Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Food For Thought

Last week, Meredith Walrafen was asked to join two panels to talk about New Roots for Refugees. The first was the event Take 5 at the Nelson Atkins Museum. At these events, four presenters share a five-minute story on a topic, answer questions asked by the moderator, and then move around tables to engage in conversation with the participants. This month’s topic was Food, and Meredith joined executive chef Marwan Chebaro, curator of the museum Catherine Futter, and editor of Harvest Public Media Jeremy Bernfeld to talk about culture, food waste and community. Meredith was able to share about two of the graduates of New Roots, Pay Lay and Beh Paw Gaw. They are sisters from Burma who have been growing on over two acres in Kansas City, KS and selling at farmer’s markets. She talked about the importance of food in their community and the lessons that we can learn just by engaging with women like Pay Lay and Beh Paw Gaw. If you missed out, reach out to Meredith and ask her about it! 

Meredith was also invited to speak at Middle of the Map Festival’s Forum Series. She was on a panel titled Local Food: Growing a Better KC. She was joined by fellow local growers, community builders and creative thinkers and moderated by KC Food Circle. Meredith shared about the vision of New Roots and the importance of shopping at local farmer’s markets. She encouraged listeners to push past the awkwardness of language barriers and differing cultures, and engage with New Roots farmers at markets. In return, you’ll try some high quality (and unique!) produce, share stories and recipes, and possibly make a new friend. Check out our market page to see how you can do just that this summer!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

National Volunteer Week

This week we are celebrating National Volunteer Week! All around the country, people are spending their free time helping others. The Independent Sector announced that the 2014 estimate for the value of a volunteer hour is $23.07- up 2.3% from last year! Though this is a great way to measure the impact of our volunteers, we see the value of our volunteers in more tangible ways. Our farmers improve their English, become more confident interacting with customers at market and receive help with maintaining their farm plots. New Roots for Refugees relies on volunteers throughout the year in many ways. See below for ways that you can get involved this year. Check out the Get Involved page for more information on how to be part of the success of New Roots for Refugees!

Farm Work Days
Juniper Gardens has work days on the first Saturday of each month. Whether it’s a group from your place of worship, business, or you want to come out on your own- we have a job for you at the farm! Contact for more information.

Market Volunteer
New Roots is recruiting summer market volunteers! We're looking for people to help get our farmers to markets and help them set up and interact with customers. If you're looking for a weekly, steady volunteer opportunity this summer and you enjoy farmer's markets and meeting new people, this is the place for you! Contact if you're interested.

ESL Tutor
New Roots farmers recognize that as their English skills improve, so does their business! When markets are finished, we start our winter workshops and English classes. We place volunteers with a small group that meets weekly in a farmer’s home from late fall through early spring. If you are interested in learning more, contact We’ll add you to the list to contact next fall!

Volunteer Your Way!
A great way to support New Roots is using your individual skill set to assist a farmer. If you are a graphic designer, we have graduates who need business logos. If you do taxes for a living, you could lead a workshop on paying sales tax. We've had volunteers show farmers how to keep bees and start mushrooms. Newly graduated New Roots farmers are always in need of grant writers and land researchers, not to mention folks who can come do miscellaneous projects on their newly acquired land. Administrative tasks abound at the office! We welcome people with various skill levels and interests to participate. Contact us for more information.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What do you do in the winter?

We hear this question often. The answer is: A LOT! While the market season brings the busyness of harvesting and farmer’s markets, the winter gives us time to dig deep in the learning process. As the Juniper Garden’s farm manager said recently, “This is a school, so I hope you see every interaction as a learning opportunity.” As a training farm- no matter the season- we focus on building the skills needed for New Roots farmers to succeed. Here are a few things that the farmers have been up to since the markets finished last fall! 

Every year beginning in January, Catholic Charities and Cultivate KC staff host weekly workshops that New Roots farmers are required to attend. The workshops begin with farmers signing their annual land lease and agreeing to the terms of the program. Topics then vary from greenhouse basics to paying sales tax and organic certification. Though all of the New Roots farmers grew food before they came to the United States, growing unfamiliar vegetables in a new climate can be quite a challenge. We value the time we have in the winter to review things we already knew and learn new skills from one another!

English Classes
All of the New Roots farmers speak English as their second (and sometimes third!) language. They are dedicated to improving their farm business by learning more English every year. Volunteers from the community spend a few hours each week in farmers’ homes, teaching everything from basic math to ordering seeds from a catalog. Farmers are given the chance to practice their English with native speakers in a relaxed setting, gearing up for the more hectic scenarios they find at the market! We are grateful for such incredible volunteers who spend months not only helping farmers with English, but building relationships.

Once February hit, New Roots farmers were ready to plant! With the help of a grant and volunteers, we were able to convert our high tunnel at Juniper Gardens into a greenhouse so the season can start early for us. New Roots farmers planted their Walla Walla onions when there was still frost on the plastic over the greenhouse! Farmers learn the process of starting plants inside, potting up, hardening off and then planting in their plots. They see the advantages to starting this way, and are able to navigate the seasonal differences from their home countries.

CSA and Market Paperwork
Applying to sell at a Farmer's Market can be a challenging feat! Most applications are several pages long and require a lot of documentation. With the language barrier, New Roots farmers often struggle to complete the applications on their own. We begin the process with interpreters, reading through rules and regulations, and have each farmer fill out their own applications. Though it's a lengthy process, the hope is that doing this several years in a row will equip farmers with the ability and confidence to complete them on their own when they graduate. The winter season is also spent following up with CSA customers, making contracts and planting according to how many people they will feed with their shares. This is a big undertaking, but our farmers value the relationships they gain through this process.