Edit ModuleShow Tags

MMAA Exhibit Glimpses Into Lives of Hmong Farmers


Minnesota Museum of American Art
MMAA's Project Space. Photos by Nina Hagen.

Although it has undergone many transitions over the decades, the Minnesota Museum of American Art has always prided itself in showcasing work by local artists—whether that’s paintings by George Morrison, photos by Wing Young Huie, or pottery by Warren MacKenzie. Re-branded from Minnesota Museum of Art in 1992 and housed in the Pioneer Endicott building since 2012, the small but ambitious museum works to bring the local community together by showing the work of aspiring and up-and-coming artists alongside industry professionals.

Their current exhibition is Seeds of Change: A Portrait of the Hmong American Farmers Association. Mike Hazard’s multimedia project chronicles a year in the life of farmers working on a HAFA-run farm through photos, video, and a book, We Come from the Flower. Hazard’s work aims to express the significance of farming within the Hmong community, both in financial and cultural terms.

Formed in 2011, HAFA was created for the purpose of ensuring that farming can be a financially viable way of life for Hmong families. Although farming began for many Hmong refugees as a way to make a living, the practice has become an inextricable part of the community. According to the HAFA website, “Hmong American farmers account for more than 50 percent of all the farmers in [Twin Cities] metropolitan farmers markets.” Indeed, the Hmong community’s presence in local farmers markets has grown significantly over the decades, bringing with it an exposure to non-native plants and farming practices.

In many ways, the practice of farming grows more onerous due to everything from the price of farmland to a lack of access to necessary farming equipment. HAFA works to combat these disadvantages through educating farmers on business models, facilitating monetary transactions between farmers and landowners, and modernizing farming techniques. Hazard’s photos encapsulate the human side of HAFA’s work, to powerful effect.

minnesota museum of american art

Hazard’s photos first and foremost highlight the manner in which Hmong farmers work. Every member of the family is involved in the farming, with older generations teaching the younger generations (many of whom were likely born in America) traditional Hmong farming practices. At the same time, these traditional, by-hand techniques are balanced with technology-based techniques that utilize American tools. The juxtaposition between these practices mirrors the Hmong immigrant way of life—keeping in touch with Hmong customs whiles embracing American culture.

The pictures provide a window into a way of life that to many of us may seem foreign or unfamiliar. Multiple pictures showing family members working together or children engaging in farming practices point to a powerful connection to the land. One photo, a close-up on a pair of weathered hands rinsing lemon grass, vividly captures the toil of farm work while others show farmers proudly displaying the fruits of their labors.

It’s clear that Hazard greatly respects his subjects, contrasting the backbreaking labor of farm work and the farmers’ pride with a sense of playfulness and fun. More than anything, though, his pictures are indelibly human.

Seeds of Change runs through July 31 at the Minnesota Museum of American Art
141 E. Fourth St., St. Paul
For more information, visit mmaa.org

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

It's Farmers Market Season

No matter where you live in Minnesota, fresh produce, flowers and homemade goodies await

Origami in the Garden

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's latest exhibit puts the art of folding paper on full display with a garden and metal twist

New Ways to Explore 3 Classic MN Destinations

From Fort Snelling to the North Shore, check out this summer's technological updates to historic and wild Minnesota places

Sue Z.'s Charitable Check-In: May

This month, Sue Z. recommends supporting local student chefs with a dinner at Saint Dinette

What to Wear + Where to Go: Music Festivals

Your style guide for Minnesota music festivals

Mesabi Trail Offers New Views in Northern Minnesota

The Mesabi Trail, a 120-mile paved cycling and hiking trail that spans the Mesabi Iron Range, recently opened a new connection in Virginia, MN that crosses the state's tallest bridge and offers amazing views of former minelands.

Glensheen Mansion Bonfire Nights

Enjoy this summer tradition from one of the most iconic estates in the state

Twin Cities Festival Spring Babies

If April showers bring May flowers, spring babies bring fun for the whole family

Record Store Day: Where to Find Rare Releases in MN

On April 21, rock out at mini-music festivals around the state, dig into gourmet donuts, and collect the rare vinyls available one time a year

Catch the Lyrids Meteor Shower

The meteor shower peaks April 21 and 22, just in time for Earth Day

A Day Trip to Excelsior

Just 20 miles west of the Twin Cities, this waterfront town is complete with charming shops and lakeside dining

Night Art Gallery Is Your Sober Night Out

The Lindstrom art gallery entertains with hors d'oeuvres, tons of art available for purchase, and non-alcholic drinks

Treasure Island Resort & Casino 2018 Summer Concert Series

Check out the awe-inspiring lineup of summer concerts at Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Weekend Activities to Satisfy Your Inner-Child

Check out these weekend activities that will have you feeling like a kid again.
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags