Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Inspiring Confidence- Promoting Success at the Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference!

Six farmers from New Roots for Refugees loaded into a Catholic Charities bus and drove north to the 11th Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference in St. Paul, MN the last week of January. The conference was held at the University of Minnesota and organized by the Minnesota Food Association. Inspiring Confidence- Promoting Success was the theme, and the keynote speakers and workshop presenters did just that. 

Robert Lor, a Hmong farmer and community leader, inspired participants with his stories of international travel where he learned from farmers all around the world. Gleaning from their practices, he strives to make his 10 acre vegetable farm as productive as possible. New Roots farmers were able to absorb successful farming practices from different parts of the world through his presentation. May Lee, the first certified organic Hmong farmer in Minnesota, shared the story of her family growing food in Laos and her mother who died of cancer related to pesticides ingested on a farm. She inspired immigrant farmers to become certified organic, using the motto “If I can do it, you can do it too.”

New Roots farmers were able to attend workshops throughout the conference, including topics such as soil health, weed management, long-term credit in agriculture, pest surveying, high tunnels and many more! Each farmer met with an interpreter before the classes began to understand what each workshop would offer and then would attend the ones that would benefit their farm business. After each workshop, New Roots farmers would gather together and share what they had learned and talked through ideas with each other. 

This conference was uniquely focused on farmers who don’t speak English as a first language, so interpreters in several languages were offered at no cost. New Roots farmers were able to hear lectures, ask questions and share ideas in their native language. They were inspiring other attendees with their stories of owning their own business and land. Kansas City’s refugee agriculture movement is ahead of the curve and our farmers were able to motivate other refugees from the Midwest.

New Roots farmers came away from the conference mulling over new ideas from the workshops they attended, ignited by personal stories from the speakers and determined to make changes on their farms. Much of the bus ride home was filled with chatter of organic certification, soil health and cover crops. This year, be looking for signs of change and inspiration that was incited by this amazing conference!

Friday, December 4, 2015

New Graduates!

This year we have three families who graduated from the New Roots for Refugees program. All three families completed four years of training at the Juniper Gardens training farm. They spent thousands of hours in the garden, maintaining their crops to sell at market. Each family attended weekly farmer’s markets, learned how to keep records, provided vegetables to CSA friends, paid sales taxes and improved their English with tutors. They have learned to grow new crops that are familiar to their American friends, while also growing crops familiar to their families and ethnic community members. Two of the three families have bought a house with land to grow on, and the other family plans to do so in 2016. 

Most importantly, all three families have provided high quality, organic, fresh produce to the greater Kansas City community for the past four years- and we are grateful to them. We look forward to many more years of growing with these folks. Look for them at market next year as they begin the next chapter of their urban farm business- striking out on their own!

Ah Tun and San Win (San Win not pictured here) 

If you want to learn how you can support our graduates through a volunteer work day, becoming a CSA friend, helping them by designing a logo and/or branding, or any other ideas you may have- please contact us!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall is Here!

As the weather shifts to cool mornings and shorter days, we transition from markets and harvesting to English classes, workshops and evaluations. We spend several weeks meeting with farmers to review the sales goals they set for the season, talk about their crops and make a plan for next year. It’s an exciting time of both reflection and dreaming- we spend a lot of time thinking of ways to make our program better. We’ll also be gearing up for our English classes. Tutors meet with small groups of farmers in their homes to practice counting back change, completing wholesale invoices and interacting with customers at market. We are always looking for people who are interested in engaging with farmers in this way, so contact us if you’re interested! In the meantime, we’ve still been having workshops and are finishing out markets. Farmers are cleaning the fields and volunteers are helping with projects around the farm before the first frost comes. We’ll have a fall celebration in a few weeks to culminate the end of the season. Come out and see us!