Immigrant family finds solace in independent Minnesota farm, but needs more markets

Christopher Vondracek, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

NERSTRAND, Minnesota — Up a gravel road, shaded by the overhang of bushy oaks, Kue Lor comes into sight, riding a lawnmower through a row of vine-ripened tomatoes.

It's the first crisp day of September after heat loosened its grip on Minnesota.

"First day," he said, pointing to his black hooded sweatshirt and gray puffy vest. "You like tomatoes?"

Lor gestured to his crop, 100 yards long.

Unlike most southern Minnesota farms with their tidy rows of a single crop stretching to the horizon, the Lors' diverse cornucopia stuns — squash, red tomatoes, green runs of kale, tall stalks of sugar cane, even cigarette trees and peanuts.

Of Minnesota's tens of thousands of farms, only a fraction grow vegetables for human consumption. There aren't many immigrant farmers, either.


The Lors — with the help of Renewing the Countryside (RTC), a Hammond, Minn.-based nonprofit that has provided technical assistance to farm families in transitioning land to other farmers — were able to exit the tenant-farmer cycle of landlords. In 2022, the family purchased this former goat dairy atop a hill that buttresses Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.

It's hard to imagine that, come harvest, they'll have more produce than they can sell.

"The (farmer's) markets aren't enough," Lor said as he inspected the field. "We have too much."

Small farms need bigger markets


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