Pilot Hmong-language bi-lingual PSA grower training in Minnesota

by Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, University of Minnesota

screenshot of a Zoom meeting with the planning committeeThe Produce Safety Alliance (PSA), University of Minnesota Extension, Minnesota Department of Agriculture Produce Safety Program, and the Hmong American Farmers Association (HAFA) recently collaborated to offer the nation’s first alternate language training that met the regulatory requirement of § 112.22(c) for covered farms.

The goal of this pilot course was to test a draft policy developed by the PSA to expand trainings in languages that the PSA does not currently offer or have a matching translated manual. This is important because the ‘supervisors or responsible parties’ at many farms subject to the Produce Safety Rule may neither speak nor read a language in which the PSA course is currently available (i.e., English, Spanish and Chinese).  The pilot allowed for the development and evaluation of best practices so the draft PSA policy could be refined and eventually finalized in order to offer PSA Grower Training Courses to these audiences in languages that they understand.

Minnesota is the home to over 80,000 Hmong people, who are the largest Asian American and Pacific Islander group in the state.  The Hmong people came to the US after the Vietnam War as political refugees through an alliance with the US Central Intelligence Agency. Unfortunately, their skill sets upon arrival did not align with available jobs, so many utilized their agricultural tradition to earn a living. Today, Hmong farmers are an integral component to the local food economy with over 500 Hmong farmers that are affiliated with the major metropolitan farmers market in Minnesota. Providing food safety training in Hmong to a group of these growers was a natural fit and next step in Minnesota.

Logistics of the training and interpretation

The bi-lingual training was delivered in Hmong and English, and was held virtually on Zoom over three days from March 31- April 2, 2021, with 13 total hours of training time. Fifteen farmers participated in the pilot training course.  The training team consisted of PSA Trainers from HAFA, UMN Extension, and a farmer trainer from the Minnesota training team. Some modules were delivered in Hmong and others were delivered in English. The PSA Lead Trainer was not a Hmong speaker, so when the modules were delivered in Hmong the PSA Lead Trainer entered a Zoom interpretation room, where the presentation was interpreted into English by a bilingual HAFA staff member. If questions arose, the PSA Lead Trainer spoke in English to the presenting trainer, who then interpreted the question and clarification, if needed, to the participants. When a module was presented in English, the presentation was interpreted into Hmong for the participants without the use of a Zoom room. The interpretation both ways was consecutive, meaning the speaker presented a concept and then stopped and waited for interpretation into either Hmong or English.

Participants were provided with the English–language PSA manual and required to have it with them during the course, as the manual is not available in Hmong. The manual, along with a folder containing additional Hmong translated written materials were mailed to the participants before the training. The materials allowed the farmers to reference the English manual, if able and when needed, but the Hmong translated module summary provided an alternative method if they did not read English.  Many read some English, and also indicated that their English-reading family members could refer to it if needed. Evaluation data gathered at the conclusion of the training indicates that the participants were very happy to have the manual, even if they could not understand all of it. Participants were required to keep their camera on, and to be present for the entire 3 days to receive a certificate.

Key lessons learned: 

Tech: Online poll questions were set up to gather evaluation data at the end of each module and to ask knowledge-check questions during the modules. The participants had difficulty navigating the poll questions and functions, and the team decided to administer all questions verbally, including evaluation questions. While the information gathered was then not anonymous, the participants spoke candidly, and given the situation, no alternative was possible.  Importantly, there was a Hmong-speaking technical lead assigned to each day, and the participants were told the technical lead’s phone number each day, so that participants could call someone with technical issues such as audio/video problems. All participants were able to keep video on for the most part and did not have any major technical issues.

Prep time and interpretation best practices: The team met 6 times for about 2 hours each in the months leading up to the training to develop protocols to register participants (HAFA staff registered all participants), discuss and practice logistics of interpretation, determine how the activities and evaluation would occur, and to practice content delivery. We recommend when planning the training, add extra time (perhaps as much as double a typical 8-hour agenda) to allow for interpretation, logistics and technical issues such as polling and evaluation.

It can be very different to present while being interpreted, so it is crucial that all trainers feel very comfortable with the content in their module and that they know to speak slowly and with intention so that interpretation goes as smoothly as possible. Practicing this is critical to a successful training. It is also very important that interpreters understand the material well so they know what to expect and how they will translate technical words. While an interpreter does not need to be a PSA trainer, this helps, and is a best practice, to ensure that the trainer is comfortable with the material and that proper terminology is used. In many languages there might not be a direct translation for many words, so the interpreter must work ahead of time to develop a vocabulary list of these key words to ensure consistency during the training.

Evaluation findings:  The training team worked with PSA to evaluate the course in a manner that maximized the response rate for this pilot delivery policy. A trainer read the 4 standard Likert scale PSA evaluation questions at the end of each module in Hmong and documented the answers that were given verbally by the participants. At the end of day 3, a set of qualitative questions were asked about the process and what could be improved and what worked well. This discussion lasted about 45 minutes, and the participants voiced great appreciation for making the training available to them in Hmong and for the information at the conclusion of the evaluation.

Here are some key findings from that discussion:

  1. Do you feel that you understood the content of this course as it was delivered?
    Yes: 13/15
  2. Even though the manual is not in your primary language, do you think it was helpful to have the printed manual? 
    Yes: 9/15
    - It helped because my kids can at least come read it for me when I don’t understand
    - Wants to thank the creator of the PSA binder because it is a useful tool to be able to go back to it whenever they have any questions or they need any reminders.
  3. How did the interpretation and technology work for you?
    Yes: 12/15
    - Translation is good but would prefer simultaneous translation to make time go by faster
    - Wants this training to be available for other Hmong or non-English speaking farmers too