality.  


Before we share these reflections, we wanted to take time to share our context. Right now, NCEI is exploring what it means to do our work in this moment, and in this ecosystem of people, communities, and organizations doing the work. Taking our lessons from the natural world, dandelions have been particularly resonant with us. They help new plants grow by enriching the soil with nutrients, by pulling out toxins, and by loosening up soil structure.  

At NCEI, we are trying embrace our role as dandelions. How do we build deep roots and networks of community care while also helping community authorship, leadership and ownership take root within systems?   

One way we do this is through our annual training series, Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement. Our goal is to provide space for folks to explore how culture, healing, history, identity, power, relationships and trust impact community engagement, as well as how they are strengthened through authentic engagement processes (see our Impacts Model here). 

Tapping the Potential 2021 

From the beginning, this iteration of Tapping the Potential felt different. On average, the cohort self-identified as more experienced in communinty engagement than any cohort we hosted before.* Based on past feedback, we also added a fifth, 3-hour session to explore culture change more explicitly, bringing us to a total of 15 Zoom session hours.  

We weren’t sure what to expect—would participants come back after the first session? What would they takeaway? In the end, not only did we retain 95% of the cohort for the duration of the series, but participants also named some powerful learnings and desire to continue pausing for reflection and healing.  

Relationships and healing at the center 

What we learned is that people trying to engage community right now are thirsty to be together. They are committed to pushing systems to do better, but are dedicated to taking care of themselves, to slowing down for self-preservation and their health. Participants named their desire for pause, space for reflection, for healing, and for connection. 

  • “I feel emboldened by the series to stand firm in the approach my team takes to community engagement.” 
  • “Dominant culture/white supremacy is still here, and [I’m learning] how that shows up in myself and the work; healing through community engagement.” 
  • “I plan on building in more time to reset, reflect and repair. Take tips from Pleasure Activism and other healing. I often go 100 MPH and actually even though I am in a good space…I need boundaries and time to slow down…” 

Value the process as much as the outcomes 

In community engagement, we’ve always known that how we do our work is as important—if not more important—than what we do in our work. For our online programming, that principle remains as true as ever. It has been vital that we take time in trainings to build relationships; that we break up Zoom meetings with time for small groups and individual activities; that we dig into deep personal and group reflection; and that we still ‘read the room’ and scrap the agenda at times to make space for emerging needs.  

Participants confirmed this for us: 

  • “This series created/modeled an experience for me that I want to replicate. I want to shift to focusing on the inner circle of the community engagement model.”
  • “The importance of the ‘invitation’ and of ‘presence.’ The way your team used technology and adapted practices in real time was very thoughtful and wise. Maybe the truest expression of the values we discussed.”  
  • “When applying for grants, we will focus more on relationship building as a key goal/outcome.” 

Embed body movement and story-telling 

This year, we took another step towards integrating movement and playfulness into our sessions by mailing participants an interactive Playbook and a fidget spinner. The playbook was designed to spark the deeper dialog that community engagement requires through coloring sheets, stretching activities, I Am Poems, reflection questions, and more. Being vulnerable, speaking truth, and learning from each other’s stories to help complicate our own world view. 

  • “I feel like I learned so much about how to hold space as well as the content…the most important thing I learned is to let go of the idea of ‘knowing’ as a goal and more deeply accepted my place at the start of a powerful journey.” 
  • “The biggest takeaway was how the series modeled the main takeaway that I think you intended, which was focusing on the inner circle of community engagement and letting anything from the outer circle flow from there.” Learn more about our impact model here. 

Life-giving spaces 

There were many other take-aways shared by participants – deeper self-awareness, greater understanding of how community engagement and equity are linked, tools for how to move from outreach toward engagement, stories of successful engagement practices, and more.  

But what stood out most to us was that hosting cohort experiences online can still be life-giving. By intentionally crafting our space and time, we could create opportunities to build relationships, to embrace many ways of thinking and learning, and to let stories and healing to emerge.  

It’s always an honor to host cohort experiences with brilliant and powerful community members – this is why we love community engagement. We learned a lot from the participants in Tapping the Potential this year, and we’re excited to continue deepening our work together moving forward. 


Stay tuned for the re-launching of the Engaged Learning Series this May, and for registration for the 2022 Tapping the Potential series this fall! For more information, email us at NCEI@nexuscp.org 


*82% of participants in Tapping the Potential 2021 identified as “advanced” or “intermediate” in community engagement experience, compared to 73% in 2020, and 51% in 2019.

Are you or your organization seeking resources to move toward deeper community engagement practices? 

Join us for the next Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement series:
A 4-Part Introduction to the Field of Community Engagement

Dates: October 23, October 30, November 13, November 20

Time: 9:00 am – 12 Noon

Where: Zoom (link will be shared day before each session)Image of group discussion from Engaged Learning Series

Description: This workshop series is designed to deepen your knowledge, broaden your perspective, and sharpen your skills as you explore the potential for community engagement to create equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities. The sessions are for anyone who is interested in learning more about community engagement, or for those who wish to deepen their work with community.

Session Topics:

  • Pre-Work Option: Cultural Exploration through the IDI
  • Session 1: What is Community Engagement?
  • Session 2: Shifting Power: Moving from Service to Engagement
  • Session 3: Healing through Community Engagement
  • Session 4: Moving Forward: Integrating Community Engagement Practices and Shifting Work Culture

Learning Goals:

  • Understand the principles and values of community engagement and how it differs from other practices, such as outreach and the traditional social service model.
  • Learn how community engagement can make your work more effective.
  • Utilize community engagement tools for building relationships, leadership, and ownership.
  • Explore how community engagement leads to equity and how understanding equity is essential for effective community engagement.
  • Assess your organization’s readiness and capacity to incorporate community engagement as an approach in your work.

*PRE-WORK OPTION: Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Cultural Exploration: Culture, healing and relationships are central to authentic and sustainable community engagement. Thus, we are offering the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) as an optional pre-work add-on for participants who are interested in more deeply exploring culture and identity, challenges and opportunities connecting across difference and commonality, and how to navigate those differences in community engagement work. Your confirmation email upon registration will have more information and next steps for opting into the IDI pre-work component, which will take place in October 2020 prior to the beginning of the workshop series.*

Fee: Scholarships are available to ensure anyone can participate, no one will be turned away. Contact NCEI@nexuscp.org for details.

  • Philanthropy/Corporate Rate: $850 for all four sessions
  • Nonprofit/Government Rate: $450 for all four sessions
  • *Additional IDI Pre-Work Option: additional $250 per person for IDI group session and individual feedback session in October 2020 – registration is separate and will come with your confirmation email from one of the above selections*

NOTEAttendance at all four sessions is required, as this is a cohort experience and each session builds upon previous sessions.

Contact NCEI@nexuscp.org with questions or for more information about scholarships.


Click here to register and for series details!



In partnership with Public Allies Twin Cities, Nexus Community Partners is hiring for two dynamic 2020-2021 Public Allies positions:

Community Engagement Coordinator, Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI)

Program Associate, Human Resources & Organizational Culture (HROC)

Nexus Community Partners is a community-building intermediary whose mission is to build more engaged and powerful communities of color by supporting community-building initiatives and fostering social and human capital.

Public Allies Twin Cities is a social justice organization committed to changing the face and practice of leadership by recruiting and training talented young leaders, with a passion for social impact, to create meaningful change in our community. Our Allies are diverse, equity-centered, innovative problem solvers, dedicated to mobilizing community assets to develop solutions to local challenges. In partnership with nonprofit partners, we deliver our nationally recognized, values-driven, results-led apprenticeship to advance our mission to create a just and equitable society and the diverse leadership to sustain it.

Click the above links for the position descriptions – priority application deadline Wednesday, August 5th, final deadline Friday, August 14th. 

Click here to view other openings at Nexus

Nexus staff at 15th anniversary

People with deep lived experiences of inequities are actively leading and creating transformation in their own communities, in ways that respect and leverage their cultural ways of knowing and being. The pervasive view of leadership, as extraordinary and hierarchal individuals, reinforces dominant positions of power. Institutions that only rely on this systems-driven analysis often miss seeing and valuing these critical people, forms and patterns of leadership.

Nexus Community Partners supports strong, equitable and just communities in which all residents are engaged, are recognized as leaders and have pathways to wealth building opportunities. We hope to bring people working in different sectors and cultural communities together to lift up absent narratives about leadership. With our Community Storytelling Project partners, our learning community will explore ways we practice community leadership.

Join us to learn more about our virtual and in-person learning opportunities to:

  • Support and explore community-driven leadership that improve the overall health and well-being of a group as defined by those individuals, families, or community members.
  • Develop and share stories of dynamic and cultural practices that support intersectional and relational shared power.

Thursday, Feb. 13th
11:00 AM – noon EST / 10:00 – 11:00 AM CST
View the info session slide deck here

Wednesday, Feb. 26th
10:30 AM – Noon EST/ 9:30 – 11:00 AM CST
View the recorded meeting here

Learn more about the CLLI and Learning Community here!

“I do a little bit of this, a little bit of that”

While Chalonne joined the Nexus family almost two years ago, she is just settling into a new role with the Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI)—National Community Engagement Program Manager. In the position, Chalonne provides guidance around community engagement to folks across the country while also facilitating local events.

Her national work focuses on the MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge. This initiative aims to reduce the number of people incarcerated across the US at over 50 sites across the country. After several years of advocacy by NCEI and others, MacArthur is in the early stages of shifting to a community engagement-centered approach, specifically focusing on currently and formerly incarcerated people and their families. As a new member of the team, Chalonne is working with sites to develop and implement community engagement strategies.

Lessons Learned about Community Engagement

Giving community money isn’t as risky as people think. Millions of dollars have already been invested in eliminating disparities between white communities and black, indigenous, people of color communities, to little avail.

“What’s the bigger risk? Continuing to fund things the way we’ve been funding them and getting the same results? It feels more risky to keep doing the same thing. Instead, we need to consider how to actually get money into the hands of communities. How might we allow communities to drive how this funding is spent?”

For example, in Philadelphia, a criminal justice innovation fund has been established to provide microgrants to community-based organizations working on jail reform. Additionally, this site established an community advisory council with a paid staff person and financial resources for advisory members. This would not be possible without the supplemental community engagement funding from the MacArthur Foundation to select Safety and Justice Challenge sites. While people have concerns about what might happen if community, instead of institutions, were given money, the worst case scenario is that issues like mass incarceration stay the same.

What is Energizing about the work?

Chalonne gets life from all of the people doing community engagement, the way they hold events, and how they share space and power. Especially energizing are informal, grassroots spaces that engage individuals and families across generations. Being a part of a family with five living generations, her vision for the future is that families of multiple generations will have more opportunities to be engaged together in their communities.


As much as she wishes that she could “snap my fingers and put an end to the unjust systems,” she knows that it takes work, creativity, and engagement. “We have to usher out this system, and usher a new one in. That will take time and all of us engaging in the changes we want.”


When Chalonne isn’t traveling the country doing community engagement, she works on cooperative initiatives in the North Star Black Cooperative Fellowship, she is a magical and gifted facilitator, and she is a certified IDI consultant and coach. She also enjoys all the laughs, drama and joy of a large and beautiful family.

“Institutions have no historical memory, indigenous communities have nothing but memories.”
–  Engaged Learning Series participant quoting an indigenous community member

“This is a conversation about healing but it is really about what happens because of that healing. It is a conversation about transformation; about what will emerge because of how we have healed.”
–  Susan Raffo, Healing Justice Report

Communities, at their core, are about relationships.

In order to promote and build an equitable society, we have to practice equity-based community engagement where historically oppressed or ignored community members have authorship over their lives and future.

But what if our institution has historically been the oppressor or has broken trust with the community through planning, programming or funding practices in the past? How can we rebuild trust and begin to heal the relationship with community?

On September 28th, 2017, we explored these questions with 50 community members at Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) Engaged Learning Series. From this meeting, four themes emerged for helping us move toward healing through community engagement:

  1. centering self-care and personal healing;
  2. shifting organizational and interpersonal culture to be more human and relationship-centered;
  3. needing to prioritize healing in our institutions’ budgets and in our funding practices; and,
  4. incorporating relationship-centered practices in community to repair trust.

Self-care and Personal Healing

“Individual and collective healing, one doesn’t happen without the other in any sustainable way but it all starts with individual healing. I see lots of organizations being run by wounded people who are doing their best to do good work. They are creating organizational habits that are wounded; they are asking people to work too many hours for too little pay because that is what their sector does.” Suzanne Koepplinger (Raffo 2017)

In order to practice authentic community engagement, we have to first confront our own personal experiences with historical trauma, microaggressions, and toxic stress to move toward self-healing and self-care. Practices such as meditating, taking breaks, having fun, and walking in nature are all important during the work day (and on the clock).

“I try to have feelings at least once a day, I do acupuncture once a month, and I do poetry with a group of fellow Arabs,” said panelist Jna Shelomith of Ramsey County.

Likewise, panelist JooHee Pomplun of the Alliance, shared the importance of negotiations and self-care. “I’m at a negotiating point in my life – if I can nourish myself with food and friends, that is what’s important to me.”

Taking care of ourselves and creating space for self-care allows us to release toxic energy from our bodies. In turn, space is created for communities’ energies, emotions, and healing.

Shifting Organizational and Interpersonal Culture

Dominant workplace culture encourages the separation of home and work life, but why? We are all part of a community – and that does not stop when we walk into an office. We should make time at work to be our full selves – incorporating time to show emotions, sharing what’s going on in our lives, listening time at meetings, and bringing healing components into staff trainings.

Being listened to can lead to unexpected outcomes. As Jna Shelomith said, “we need each other to do reality checks. How are you? No really how are you? That’s the work.”

Being listened to helps build trust and trust can lead to the surfacing of past workplace, institutional, or outside harms or memories. From there, raw, honest conversations can lead to organizational healing:

Having more authentic conversations, even though they bring up thoughts and feelings that can be hard to hear or challenging to have, are a sign of success. Sometimes organizations are confused by this turn of events. Organizations assume that if no one’s talking about these issues, then everything is going fine. Quite the contrary–if you create enough safety, more and more conversations will happen, and more issues will come into the light; the silences are to be broken. And that is a good thing.” (Luna Jimenez 2015).

In addition to creating a workplace that values listening and relationship-building among staff, having internal support groups and caucuses can be a safe space for people to release toxic energy, as well as hold each other accountable.

“For the Giving Project, we had a POC [people of color] caucus and a white caucus, because there’s different healing and different spaces that we need,” said panelist Caitlin Schwartz, board member for Headwaters Foundation for Justice.

Identity caucuses are a powerful way for us to learn about ourselves – as both the oppressor and the oppressed – and allow space to process our patterns of behavior as well as to heal from the actions of others.

Prioritizing Healing in Our Budgets and Outcomes

As the saying goes: “Show me your budget and I’ll tell you your values.” Prioritizing community engagement, community healing, and organizational healing requires a budget line item (or multiple line items) for relationship-building and personal wellness. Are we providing resources for employees to take care of themselves and their families? How are we investing time to repair trust with community and get on the path to healing? What financial resources are we investing for community to be nourished and to heal? Additionally, who are we hiring and how are we investing in the community?

Part of the path to healing is about institutions’ accountability to community, which includes honoring the community’s knowledge and assets by providing paid opportunities for community members to lead at institutions.

Caitlin Schwartz elaborated on the work of the Giving Project. “The Giving Project was created by having a group of community members determine the criteria for funding, and then actually being responsible for granting those funds to local organizations.” We all need to take a look at our grantmaking, hiring, and other internal processes through an equity lens to see who benefits from our work and who is burdened by our work.

Authentic Relationships to Repair Trust in Community

In addition to the above internal shifts, healing between institutions and communities requires representatives of those institutions showing up as listeners — honoring the community’s wisdom, knowing the history and context, and being prepared to be uncomfortable, transparent, follow-through on promises, and open doors for community leaders to lead.

It’s also important for us to know our personal interest – why am I the one leading this project, or this event? How are my experiences connected to this work? As Caitlin Schwartz said, “Getting clear on why I’m doing the work and where I’m doing the work [as a white woman], is about challenging white supremacy. It’s good to always get clear on why any of us are doing the work that we are doing.”

Self-awareness helps us build more authentic relationships, and helps us to realize when we should give up or reclaim power. Sometimes giving up power means partnering with community organizations that do have the community’s trust and investing in their work.


JooHee Pomplun told a story about Cambodian refugees who didn’t feel settled or at home in Minnesota. After experiencing the Little Mekong Night Market, an amazing opportunity to experience the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of traditional Southeast Asian night markets, Southeast Asian elders told JooHee that for the first time, this felt like home. The Little Mekong Night Market was co-developed with the Asian Economic Development Association as a result of their community engagement efforts.

Community engagement can lead to some incredible outcomes – not the least of which is healing, for individuals and for our communities. “My somatic healer friends have told me that the lungs actually lie in your back, so when we say ‘I’ve got your back’, I picture holding your lungs so we can breathe,” said Jna Shelomith.

This is about changing how we do our work and how we have the community’s back.

The pathways to healing are complex, but we can move systems together – and it starts and ends with relationships.


Luna Jimenez, Nanci E. October 31, 2015. ”Building Authenticity at Work with Listening: The Most Powerful Social Justice Tool.”

Raffo, Susan. 2017. The Healing Justice Report. http://nexuscp.org/healing-justice/

Invites you to:

Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement:
A 4-part Introduction to the Field of Community Engagement

DatesMarch 1, March 8, March 22, March 29 

Time9:00 am – 12 Noon 

WhereMCN, 2314 University Ave W #20, St Paul MN 55114 – River Room 

DescriptionThis workshop series is designed to deepen your knowledge, broaden your perspective, and sharpen your skills as you explore the potential for community engagement to create equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities. The sessions are for anyone who is interested in learning more about community engagement, or for those who wish to deepen their work with community. 

Session Topics: 

  • Session 1: What is Community Engagement? 
  • Session 2: Shifting Power: Moving from Service to Engagement 
  • Session 3: Healing through Community Engagement  
  • Session 4: Moving Forward: Integrating Community Engagement Practices and Shifting Work Culture 

Learning Goals: 

  • Understand the principles and values of community engagement and how it differs from other practices, such as outreach and the traditional social service model. 
  • Learn how community engagement can make your work more effective. 
  • Utilize community engagement tools for building relationships, leadership, and ownership. 
  • Explore how community engagement leads to equity and how understanding equity is essential for effective community engagement. 
  • Assess your organization’s readiness and capacity to incorporate community engagement as an approach in your work. 

*PRE-WORK OPTION: Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) Cultural ExplorationCulture, healing and relationships are central to authentic and sustainable community engagement. Thus, we are offering the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) as an optional pre-work add-on for participants who are interested in more deeply exploring culture and identity, challenges and opportunities connecting across difference and commonality, and how to navigate those differences in community engagement work. Your confirmation email upon registration will have more information and next steps for opting into the IDI pre-work component, which will take place in February 2019 prior to the beginning of the workshop series.* 

Fee: Scholarships are available to ensure anyone can participate, no one will be turned away. Contact Angie for details (see below). 

  • Philanthropy/Corporate Rate$1000 for all four sessions 
  • Nonprofit/Government Rate: $600 for all four sessions 
  • *Additional IDI Pre-Work Option: additional $250 per person for IDI group session and individual feedback session in February 2019 – registration is separate and will come with your confirmation email from one of the above selections* 

NOTE: Attendance at all four sessions is required, as this is a cohort experience and each session builds upon previous sessions.  

**Please do not register for more than 5 participants from one organization** this is to ensure a mix of participants from various sectors and backgrounds for a rich, dynamic experience. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about this requirement.  

Feedback from Previous “Tapping the Potential of Community Engagement” Participants: 

  • “The series is a challenging, inspiring experience that anyone and everyone can learn and grow from.” 
  • “I would recommend this workshop series….the conversations, connections, and knowledge learned will help them go from outreach to engagement; from equality to equitable approaches.” 
  • “It’s very helpful both as an introduction to CE as well as providing more in-depth training for people already working in CE.” 
  • “Prepare to be challenged and accept that what you’ve been doing needs a new perspective.” 

About Nexus Community Engagement InstituteNexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) advances and strengthens communities through equity-based community engagement, both locally and nationally. NCEI is continuing the work of the Building the Field of Community Engagement collaborative (BTF). 

Facilitators and PresentersThe presenters and facilitators are staff and partners of Nexus Community Partners and Nexus Community Engagement Institute. 

Contact Angie Brown at abrown@nexuscp.orgwith questions or for more information about scholarships.


In partnership with Hlee Lee of OMG Media, the East Side Funders Group is launching a series of stories to lift up the amazing business community on the East Side of St. Paul. Check out the first story: Cook St. Paul: From Childhood Memories to Community Collaborations

We all know Serlin’s, it was a staple on the East Side for what seemed like forever, well nearly 70 years. Edmond Charles

Photo credit OMG Media: Eddie Wu, owner of Cook St. Paul, bought the “weird food photos” from the original owners.

Hansen III, aka Eddie Wu, remembers it too. His father was a firefighter stationed on Payne Avenue.

‘My dad would get off work at the fire station and I would get dropped off there,” Wu said. “I’d help with his side job: washing windows or trimming trees. The deal would be he’d give me $5 but also he’d take me out to eat and usually he’d let me choose. And I could never remember the name of Serlin’s, but I remember the pictures on the wall. Those food pictures. So I would say, ‘Can we go to the place with the weird food pictures?’ And he knew.”

Check out the full story here.

What does it mean to center culture in community engagement? How do our cultural identities impact our relationships in community? How do we get closer to our own stories in order to move away from extractive relationships toward reciprocal relationships?

On November 1st, 2018, Nexus Community Engagement Institute (NCEI) hosted the final Engaged Learning Series of 2018 to explore: What’s Your Story? How Identity & Culture Impact Community Engagement.

Introductions at tables began with creating and sharing I Am Poems, many of which were left to share back with the group.

Panelists Bilal Alkatout, Roxanne Anderson, Vina Kay and Susan Phillips spent the second half of the session sharing how personal identities have influenced how they are engaged, and how they engage others in community. Listen to the video below to hear their I Am Poem introductions. 

Following introductions, NCEI program director Avi Viswanathan asked the panel three questions followed by audience-panel Q&A. Check out the videos below to hear their responses to each question.

Question 1: What does it mean to you to center culture in community engagement work? What identities are you drawing from?

Question 2: How have your cultural identities been impacted by or impacted others when engaging community – either negatively or positively?

Question 3: What advice would you give to this group to build authentic relationships centered in identity and culture?

Audience-Panel Q&A:

This Engaged Learning Series was a brief two and a half hours to begin the discussion about centering culture and identity in community engagement. Feedback from the group included a need to further explore cross-class perspectives and deeper discussion around the impact of white supremacy in community engagement. We hope to continue supporting each other at future Engaged Learning Series in these topics as well as other opportunities and challenges in community engagement.

Check back here to register for future convenings. We hope to see you then!

Nexus’ longtime partner and board member, Pakou Hang, executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), was recently featured in The New Food Economy:

Pakou Hang, 42, was born in Thailand, but she’s been an American for all but two weeks of her life. Hang, the child of Hmong refugees resettled in the United States and grew up in Wisconsin, where her parents supported the family by farming. Today, that history deeply informs Hang’s own work: She’s co-founder and executive director of the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA), headquartered on a 155-acre research and incubator farm 15 miles south of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Facing persecution as U.S. allies in the Laotian Civil War and the Vietnam War, more than 100,000 Hmong refugees have relocated to the United States since the 1970s. They brought their agricultural prowess with them. In past decades, Hmong-American farmers helped to pioneer the contemporary local food movement in California and the Midwest, popularizing ingredients like Thai chili peppers and bok choy; today, Hmong farmers account for more than half of the produce sold in St. Paul’s farmers’ markets. Founded in 2011, HAFA helps to sustain that legacy by providing pilot plots, professional training, and a food hub—the key piece of processing and distribution infrastructure that makes doing business possible. 

Hang spoke about her upbringing, her childhood resistance to the farm life, and why she decided to come back home and make agriculture her calling and career.

Read the full story here.

We are so proud to call Pakou a partner, and are excited to see the continued growth and support for HAFA and Hmong farmers both locally and nationally! Cheers to you Pakou!!