Big River Farms (formerly Minnesota Food Association) was established in 1983 as a grassroots organization, emerging out of the successful preservation of the St. Paul Farmer’s Market by a group of concerned citizens in 1981. Founder Ken Taylor was a strong activist in the areas of food and farming, and the organization was an early leader in the food advocacy movement in Minnesota. After Taylor’s death in 1995, Minnesota Food Association (MFA) focused on the creation of its keystone immigrant farmer training program, which was established in 1998.
After working for years providing training and technical assistance to immigrant farmers, MFA identified the need for a land-based component to their program that would provide the hands-on experience and safe start-up environment new farmers needed. In 2005, the current farm was leased from the Wilder Foundation, located within the Twin Cities Metro area to remain close to immigrant populations and markets for local produce. In 2007, MFA began distributing produce under the name Big River Farms, opening up markets for the small-scale farmers in the training program. Organic certification was obtained in 2008, and the program continued to grow. In addition to immigrant farmers, Big River Farms opened its doors to farmers of color and other groups who have faced historical discrimination in accessing farmland, markets and education.
Since 2005, we have provided education on sustainable agriculture to hundreds of farmers through our Farmer Education Program and the Emerging Farmers Conference. We founded one of the first incubator farms in the country, and one of the only ones that serves farmers of all backgrounds and cultures. We have built a reputation in our community as a reliable source of high quality, organic produce, as well as a source for knowledge on issues that affect our food and farming system.
In 2017, Minnesota Food Association became a program of The Food Group through an organizational merger. In 2019, to simplify our identity after years of using both the names Minnesota Food Association (MFA) and Big River Farms, we transitioned to using the name Big River Farms for all of our programs and work. Farming is at the forefront of what we do, and we will continue our focus to build a more sustainable and just food system as Big River Farms.