Fresno buys produce from 30 farmers, donates it to nonprofits

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Jet Mouachongkao has farmed green beans for close to ten years, but his restaurant base was wiped out when the pandemic left much of the state sheltering in place.

On Friday, he was one of 30 farmers who traded in their crops for checks.

"I know at this time everybody needs at least something to help out. I try my best to help out too," he says.

On average, each farmer was paid $1,000 in exchange for produce that would likely otherwise go to waste. Instead, it was bagged up Friday and given to nonprofits to feed struggling families.

"This program is not only going to help the farmers, it's going to get the food to the tables here in our local community. So it's like a double win," says Fresno City councilmember Esmeralda Soria.

Adds Fresno City Council president Miguel Arias: "Most importantly what it does is it puts our local small farmers back to work and it provides for them to provide for their families and as they provide for our families."

The Fresno City Council voted unanimously to give $500,000 of money from the Federal CARES Act to help Asian farmers through the buyback program.

Since many Asian farmers live within city limits but farm in Fresno County, the donation met the pandemic criteria.

According to the Asian Business Institute and Resource Center, an overwhelming majority of Asian micro-farmers have not received any state or federal relief.

Jessica Morse is the founder of the Fresno Farm Bridge Program. She has been fundraising throughout the state to help provide even more funding for Asian farmers.

"This is really designed to not only help farmers in their moment of crisis but build a bridge into modernizing and improving their businesses so that when this crisis ends, they are actually left more resilient and more robust," says Morse.

This is the first of four buybacks planned in the Central Valley. In all, $600,000 will be given to small Asian farmers for their locally grown crops.

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