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 ofNortheast Kansas resettles refugees in the Kansas City area, offering case management, job development, English as a Second Language, and hope for those who have suffered too long. New Roots for Refugees is a program started by Catholic Charities in partnership with Cultivate KC to help refugee women put down those new roots, through 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. As their farm businesses become established and they develop more skills, they will move to greater financial and managerial independence. Eventually they will be able to move onto their own piece of 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 will be available for sale at the Farmers’ Community Market at Brookside, The Merriam Farmers' Market, Green Acres, Overland Park, the KCK Greenmarket at Juniper Gardens, the KCK Greenmarket at Strawberry Hill, the KCK Greenmarket at Catholic Charities, the Waldo Farmers' Market, the Northeast Farmers' Market, and CSA subscription program.
“Who” is New Roots for Refugees?
There are currently 16 farmers growing at the Juniper Gardens Training Farm, each on his or his or her own ¼ acre plot of land. All of the New Roots farmers are refugees; some are from Somalia, Burma, Burundi, Bhutan one farmer is from Sudan. All of the farmers have arrived in the United States in the last 5 years or so. The New Roots for Refugees project provides an opportunity for farmers to build on their strengths and experience while learning English, growing vegetables, and making money. In 2013 there will be at least 6 New Roots "graduates" growing on their own plots of land scattered around Kansas City, KS.
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.