About Us

New Roots is strengthening refugee families and building the local food system.

Imagine fleeing your homeland, fearing for your life and the lives of your family. You leave behind your home, your livelihood, and your possessions to find yourself in a crowded camp with thousands of others who have also fled their homes. You want a better life for yourself and your family, but because of political upheaval and the realities of life in a refugee camp, you can't see a way to make that happen. You have no job and few rights. This is the life of a refugee. After years of waiting and rounds of interviews, you finally get help. But you are not going home. You are going to a new country. In this new country you do not speak the language, you do not dress the same, you do not have the same customs. There are new ways to do everything. You are happy and scared at the same time.

You must put down new roots and establish a new home.

Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas resettles refugees in the Kansas City area, offering case management, job development, English classes, and hope for those who have suffered for too long. New Roots for Refugees, a program started by Catholic Charities in partnership with Cultivate KChelps refugee women put down new roots by helping them to start their own small farm businesses growing and selling vegetables. New Roots builds on the strengths and experience that the refugees already possess. Farming is a familiar livelihood that offers them some measure of self-determination and self-sufficiency, healthy food for their families, extra income, and a context for settling into their new communities. Agriculture allows them to put down new roots, metaphorically and literally, and to become citizens who produce and give to their new communities. In the New Roots Program, participants start farming with significant training and support from Catholic Charities and Cultivate KC staff. As their farm businesses become established and they develop more skills, they move to greater financial and managerial independence. Eventually they are able to move onto their own land and operate independently.

This program is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Agreement No. 2010-4940021725

What is a Refugee?

A refugee is someone who has fled his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is usually charged with responsibility for awarding legal refugee status. The Department of State’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration oversees this program. The State Department develops application criteria, refugee admission ceilings and presents eligible cases to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for adjudication. Refugees are legal, documented residents.

Where can I find New Roots?

The training farm is located at Juniper Gardens, a public housing site in Kansas City, Kansas, where many of the participating families live. New Roots for Refugees produce is available at farmers' markets throughout the KC metro area and through our CSA subscription program. Check the Markets & CSA page for more information on where New Roots produce can be found.

“Who” is New Roots for Refugees?

There are currently 16 farmers growing at the Juniper Gardens Training Farm, each on his or her own ¼ acre plot of land.  All of the New Roots farmers are refugees, but they come from many countries. Since the program started several years ago, we've worked with refugees from Somalia, Burma, Burundi, Bhutan, and Sudan.  All of the farmers have arrived in the United States in the last 5 years or so. The New Roots for Refugees program provides an opportunity for farmers to build on their strengths and experience while learning English, growing vegetables, and earning income. In 2017 there will be 17 New Roots "graduates" growing on their own plots of land scattered around Kansas City, KS.

Growing Practices

So far the literacy level of our participants has prevented us from keeping the records necessary for organic certification.  However, everything grown at the Juniper Gardens Training Farm abides by strict organic principles.  We are committed to creating a sustainable, healthy food system and never use genetically modified or treated seeds, synthetic fertilizers, chemical pesticides, or anything else that is forbidden on certified organic farms.  Apart from annual tillage, and the use of small walk-behind tillers, New Roots farmers generally cultivate the earth relying primarily on their own physical strength rather than petroleum powered machinery.