Preparation of Cannon River Garden Expansion side. Credit: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Sharing Our Roots (SOR) is an agriculture nonprofit organization and regenerative farm located in Northfield, Minnesota, dedicated to creating a more just and equitable food system. SOR is working to advance a resilient agriculture system that demonstrates the power to heal our lands, nourish our communities, and support immigrant farmers.

SOR’s 100-acre farm serves as a model for a resilient future through land restoration and land justice efforts. The farm is a biodiverse landscape where the connections between human, wildlife, plant, and soil health are of the utmost importance. The farm is also a home away from home for immigrant families in Southern Minnesota and serves as a gathering place for farmers who have historically, and continue to be, excluded from land access.

Expansion-Cannon River Park Community Garden. Credit: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

Beginning with colonization and the theft of land from Indigenous peoples to the enslavement of African people to forcibly cultivate tobacco and cotton to the ongoing exploitation of immigrant labor, racism has been one of the most defining features of US food and agricultural systems. Racism continues to shape food systems today, along with food insecurity and lack of food access.

Enduring racism within our food and agriculture systems limits Black, Indigenous, immigrant and communities of color from accessing land, capital, and resources, which limits opportunities for growth and perpetuates existing racial and health inequities. Black, Indigenous, and people of color represent nearly one-quarter of the United States population but operate less than 5 percent of the nation’s farms. In contrast, a majority of the estimated 2.4 million farmworkers in the US are people of color who do not own or operate farms of their own.

New SOR Farm Garden 2023. Credit: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

SOR is working to overcome centuries of racist policies that prevent immigrant and emerging farmers from accessing or owning land. With support from the Health POWER Funding Initiative from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, SOR has implanted innovative programing to advance racial equity and food justice. According to Antonio Alba Meraz, Programs Director at Sharing Our Roots, “some of the primary objectives of our work are to provide land access to emerging farmers, address food insecurity, and to regain food sovereignty. SOR differs from other mainstream farms and incubator farms in that we provide long-term access to land for emerging and immigrant farmers. Farmers receive information and training opportunities in their own language or with the help of interpreters.”

In 2019, SOR launched a new Community Connectors initiative for immigrant families living in Rice County. Through this initiative, SOR provides employment, training, and resources to leaders of color, known as Community Connectors, to mobilize their neighborhoods and enact positive change within their communities. The role of Community Connectors is to recruit, organize and support community members in community gardens in the cities of Northfield and Faribault.

Cultural Foods Farmer Gardener training. Credit: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota

“Community Connectors play a very important role not only combating food insecurity, but also maintaining the culture and cohesion of the groups they work with,” said Alba Meraz. “They serve various ethnic groups, mostly Latino/Latina immigrants and Kenyans living in Rice County. Some of the specific functions performed by community leaders are to build community partnerships and provide technical assistance to low-income families participating in the gardens.” Alba Meraz added that this technical assistance consists of organizing the groups of gardeners during each growing season, helping to prepare the soil for planting, co-participating in trainings and field demonstrations, providing organic plants and organic fertilizer, preventing and controlling pests without the use of synthetic pesticides, guiding the harvest, and referring some gardeners to sell their products or to donate them to a local food shelf.

The gardening efforts, led by Community Connectors, also help to reduce social isolation, and strengthen a sense of belonging for immigrant community members. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the gardens became a key outlet to improve health and wellbeing. “It was very common to hear from gardeners that the gardens were like an oasis to reduce stress levels.  And now it is common to hear that these places help to improve mental health,” said Alba Meraz.

By helping aspiring farmers and local community members overcome issues related to land access and food insecurity, SOR is helping immigrant communities to have autonomy over their food systems and health. SOR envisions a future where we use regenerative agriculture to rebuild our food system, restore our soil and waters, and revitalize our rural communities. To learn more about the work, and get involved, visit


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