CET and Interior Design students apply skill sets in real-world project
Spring 2014 marked a new partnership between the Hmong American Farmers Association, or HAFA, and Dakota County Technical College. The partnership is organized around a service-learning project that harnesses the know-how of students in the college’s Civil Engineering Technology and Interior Design programs. Faculty in both programs are working with their students to help prepare a new HAFA land acquisition for agricultural use.
Janssen Hang, the senior organizer at HAFA, reported that his organization acquired the land, now known as HAFA Farm, with help from an angel investor. “This spring, HAFA members will be farming the parcel, growing an assortment of vegetables and flowers for sale at the local farmers market and through HAFA’s Alternative Markets Program to Minneapolis Public Schools and Fairview Hospitals,” Janssen said, noting that HAFA Farm also provides opportunities for Hmong American farmers to sell fresh produce through the HAFA CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture. “Moreover, the land acquisition has helped cultivate new practices such as record-keeping, accessing microloans, high-tunnel production, cover crops and, most importantly, partnerships.”
Located on a 155-acre homestead site near the Vermillion River just west of U.S. Highway 52 in Dakota County, HAFA Farm features a century-old farmhouse, a number of outbuildings and a stave silo. The service-learning project focuses on two fronts, reconfiguring the acreage to allocate small plots for Hmong American farmers and redesigning the interior layout of the farmhouse to create a first-floor office setting and a second-floor living corridor for interns and volunteers.
“The interior design students tackled the farmhouse, taking measurements and bringing their creativity to redesign a suitable space to meet the intent of the structure,” Janssen said, adding that civil engineering technology students surveyed the property, evaluated contour and provided a plan for subdividing 125 acres into five-acre parcels that 16 Hmong American farmers will begin working spring 2014.