Home Precision Agriculture These Refugees Are Planting New Roots in Salt Lake City

These Refugees Are Planting New Roots in Salt Lake City

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Each Saturday from June by way of October, New Roots units up a desk on the Sunnyvale Farmers Market in Salt Lake City. Overflowing with leafy greens, chili peppers, squash and different organically grown produce, the desk incorporates a bounty grown by farmers whose roots go far deeper than the floor they stand on at the farmers market, with ties linking them again to their homelands of Chad, Nepal, Rwanda, Somalia and Bhutan. Whereas their backgrounds could also be numerous, these farmers are all members of Salt Lake City’s burgeoning refugee neighborhood.

This group of farmers met by way of New Roots, an agricultural program primarily based in Utah’s capital metropolis that gives financial independence for refugees by way of leased farm plots, farmers markets and neighborhood gardens. The program is a part of the Worldwide Rescue Committee (IRC), a world humanitarian aid group based in 1933 with places in 25 cities nationwide. In practically a century, the IRC has supplied aid for communities on a world scale by providing alternatives for refugees dwelling in a overseas land. New Roots estimates that 84 % of its growers have a background in agriculture. 

Certainly one of these refugees is Albert Betoudji, who emigrated to the USA together with his spouse and kids from Chad attributable to a coup d’etat in 2008 between the nation and Sudan. He has been farming with New Roots since 2009. Now, greater than a decade later, Betoudji is a grandfather of 4 and one among New Roots’ longest serving farmers. He’s liable for practically a dozen beds on the group’s roughly two-acre farm on Redwood Highway, positioned about seven miles southwest of downtown. It’s one among two farms operated by New Roots. (The second is a 13-acre web site in Draper, 17 miles south.) Though it’s nonetheless early in the season, inexperienced shoots have began sprouting from the soil, primarily garlic and onions. He’s already making ready to plant mustard greens and okratwo staples he grew up consuming in Chad. Whereas he shares among the produce together with his household, who make it into stews and sauces, most of it winds up on the Sunnyvale Farmers Market the place he receives a portion of the earnings. 

Betoudji, who helped his father on the farm as a youth throughout faculty breaks, says that one of many largest challenges he confronted when settling in Utah was adjusting to farming in a a lot cooler local weather in comparison with the warmth and humidity he was used to in Chad.

“I tried planting some of the crops I grew back home, like sugarcane, but because of the weather, they wouldn’t grow,” he says. “Every year I change my crops, so if something doesn’t do well, I can try something else.”

That constantly evolving number of produce is a part of what attracts crowds to the Sunnyvale Farmers Market. Earlier than the market’s arrival a number of years in the past, the world was a part of a meals desert. However now on Saturdays, the market is teeming with everybody from immigrants and refugees to native Utahns, who browse the tables in search of inexpensive produce that proves troublesome to search out in this area.  

A farmer works at one of many two farms operated by New Roots. Photograph courtesy of New Roots.

James Hunter, a meals entrepreneurship program officer for New Roots, says that the market is the place locals flip once they’ve exhausted different sources and might’t discover what they need at specialty grocers. It’s very possible they’ll discover what they’re searching for on the market, which affords roughly 120 totally different styles of produce. The market’s selection all comes right down to the seeds and the way farmers have tailored to rising them in northern Utah, an space identified for its snowy winters and arid local weather. 

Hunter says New Roots works arduous by way of seed distributors to supply totally different seeds for its farmers. And plenty of farmers will save seeds yr after yr, in addition to import them again from their homelands. “Through the farmers, I learned that there are dozens of different varieties of eggplant grown around the globe,” he says. “We have one farmer who grows a very specific type that is orange in color that’s popular with the local Burundian community, so he’s found a niche market.” 

Bali Dhakal is one other farmer who accommodates his crop to market calls for. Dhakal got here to Utah from Bhutan together with his spouse and kids in 2009 after a serious earthquake decimated his neighborhood. He makes use of his background as a farmer to develop carrots, garlic, potatoes, lengthy beans, onions, cherry tomatoes and okra. Though he does carry among the produce house to feed his household, he says an important factor is that none of what he grows goes to waste. 

“Sometimes when you grow produce in your home garden, it gets wasted because there’s too much,” Dhakal says by way of a translator. “With New Roots and the farmers market, I know that everything I grow goes to people who can use it.” 

One other profit is the neighborhood that New Roots supplies. It’s one thing particularly essential for refugees who arrive in Utah and know nobody. By way of workshops and potlucks, the farmers have constructed a neighborhood that helps them really feel extra at house dwelling in their adopted house. And that neighborhood extends far past the farm’s plowed fields.

One time at the farmers market, I met a lady who was so happy to see vegetables she used to eat [in Africa],” Betoudji says. “She said to me, ‘I couldn’t find the foods I wanted to eat in the United States, but because of your vegetables, now I am home.’”

 



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