Farming opportunities for refugees: Journey’s End seeks refugees to participate in urban farming project

Update (2016-03-30): 2016 Green Shoots CSA shares are now available. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Along with resettlement agencies and day-to-day services provided for refugees, Buffalo’s New Americans have the opportunity to advance their farming skills.

Green Shoots for New Americans is a refugee agricultural program offered through Journey’s End Refugee Services that started in November of 2013. Every spring, the program kicks off with classes to educate refugees on business planning, crop planning, customer service, and business management, to name a few.

Interpreters are available to make the classroom learning experience possible. Once farming begins, lessons become visual and the need for language services ceases. The program currently has refugees from Burma, Bhutan, and Iraq growing food on an urban farm and learning how to market and sell the produce they grow. The refugees involved have their own growing spaces, giving them the freedom to manage that space and choose what they’d like to grow.

Program Manager Kyla Jaquish said the program has developed a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) consisting of 10 members. A CSA gives farmers the opportunity to grow crops of their choice and interact with customers to sell those crops.

Every Tuesday, participants harvest their crops for pickup. They also have a farm stand in the Tri-Main building’s lobby on Main Street every Wednesday, giving the refugees experience with money management and marketing.

Nepali farmer Bir Rai gained insight on farming while he was living in Bhutan. He was able to use this knowledge to become a farmer when he moved to Nepal. He is highly involved with Green Shoots for New Americans.

“The program has absolutely helped me because, even though I don’t have English skills, I have learned skills to do better on the farm. The program has helped with my English and farm skills and I take home healthy food to feed my family.”

The program is currently completing its second growing season with the help of a federal grant through the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The funding will end after the third growing season, at which point new leadership must take over to sustain the program.

“After that, we hope to find some interest within the refugee community to sustain the program and give them a lot of the responsibility.”

Jaquish stressed the need for refugees to play a bigger role in the program, which would also give them the opportunity to make more money. In addition, she stated that they are looking to expand their CSA to 15 members.

Director of Programs for Journey’s End Meghann Perry reiterated that it is extremely important to get more refugees involved, “We’re really looking for people who can take on a leadership role. The funding for this program won’t be available every year, so we need the support from participants.”

Perry expressed that the program is not only looking for other grassroots organizations to partner with Green Shoots to develop a strong leadership, but also planning to launch an outreach campaign within the next few months.

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