Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Community Garden Project is under way!

As we move into winter, New Roots for Refugees is getting started on a new and very exciting project—developing three new community gardens to serve our refugee friends!

Because of limited space at the Juniper Gardens site, we have in the past few years had to turn away many refugee families who were interested in growing vegetables on a smaller scale. New Roots was approached by three refugee community groups in particular—the Chin, Somali Bantu, and Bhutanese—who are seeking garden space to serve their families’ needs. We knew this would be a worthwhile venture, but it would require a lot of additional time and money… so to address this request, New Roots staff and the three ethnic leadership teams applied for (and received!) a Community Food Projects grant to help fund the startup of a community garden for each of these three groups.

The first step on our agenda is proving to be a difficult one: locating suitable land for the gardens. Our hope is to acquire plots of land (0.5-1.25 acres each) from the Land Bank and/or local parishes and nonprofits, but we are open to other suggestions as well! If you or someone you know might have a vacant piece of land available to lease or inexpensively purchase, we would be grateful for your help. Please contact me, Rachel Friesen, at rfriesen@catholiccharitiesks.org with any suggestions.

The good news is that we already have one potential garden location in mind, and we are moving forward in the acquisition process! Our Site Developer, Steve, has identified a Land Bank property at 14th & Allen St. in KCK that is an ideal location for the Bhutanese community. Many Bhutanese families live within easy walking or driving distance from this land, and we have received affirmation and support from the neighborhood association as well—they love the idea of having a garden in the community! Here is a photo of the property:

Another goal for the near future is to find local churches, parishes, or community groups to partner with each of the three gardens during the startup period. We envision these partnerships as opportunities for hands-on assistance with specific needs from each community garden. In particular, each garden will need help acquiring new or used tools, seeds, and compost for individual families to use. Though the Community Food Projects grant money covers the bigger costs of developing the gardens (such as clearing debris from vacant lots, installing water hookups, and fencing), there is little to no money available for these smaller expenses. **On that note, if you are part of a church or group that may be interested in partnering with one of our gardens, please let us know! Again, you may contact me at rfriesen@catholiccharitiesks.org for more info or to volunteer.

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the winter and spring!

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