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Category Archives: Refugee Community Gardens
Henry, one of our gardeners has graciously let us interview him about why he is a part of this community garden project. His brother and he are both involved in our garden project and Henry has offered to be our garden coordinator for the 2011-2012 growing season! A Brief Background about Henry: His family is originally from Monrovia, Liberia and he has lived here in Minnesota for 1 year and 2 months. He speaks three languages: English, French and Gio. And as a current student at the International Institute, Henry has plans to continue his education and attend college here locally in Minnesota. The following is the interview conducted by Katherine, one of our Community Garden Organizers with Henry (whose responses have been transcribed). Why did you want to be involved with this garden project? Henry: Because from my experience of farming, “I love making gardens…love to grow some fresh … Continue reading
On the East side of St. Paul, vegetables and communities are flourishing at two new community gardens started by refugee families and volunteers from the Minnesota Council of Churches. The “Neighbor Garden”, located at the Birmingham Woods apartments, is gardened by residents from Ethiopia, Iraq, Somalia, Liberia, Burma and the US. The nearly Flandrau Garden is open to all neighborhood residents, and is gardened by Ethiopian, Eritrean, Iraqi, Nepalese, and Karen refugee families, as well as several Hmong-American neighbors. Community gardens are a great way for refugee families to get to know their neighbors and begin to feel safe in their new homes. “I like the garden because it helped me get to know my neighbors”, says Law Paw, a Karen gardener. “There are many Karen people living here, but we all came from different refugee camps in Thailand so we didn’t know each other. Now we work in the … Continue reading
This last Saturday, I gathered in the garden with the gardening families’ children to make a scarecrow and garden sign. The day was full of energy and creativity! The kids worked together to draw our garden sign for Neighbor Garden and also made another sign depicting our garden map. The second project we worked on was to create a scarecrow out of an old shirt, jeans, gloves, and a pillowcase (for the head). We stuffed the scarecrow with old newspapers, but at one point we ran out. In order to finish the project we decided to stuff the scarecrow with sand and pose it in a sitting down position. By far the part most enjoyed by the children was the picture taking time. Everyone wanted a picture of themselves with our new friend. And, of course, being kids there were plenty of funny photos also taken.
From the archives: June 7, 2011 Both gardens held workdays recently – the Neighbor Garden had a planting day a few weeks ago, and all the gardeners came out to plant seedlings and help a volunteer group from a local church put up a fence. The garden looks great (more pictures soon!) The District 2/Flandrau garden also had a workday on Saturday. We were finally able to hook up the water (just in time for this hot weather!) and we all planted tomatoes together. We also put up some fencing that was left over from the Neighbor Garden – it wasn’t quite enough, so if anyone has extra fencing to donate we would appreciate it! We have another workday planned for Saturday, so we’ll take pictures then! A big thank you to World Relief Minnesota, another local refugee resettlement agency that is also working on connecting refugee families with gardens. … Continue reading
From the archives: May 11, 2011 Curious about other refugee agricultural programs? New Roots for Refugees in Kansas City has a great website! We met a few Karen farmers from New Roots in February when they came up to St. Paul for the Minnesota Food Association’s annual Immigrant and Minority Farmer Conference. Check out their website, and let us know about other refugee farming and gardening programs!
From the archives: May 10, 2011 We broke ground at the second (yet to be named) community garden in District 2 this Saturday. It was a beautiful sunny day, and many refugee families and neighbors came out to dig up the grass and turn a vacant lot into a community garden! Several of the gardeners were farmers in their home countries (including Burma, Iraq and Ethiopia), and they got their plots ready and planted in record time before helping their neighbors dig. It was a great day to be working outside together, enjoying the spring and the promise of fresh veggies. In addition to the families, we had several great volunteers come out to help dig! Volunteer groups came from the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project (IARP) and a Taking Root, an interfaith refugee sponsorship program through the Minnesota Council of Churches. The Taking Root group is sponsoring a recently … Continue reading
From the archives: May 9, 2011 It was a cold day to be gardening (in the lower 30s) but we are happy to report that eight families came out to dig their garden plots! At one point as we all were digging our plots it lightly started to snow! We joked with the families that only in MN would people garden when it is snowing. During the day, families worked together to shovel, dig, and rake out their own garden plots as well as their neighbors. Young and old alike came out for the day, and in the end we had about twenty people working in the garden. We first started out by measuring and marking out our plot sizes. Families either picked 10ft x 22ft or 5ft x 10ft plot sizes for this growing year. Later in the day we also distributed vegetable and herb seeds to the families, … Continue reading
From the archives: April 11, 2011 The room was full at our second garden meeting! We met at Omoto’s apartment, one of the residents who attended our last meeting. This time we had five different families who were originally from many different countries. We had residents from Ethiopia, Sudan, Burma, and America all at the meeting. Also two family members attended to help with translation for Karen and Amharic speakers. At the opening of the meeting, we ask everyone what their favorite vegetable or crop to grow was and the answers were: green peppers, tomatoes, grapes, mangoes, watergrass, and corn. Unfortunately, a few of the residents won’t be able to grow everything they wanted, like mangoes, due to Minnesota’s weather and climate, but we assured them that many crops do well in this area! After general introductions we briefly talked about ground rules for the garden and any general questions the residents had … Continue reading
From the archives: March 15, 2011 As part of a project last year, we interviewed many community gardeners (including Law Paw from the Fresh Start garden!) about why they are part of community gardens and what it means to them. Here is what some of the immigrant and refugee gardeners we spoke with had to say: “In Kenya, I had a 16 acre farm… this is my first year gardening in the United States, at the community garden. It is very good. I am getting fresh vegetables from my garden that have been organically grown, without any chemicals…And of course, it is exercise for me too. It helps me to keep my body functioning well” – Sam, Kenya “I share my garden with my grandchildren… we grow everything on our own, so there are no chemicals. Everything is organic, and it’s clean and healthier for your body, especially for little kids. Kids … Continue reading
From the archives: March 7, 2011 Last Monday, we had our first garden meeting at the other apartment complex in East St. Paul. This time the group was a bit smaller with two dedicated residents joining us: Omoto and Ruth, both speakers of Amharic and originally from Ethiopia. During the meeting Omoto, who has lived here for ten months, told us that the ecology and farming in Ethiopia is much different from here in the United States. He explained that when he lived in Ethiopia, much of the farming is done completely by hand and often on a much smaller scale. Also he explained that due to the warmer climate and the very fertile soil, people can grow and harvest crops three times a year! Imagine trying to do that here with Minnesota’s harsh winters. Other topics discussed at the meeting included what types of foods the residents wanted to … Continue reading