Thursday, April 21, 2016

Volunteer Appreciation!

Last week was National Volunteer Week and at New Roots we were able to celebrate with many of our volunteers who work tirelessly to help refugee farmers become more self-sufficient every year! We gathered our English tutors together to talk about how the winter classes went. Tutors were able to share suggestions and resources for future tutors. 

We also enjoyed some delicious snacks and swapped success stories and funny moments. It’s always an adventure with our farmers- and we are so grateful to the volunteers who put in hours of tutoring each week to build up their confidence and English skills as they prepare to sell their vegetables at market.

For the past several months, Catholic Charities and Somali Bantu Foundation of Kansas have partnered with the Boy Scouts of America on a collaboration project for the Somali Bantu Community Garden in Kansas City, KS. Anthony Hornung selected the garden to be the recipient of his Eagle Scout project this spring. He was able to fundraise in order to purchase supplies and build a fence for the newest portion of the garden, purchase compost to improve the soil for that area and purchase a much-needed weed eater to maintain the property around the garden. It was so great to watch everyone work together to complete the project and new relationships were made between the Boy Scouts and the Somali Bantu gardeners. A huge THANK YOU to the Boy Scouts for making this happen!

We were also able to celebrate with one of our volunteers, Mary Gillespie, as she was named the Wyandotte County United Way Volunteer of the Year by Catholic Charities. Mary has been with us for several years, teaching English with the same family for the entirety of her time. The family members have learned to count back change, interact with customers and most importantly, have become more confident in their abilities! She also teaches English classes at Catholic Charities for newly arrived refugees in her spare time. She has done so much to make our program better. Thank you, Mary!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Greenhouse Days

Spring has sprung- in the New Roots greenhouse, anyway! Farmers have been gearing up for the season by starting seedlings, attending workshops and applying for farmer's markets. Last week farmers walked each of their plots, measuring rows and spacing. This week, they were able to use that information to plan ahead for CSA shares, market sales and produce for their families. Cultivate KC staff, Alicia, has been teaching farmers the important of production planning and the farmers are excited to try out new methods!

 New Roots has welcomed five new farmers this year! The learning curve is steep for the first year, with everything starting all at once- learning to plant in a greenhouse, using market-centered English and planting vegetables that Americans like to eat and buy! They have a lot to learn in the coming months. Look for more information about these farmers on the Meet Your Farmer page in March! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Inspiring Confidence- Promoting Success at the Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference!

Six farmers from New Roots for Refugees loaded into a Catholic Charities bus and drove north to the 11th Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference in St. Paul, MN the last week of January. The conference was held at the University of Minnesota and organized by the Minnesota Food Association. Inspiring Confidence- Promoting Success was the theme, and the keynote speakers and workshop presenters did just that. 

Robert Lor, a Hmong farmer and community leader, inspired participants with his stories of international travel where he learned from farmers all around the world. Gleaning from their practices, he strives to make his 10 acre vegetable farm as productive as possible. New Roots farmers were able to absorb successful farming practices from different parts of the world through his presentation. May Lee, the first certified organic Hmong farmer in Minnesota, shared the story of her family growing food in Laos and her mother who died of cancer related to pesticides ingested on a farm. She inspired immigrant farmers to become certified organic, using the motto “If I can do it, you can do it too.”

New Roots farmers were able to attend workshops throughout the conference, including topics such as soil health, weed management, long-term credit in agriculture, pest surveying, high tunnels and many more! Each farmer met with an interpreter before the classes began to understand what each workshop would offer and then would attend the ones that would benefit their farm business. After each workshop, New Roots farmers would gather together and share what they had learned and talked through ideas with each other. 

This conference was uniquely focused on farmers who don’t speak English as a first language, so interpreters in several languages were offered at no cost. New Roots farmers were able to hear lectures, ask questions and share ideas in their native language. They were inspiring other attendees with their stories of owning their own business and land. Kansas City’s refugee agriculture movement is ahead of the curve and our farmers were able to motivate other refugees from the Midwest.

New Roots farmers came away from the conference mulling over new ideas from the workshops they attended, ignited by personal stories from the speakers and determined to make changes on their farms. Much of the bus ride home was filled with chatter of organic certification, soil health and cover crops. This year, be looking for signs of change and inspiration that was incited by this amazing conference!