Global Gardens Idaho New Refugee Farmer Project
Global Gardens' New Refugee Farmer Project serves refugees resettled in southwest Idaho's Ada County - the location of Idaho's capital, Boise. Our program has been a part of Mountain States Group, Inc., a nonprofit organization, since 2004. Global Gardens works with beginning and aspiring refugee farmers at our incubator farm, two refugee community farms, and five refugee community gardens. Refugees constitute a socially disadvantaged population as they are members of racial and linguistic minority groups, and face numerous barriers to creating viable farm businesses. Their English-language skills and ability to read in any language vary widely. Due to their history of flight and often long internment in refugee camps, refugees have no accumulated assets, live in poverty, and can not access mainstream financing. Many work at low-wage jobs while
they learn farming skills. The majority of refugees interested in becoming farmers are from east Africa; others have arrived from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bosnia, Colombia, Russia, and Uzbekistan. Future refugee farmers most likely will include Burmese and additional Bhutanese. One hundred percent of the project budget will be allocated to serving socially disadvantaged farmers. The beginning farmers will be in the early stages of entering the farming profession and establishing farm operations. They will not only be learning horticulture and business skills, but also language skills, acculturation to U.S. markets, U.S. farming business requirements, and resources available to farmers. Refugees participating in our program will start by either working at shared community farms of 2-3 acres, or by leasing a 1-acre plot at our new 22-acre incubator farm. Refugee farmer sales from the two
community farm plots have increased from $200 each to $2,000 and $10,000 over the past three years. We expect that the incubator farmers will have sales around $5,000 during the first year. Sales are currently conducted at farmer's markets, via CSAs, and to local restaurants and ethnic grocery stores. Global Gardens is working to expand market sources and strategies. We will offer new refugee farmers classroom and farm-site training and technical assistance that is culturally and linguistically appropriate and offers knowledge, skills, and tools refugee farmers need to begin and sustain farming operations. Our project partners include the Somali Bantu Zigua Community Farm, African Development Community Farm, University of Idaho, two farm apprenticeship sites, and a mentor farmer.