Friday, November 2, 2012

My second season with New Roots

My name is Marianne, and I worked as the New Roots Market Intern this summer. This was my second season with New Roots, and as markets draw to a close and I prepare to say goodbye, I feel inspired by the farmers and the program, and grateful for my time here. When I returned to the the program in July after an absence of 10 months, I was amazed at all that had been accomplished. Not only had all of the graduate farmers purchased land, but all of that land had already been cleared, tilled, and planted! Lay Htoo, Pay Lay, Beh Paw, and Dena were all successfully managing their own businesses, and two of them now owned their own homes. Five new farmers had joined the program and were growing at the training farm and selling vegetables at markets in Kansas and Missouri. Farmers were selling at three new markets: Catholic Charities, Waldo, and Ilus Davis. A full-time MVS volunteer, Rachel "Scratch" Friesen, had arrived and had worked with the Kansas Bhutanese Community Foundation, as well as New Roots and Cultivate KC staff, to acquire a large piece of land which in a few short months was transformed into the Kansas Bhutanese Community Garden. Twenty six families had plots in the new garden this season. 

Needless to say, I was excited to get back to work!

KiKoKo Farm in August 2011 when we toured the property before Beh Paw purchased it

Beh Paw and Pay Lay showing New Roots staff around KiKoKo Farm earlier this summer!
This summer I worked at many different farmers' markets in Kansas and Missouri, including Juniper Gardens, Catholic Charities, Strawberry Hill, Waldo, Briarcliff, Overland Park, Brookside, and Merriam. Working markets gave me the opportunity to get to know New Roots farmers and their families, as well as their customers. Besides working markets, I organized a girls' group for the daughters of farmers. The group had a great time doing things like watching a roller derby match and making homemade juice and pizza. I also cooked with several new farmers in order to add more recipes to our database, and in the process I learned about ethnic vegetables like chin baung, noodle beans, and bitter eggplant. Finally, I organized cooking demonstrations by New Roots farmers so that Americans could learn ways to cook unfamiliar veggies, and new ways to cook their old favorites. These experiences taught me a lot about the local foods movement in Kansas City, the refugee communities that live here, and the important role that refugee farmers play in providing produce to the communities in which they live. I am grateful to the Womens Foundation of Greater Kansas City and to my coworkers for bringing me back for a second season!
The girls' group eating homemade pizza
One of the best memories I have from this summer was the day Emily, Scratch and I went to visit farmer Khadijo and helped her plant a peach tree in her yard. Khadijo recently purchased a home near downtown KCK, with enough space in the yard for a garden. Next year Khadijo will graduate and shift production from the training farm to her new land. Over the past few weeks work has begun to prepare the land for cultivation next season; Khadijo's yard was tilled and soon she will put up a fence. Khadijo also decided to invest in a fruit tree, and we spent some time that morning digging a hole, mixing soil and compost, transplanting the tree, and watering. It was so special to help her put the tree in the ground, and to imagine that it will grow tall and strong. Hopefully the tree will produce peaches for Khadijo, her family, and her customers to enjoy for many years.

While a second season with New Roots has given me a deeper understanding of the significant challenges that refugees and new farmers face, I am continually inspired by the ability of New Roots farmers to rise to meet these challenges. Equally inspiring is the dedication of the New Roots staff, volunteers, CSA friends, loyal customers, and the refugee communities who are integral to the program's success. Though I am sad to leave Kansas City and say goodbye to the farmers and my coworkers, I look forward to watching New Roots farmers continue to succeed and grow their businesses. Hopefully I'll be back in the not-so-distant future to taste one of Khadijo's peaches!

Many Thanks,

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