Northwest Agriculture Business Center Provides Technical Assistance to Hmong Farmers
The Washington Hmong Farmers Cooperative (WHFC) is a newly formed Cooperative that exists to serve and expand the market potential of Hmong Farmers in the Puget Sound region. The Hmong migrated from southern China in the nineteenth century to the mountainous areas of Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. During the Vietnam War the Hmong worked with the American CIA in the “secret war” in Laos and were forced to flee their homeland after the victory of the communists. After spending time in refugee camps in Thailand, many Hmong resettle in cities United States, Including Seattle. Approximately 100 Hmong families farm outside of Seattle. The cooperative’s focus is to provide consistent and increased market potential for Hmong vegetable and flower farmers in the region. Bringing them together, providing the opportunity to sell their products in larger quantities, more consistently to wholesale and retail buyers, as well as direct to consumers. The co-op is using the online sales platform, Local Farmer Marketplace, which provides customers with fast, simple, and efficient ordering. Prior to the formation of the WHFC, member farmers had all been marketing their product independently.
The seeds of the WHFC began in the summer of 2020 when the Hmong Association of Washington (HAW) and Friendly Hmong Farms CSA joined together to create an order and delivery service for Hmong Farmers who had lost their main source of income during the pandemic when farmers markets shut down. HAW then approached the Northwest Agriculture Business Center (NABC) seeking technical support to assist these farmers in forming their own marketing cooperative. With the assistance of HAW and NABC, a steering committee of 6 farmers formed to begin the cooperative development process. In April of 2022 the WHFC, America’s first Hmong Farmers Cooperative, was officially incorporated.
- Board of Directors formed
- Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation drafted and submitted to the Wa Secretary of State
- Membership Application form drafted
- 14 farmers became members in the first year
- Created standardized guidelines for consistent bouquets, and bulk flower and produce packaging
- Opened a bank account
- Secured a line of credit bridge loan from Shared Capital Cooperative to make purchases to be reimbursed via 3 successful grant applications (below)
- Created marketing materials including brochures and business cards to promote sales
- A website with a sales platform launched. https://www.wahmongfarmers.com/
- Online orders received and fulfilled this past summer
- The WHFC submitted 3 successful grant applications -1) USDA VAPG 2) WSDA Infrastructure 3) King Conservation District (KCD)Highlights:
- The hiring of a GM and a Sales Manager
- Former HAW Executive Director contracted through Fall to increase sales and support organizational development
- The purchase of 14ft refrigerated box truck -KCD
- The lease of an aggregation space with a wash and pack line and a large walk in refrigerator
- The purchase of a commercial dehydrator and freeze dryer, and packaging materials for value added production
Please contact GM, Bryant Her, (206)519-1039 / firstname.lastname@example.org or Sales Manager Anne Maertens (206)920-2408 / email@example.com if you have any questions or opportunities that can support Washington Hmong Farmers Cooperative.
Shared Capital Provides Financing to NABC-supported Hmong Farmers
In February 2023, Shared Capital made a $150,000 loan to the Washington Hmong Farmers Cooperative, a collective of fourteen Hmong vegetable and flower growers who have been selling their products at Pike Place Market and the region’s farmers markets since 1982. The co-op was created to increase access to new markets and buyers. The group received a $150,000 grant from the USDA to purchase a delivery truck, coolers, dryers and other equipment that will be shared among the cooperative members. The loan was needed to finance the purchases in order to receive reimbursement from the USDA.