Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hmong Specialty Crop & Medicinal Herb Conference (Fresno, CA)

The conference kicked off on Tuesday with tours of 4 South East Asian farms in Fresno. It was so interesting to see the variety of crops that they grow, why they grow them and how they are grown. We even had the opportunity to see Papayas and Guavas grown in Greenhouses, which was remarkable. Among the many things that amazed me was if Sinqua (a squash like fruit from the Curcurbit family) is left on the vine it will eventually turn into a luffa sponge. So, if the price of Sinqua is down hold it over and you have a value added product.

Wednesday my eyes were opened to one of the most amazing cultures I have ever been introduced to. The conference covered medicinal uses of herbs and the beliefe systems behind them as well as ways to cook different crops. They also had a ceremony recognizing former USDA Under Secretary August Schumacher and Richard Molinar from UCCE on their work within the Hmong and South East Asian communities. This ceremony welcomed them to the community and gave them each Hmong names. Lunch was served with Traditional Hmong food and entertainment was provided by traditional Hmong dancers. 

As small farmers, the South East Asian communities face many obstacles, such as knowledge of labor and food safety regulations. They also face the challenge of educating the general public about the preparation and nutritional facts of their commodities. Groups such as UCCE and National Hmong American Farmers are working towards educating both the farmers and the general public on these amazing specialty crops.